The rapid expansion of the legal cannabis industry stimulates vast advancements in technology and processes. Similarly, these evolutions immediately impact different verticals of the industry, including cultivation, processing, packaging, and consumption. Yet, perhaps no facet of the modern cannabis industry has seen the sort of overhauls in methodology and identity as the extraction field.
Newly sanctioned industry compliance standards, as well as good manufacturing practices (GMP), have forced extraction companies to reinvent themselves through their processes, technology, and branding. Of the new types of extract products that have arisen in this new wave of business, perhaps none has gained as much notoriety as live resin.
For many seasoned cannabis connoisseurs, high-quality extracts are the Holy Grail of cannabis products. Looking specifically to live resin, serious smokers have taken notice of this extract to due its fresh taste, consistent strength, and otherworldly terpene profile. As seen with many new crazes in the cannabis industry today, live resin is intimately tied to the technology and methods that make it a reality.
What is Live Resin?
Live resin is a form of hydrocarbon extract that can be made with butane (butane hash oil or BHO), propane (propane hash oil or PHO), or a blend of both, that is typically sourced from fresh (then frozen) cannabis plants. In the past, BHO/PHO has been made from dried flowers and trim. However, a rise in our knowledge of the chemical composition of cannabis has given extraction authorities the ability to test new theories. Live resin was invented in Colorado, where a burgeoning cannabis industry was spurring new innovations around the time of legalization.
The primary selling point behind live resin is that fresh cannabis flowers have a much more vibrant aroma and taste than dried and cured products. As anyone who has grown or trimmed fresh cannabis knows, fresh flowers are strikingly pungent compared to their dried counterparts. It is not unusual to hear of odor from an improperly ventilated growroom wafting through an entire neighborhood. It is this pungency that is captured in live resin.
The pungent aroma and taste that have come to define live resin are both tied to a cannabis plant’s terpenes. For neophytes, terpenes are the fragrant organic compounds that are secreted from the resin glands of cannabis flowers. It is these terpenes that are responsible for giving different cannabis strains and extracts their distinct scents and flavors. In live resin, many of these terpenes are preserved. Conversely, as seen with normal BHO/PHO, terpenes rapidly diminish as cannabis is harvested, dried, cured, and handled.
How Live Resin is Produced
Live resin, like other BHO/PHO extracts, is considered a hydrocarbon extract. This group of cannabis extracts are named this way as they are produced by way of hydrocarbon solvents, such as butane and propane. In the BHO/PHO manufacturing process, butane or propane is used to isolate valuable cannabinoids and terpenes from other excess plant material. It accomplishes this as the solvent is passed through the plant material in an extraction system.
Closed loop extraction systems use sophisticated scientific equipment to regulate the passage of harmful solvents trough cannabis plant material. As solvents pass through the cannabis, it extracts valuable cannabinoids and terpenes into a viscous substance that eventually dries. Also, closed loop systems have advanced processes for isolating excess solvents and purging them with a vacuum system.
As discussed, live resin differs from traditional BHO/PHO extracts in that it is made from frozen cannabis plants. In the manufacturing process, fresh cannabis is flash frozen immediately after harvest. However, freshly frozen cannabis causes some complications with hydrocarbon extractions because it contains significantly more water than dried flowers. Therefore, the temperature of the live resin extraction process is regulated to ensure no residual solvents remain. It has been found that extremely low temperatures of -20 to -50°F provide cold enough conditions to successfully keep excess plant water and butane from mixing in the live resin extraction process. Cold extraction temperatures also limit the solubility of lipids in the hydrocarbon, yielding a more potent extract.
How Live Resin is Consumed
The viscosity of live resin is similar to other more traditional cannabis concentrates like hash, wax, crumble, and butter. This affords people the ability to utilize their favorite consumption tools, such as dab rigs and vape pens, in the use of live resin.
The rise of dabbing in the modern cannabis industry has arrived almost hand-in-hand with the growing popularity of live resin.
Dabbing works in a fashion similar to standard pipes or bongs, with a somewhat revised form of ignition. Instead of using a flame to burn a cannabis concentrate, dabbing requires the use of a heated, but not red hot, nail. A red-hot nail creates dangerous terpene degradation byproducts, ruins the flavor, and creates an all around bad experience, so low temperature dabs are always recommended. The extract is then dropped on the nail. Live resin consumers appreciate that dabbing gives them a strong, unfiltered experience of fresh cannabis.
Vaporizers also represent an extremely popular method for consuming live resin. As seen with dabbing, vape technology has also taken the cannabis industry by storm, mainly because vape pens offer a discreet and easy-to-use method for consuming extracts like live resin. As vaporizers don’t burn cannabis products, many feel they offer a safe alternative to smoking. Live resin consumers cherish the fact that vaporizers provide a satisfying smoking experience without the smell of smoke.
Live resin has become immensely popular in the few short years since it has entered the cannabis scene. Interestingly, it has come about with advancements in extraction technology and procedures only recently made possible by the legal cannabis industry.
Experienced cannabis aficionados appreciate the full terpene profile present in live resin — one that is mostly lacking in more traditional BHO/PHO. We are just beginning to understand the potential benefits of more expressive terpene profiles in our cannabis, and medical marijuana researchers are starting to link specific terpenes with relief from certain ailments, ranging from pain to anxiety. Looking to the future, it will be interesting to see how continued advancements in technology and methodology will work together in progressing our understanding of cannabis.