Thinking about concentrates?
By Joe Pangaro, TerrAscend
New Jersey’s recently passed adult-use cannabis legislation defines “cannabis items” to specifically include “cannabis extracts” made by “a chemical extraction process using a hydrocarbon-based solvent, such as butane, hexane, or propane” or “a chemical extraction process using the hydrocarbon-based solvent carbon dioxide, if the process uses high heat or pressure.” See, N.J.S.A. .24:6I-33(3) (defining “cannabis item” and “cannabis extract”). In other words, under New Jersey law, the adult-use market can include cannabis products beyond just cannabis flower. A group of these high-purity cannabis products is commonly called “concentrates.”
But what are concentrates and who uses them?
Simply put, concentrates are made through a process that extracts the most desirable parts of the cannabis flower, cannabinoids and terpenes, into a new product form. As a result, patients or consumers that use cannabis concentrates still experience the “entourage effect” that comes from using a full-spectrum cannabis product. Some of the common concentrate products you may have heard discussed include “sugar,” “shatter,” “wax,” and “budder.” The first thing you will notice when you see a cannabis concentrate is that it looks nothing like traditional cannabis flower: these products look much more like their namesakes, and can range in textures, colors and consistencies to be anything from a liquid similar to a syrup to a hard crystal substance that almost looks like peanut brittle.
Although the permitted product forms vary from state to state, cannabis concentrates can be smoked, vaped, or eaten. But the process is much different from how traditional flower can be smoked or eaten. To be used, the concentrates need to be heated up in their own unique way, which often requires a special device called a concentrate rig. Typically, a concentrate rig looks and operates similar to a traditional bong, but the difference is that the concentrate is being smoked rather than flower. One version of this process made its way into pop culture with the term “dabbing.” Cannabis concentrates can also be used in a vaporizer as well as a variety of other methods that are often more portable and discreet than flower.
All these new product categories and delivery methods call to mind a complaint my grandfather used to have about pizza: “Why do we have a million different pizza toppings and a thousand different pizza styles now? Was something WRONG with cheese pizza? Was it broken?” So, you may be asking, is something wrong with traditional cannabis flower? If not, why bother with all these new products?
Of course, cannabis flower is not “broken.” Flower is still the most popular product type in just about every legal market in the United States—in many cases no other product type is even a close second. But concentrates appeal to a specific type of consumer: medical patients with the most severe conditions. That is because concentrates are high-purity products that do not need to be consumed in large doses. For instance, instead of consuming a container of cannabis flower, a patient could consume a concentrate that is dosed out to be the size of a single grain of rice. Because such small doses are effective, a single container of concentrate can last a patient much longer than a package of flower, meaning patients can lower monthly costs and reduce trips to the dispensary by buying one concentrate product instead of making repeated trips to the dispensary for flower.
Although concentrates are permitted by law, they are not yet widely available in New Jersey. As the New Jersey cannabis market becomes more established, and consumers become more sophisticated, it is likely that you will start to see concentrates grow in popularity.