The How and Why of Cannabis Concentrates

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Clearly there is still a heated debated surrounding the balance of benefits in contrast to the risks of producing and consuming cannabis concentrates. There are several different methods to making concentrates and a quick Google search of: shatter, wax, oil, budder, QWISO, etc. will yield a multitude of ways in which to reduce the cannabis plant matter down to the desired “effective material.” The effective material is rich with cannabinoids and offers a much more potent medicine or alternatively a far more intense high for recreational users. One of our goals at is to write relevant news stories about the cannabis culture in Canada. The questions and reasons for using cannabis concentrates certainly deserve our attention.

In this piece we were fortunate enough to receive the personal experiences of Rik, aka Ricochet (Twitter @Ricochet2909) from England and we are passing on that accumulated knowledge to you:

Goodleaf: When did you start smoking, (approx. year, and how old were you)?

Ricochet: Ok this one is bad but you asked. I was 10 (1998) and my brother got me a ten bag, now I was mature for my age and hung round with lads 13-16 years old and that sort of thing can happen in that environment.

Goodleaf: Where in England are you from? What is the cannabis culture in England like?

Ricochet: I live in Devon, in the south west of England. The cannabis culture over here varies a lot just like any other place. We have the bad, where the "stoner" lifestyle is mixed with drink, drugs, violence, and crime. Then the better side, (using myself as the example here), I medicate with cannabis because Sativex meds [cannabis mouth spray] are just to hard to get from a doctor, because of costs, and private prescriptions are stupidly high priced. So we have to resort to getting it in the streets or growing it, and as you know both carry risks. But as cannabis users in general we can stick together and stand up for our cause (the UK cannabis club and most regions have their own as well).

Legal highs disgust me

Goodleaf: What are your thoughts on legal highs in the U.K.?*

Ricochet: Legal highs disgust me. Our government makes cannabis illegal yet chemical highs [“Meow, Meow,” “Benzo Fury,” “Go-Caine,” “Spice,” “Black Mamba,” etc.] are legal or ignored. These synthetic drugs are addictive and have killed 100 people [stat as of 2012]. In the UK, many of these drugs have been made illegal but if the structure of the drug is changed it can be re-released under a different brand name. It is a case of drugs over medicine, deaths over helping people. Stupidity at its finest.

*”Legal highs are synthetic or designer drugs that are chemically designed to mimic the effects of more traditional substances such as cannabis and amphetamines but whose chemical composition is not banned by existing drug laws.”

Goodleaf: Ok, so can you explain your process of making Bubble Hash?

Ricochet: I start by freezing my product for about 12 hours. I get loads of ice and mineral water, and mix it in with my frozen product in a big bucket (for mixing space). I use a plaster whisk attached to a power drill and mix if for about ten minutes. I then set my bubble bags out [in order from course to fine micron mesh]. I stack all the bags inside each other and tip my product in. I then slowly strain each worker bag and get them out of the way. I’ll continue through all the bags, squeezing them down and hanging them over buckets to drip for a couple hours. The left over liquid is then discarded. Once the bags are hung I keep the final three bags and use the rest to make a mix batch for when the lads come round.

"I tend to steer well clear of butane intake where possible"

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Goodleaf: And, what is your process of making ISO wax?

Ricochet: First, I dry my product for a week. You want it bone dry. Then I freeze it along with my bottles of Isopropanol/isopropyl (IPA 99%) for about twelve hours. Otherwise, if the Mrs. ain’t around for a while I’ll decarb it in the oven. It stinks the house out but it’s a nice trick to use. You’ll get darker oil in the end and it adds a bit more flavour in my opinion. I then cover the product with the ISO and soak it for two minutes [soaking for too long can start to break down the cannabinoids]. I'll strain it through two coffee filters into a Pyrex dish and cover again with more ISO and soak for one minute — then drain it through the coffee filters again.

I mix my two batches together to create one good batch. I prefer to medicate with a consistent product than making two different qualities of wax: the strong first soak and then the second less potent wax that pulls out the remaining cannabinoids. The Pyrex dish then goes into a larger dish, with some cocktail sticks between (to reduce the risk of burning). The dish goes on an electric stove (never gas). I then add water to the bottom dish until it comes to about a third of the way up the outside of the smaller Pyrex dish and heat it as low as I can just to evaporate the ISO. I stir it every ten minutes.

Once it gets to the stage where it starts to thicken I’ll add a few drops of water. The water evaporates at a higher temperature so the ISO will evaporate out first. When it's just thick liquid I take it off and leave it to cool. If I decarb the cuttings first, the ISO is a lot slower to evaporate. The drying process takes three times as long.

While it’s cooling the water has time to evaporate off. If a bit of water stays that's fine, I’d rather that than chemicals. Then I dab it.

Goodleaf: What are the differences between Bubble Hash and ISO wax?

Ricochet: Well one is heated with chemicals to make a concentrate and the other uses cold ice to remove the active ingredients from the vegetation. Both can be smoked the same way, (although bubble hash needs to be pressed and warmed in order to dab in my opinion). 

"I still go Walter White strict"

Goodleaf: I'm sure you're aware of the health concerns with some cannabis concentrates (i.e. butane). Is there a way to make the process and the final product safer? Is it as dangerous as some people suggest it is?

Ricochet: I tend to steer well clear of butane intake where possible such as hemp wick instead of lighters and using ISO wax instead of BHO (butane hash oil). Even with my ISO I add a touch of water to reduce the possible intake of the Isopropanol. Making either style of concentrate can be dangerous, you can't use naked flames at all when producing them — you'll just blow your self up. I was a chef for ten years and I still go Walter White strict when I'm using chemicals. You've got to be safe. After all it's not just you that suffers if it goes wrong . . . and you'll end up in flames.

Goodleaf: What are the benefits of using higher potency cannabis concentrates for medical marijuana patients? What symptoms/conditions can it help with?

Ricochet: I utilize the higher potency of the concentrates to replace opiate-based painkillers like Zormorph. The reasons are pure and simple, opiates are addictive, and I don't want that addiction in my family’s lives or mine. So yes, I do think they have a place. Cannabis concentrates can replace pharmaceuticals to help reduce the symptoms of conditions like Bipolar, PTSD, and lower spinal damage to name the conditions I use them for anyway. And there are hundreds more.

"We’re all different just like the strains of cannabis"

Goodleaf: Do you find certain strains more effective for making cannabis concentrates (Indica vs. Sativa, THC vs CBD, etc)?

Ricochet: That's down to the patient’s needs really, you know condition, time of day, responsibilities, etc. I see it’s more of, if the patient finds one variety better for them, then they need to explore that and look for strains that closer fit there strength/potency needs from there, after all we’re all different just like the strains of cannabis.

"It's medicinal so treat it with care"

Goodleaf: Can you explain the feeling of dabbing? How intense is the experience/high? Could it be overwhelming for new patients/recreational users?

Ricochet: Hmm dabs, sorry Homer Simpson moment: Ok, have you ever filled your mouth with that whipped cream from a can? Well take that feeling and fill your lungs with that same feeling. It's intense. The high is out of this world. It's so clean. It can be overwhelming even for the experienced dabber if too much is used and it's easy to do.

A newbie dabber should start small, really small. I find it’s best to dab a little but often, just to prevent “over stone” as I call it. After all passing out is just a waste of all that work. Remember this isn't the world’s biggest lung competition, it's medicinal so treat it with care, and you will enjoy it as well.

Goodleaf: Do you prefer to use cannabis concentrates in a vaporizer or specially designed glassware?

Ricochet: I'm a glass man myself, not to say I won't use a vaporizer but, I like the art. I like the natural methods used to smoke concentrates. You create your hit, before you hit it. I find I appreciate my medication more when finishing the process with glass. After all concentrates can provide a beautiful experience — when used wisely.

Points to know if you’re going to try this at home

Our interview with Rik (Ricochet) covered the important points to know if you’re going to try this at home. However, there are a few more things you should be aware of if you want to make your own concentrates. Pesticides, herbicides, and fungi will be amplified in the concentrated cannabis extract. Choose your plants carefully.

If you’re using glassware invest in a good nail for dabbing. Metal Fume Fever can be caused by the gradual breakdown of metal under intense heat. Some nails will oxidize or flake, forcing the user to inhale toxic dust or fumes. Symptoms include chills, nausea, headaches, fever, and muscle pain. It is generally agreed that pure titanium, quartz, or even glass, are the healthier, safer options.

Lastly, and this is political, but still very important. Don’t be an idiot and blow yourself up when making cannabis concentrates. The progressive cannabis movement is gaining a huge amount of international attention and public support. Do your part to keep the momentum going by not giving the critics any reason to push back positive change to our cannabis laws.

As Rik said, cannabis concentrates can be a beautiful thing.


Dave Bennett
Dave Bennett