Extracts are popular in the cannabis industry. Solvent less hash, such as rosin, has become a huge hit, yet other realms of highly specified extracts hold benefits beyond rosin. Unfortunately though, if consumers don’t care about the quality of their cannabis, it can be difficult to identify plastic cannabis extracts from real dabs.
If you know, you know.
A problem created by accidental access
Vacuum ovens are specialty pieces of equipment that can cure cannabis extracts. But, by a coincidence of scientific process, one can find degassing (vacuum) chambers in the woodworking market. Special stabilizing resins can be used to plasticize or stabilize wood products which are then degassed in a vacuum. Therefore, products exclusively intended for stiffening your wood are in the same niche inventory lists as cannabis extraction equipment.
A stabilizing resin might sound enticing to a cannabis processor worried about the stability of their extract. The chemical appears safe to use after a quick internet search reveals the woodworking product is also used to stabilize cannabis formulations in oral films, according to at least one patent document. (1)
Wood stabilization products related to acrylic plastic are allowed in Canada’s legal vape pens (2.) Moreover, this unintentionally gives scam artists, and simply less experienced licensed producers, easy access to both plasticizers and cannabis extraction equipment in a one-stop-shop.
Cannabis Plastic extracts versus real dabs, a taste test
A processor can make stabilized extracts by mixing the aforementioned product into cannabis oil. The chemical intended for wood stabilization has a Threshold Limit Value of 10 ppm and Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health at 250 ppm.
Simply check the oil’s consistency alongside the ratio of THC and Total THC to identify plastic cannabis extracts from real dabs.
- Shatter – Low THC, High THCa.
- Stabilized shatter – Unfortunately, high THCa shatter can be plasticized, so it’s best to notice a foul, acrid taste.
- Formulated or blended resins – Some processors will separate cannabis into many parts and then piece it back together. These specialty extracts can contain 1:1 THC:THCa. (Real dabs should taste like cannabis not like a burnt match).
- Plasticized distillate (fake shatter) – High THC, Low THCa, but with a shatter-like consistency even when warm. (Possible sulfurous or acrid taste).
- Distillate – High THC, Low THCa, but with a viscous consistency when warm. Good distillate is pure D9 THC – almost.
Any cannabis component that does not dissolve in (isopropanol) alcohol is considered an impurity – this became known as the iso test. An unidentified impurity became commonly found in many different extracts by using the Iso Test. Pine rosin was a suspect, but this tree gum dissolves in alcohol. The aforementioned wood stabilizer agent, on the other hand, is water-soluble so it will not dissolve in alcohol. So, this product is a possible culprit in failed iso alcohol tests.
An Instagram post by Murphy Murri.
The extractor’s process
Certain cannabis processors add active D9-THC to pure THCa-based extracts to stabilize cannabinoid crystallizations intended for certain products. It is best to acquire active THC through careful decarboxylation of THCa to avoid the extra heat required for distillation. D9-THC can also add plasticity to extracts, making them more pliable, viscous, and easier to work with.
Sano Gardens‘ Research and Development lead, Murphy Murri, has been actively exploring the nuances of wood stabilization products making their way into the cannabis space. Beyond this, she also mixes active THC and THCa together when making various cannabis formulations. D9-THC can replace polymer or acrylic-based stabilizers. So, we decided to send her a direct message on Instagram.
What are your thoughts on D9-THC compared to those other stabilizers?
I mean, there’s still a whole percentage point (or two) of mass unaccounted for when I make my D9 THC. So, it’s hard to say there’s zero weird plastics. But, from the perspective of cannabis, we’ve all decided to trust the plant so it’s much easier to rely on the sticky liquid on hand versus bringing in a new variable.
Murphy Murri – R&D lead at Sano Gardens
Plastics in Cannabis Extracts, unknown but not unfamiliar
Murphy Murri is a cannabis processor who lab tests her extract but is unfamiliar with a tiny fraction of their cannabis concentrate. Yet, we analytically understand cannabis better than certain foods we consume. Regardless, THCa decarboxylation and distillation creates mysterious substances.
Chemist, Ph.D., founder of the approved cannabis research lab, CBDV, and CLN collaborator, Dr. Roggen, has been investigating the nuances of cannabis decarboxylation as well as distillation. He is also familiar with these known unknowns in cannabis production. When speaking with Lab Roots on Controlling Terpenes And Cannabinoids In Flower And Extracts, Dr. Roggen stated,
I’ve heard, I’ve seen, not all of the THC actually distills over but it turns into something else. What is it? I can’t yet fully say, I’m still running experiments.
Dr. Roggen – Lab Roots, 2019
To take away from mystery – and add even more polymers – some cannabis vape pens can include added plastic compounds (polymer-based glycols). Although, many cannabis extraction companies rather use terpenes or real D9 THC as a modifier in their extracts. But, the purity of any cannabis concentrate largely depends on how it was processed.
The top right blue circle represents a well-made distillate. The multi-colored circle on the bottom right represents a poorly made distillate. Light blue represents THC. – Dr. Roggen – Labs Roots, 2019. (3)
Do you think there are truly weird plastics in decarboxylated and distilled cannabis products? Let us know in the comments. Next up, we’ll be asking an expert and discussing the nuances of Delta-10 THC.
- Tobacco and Vaping Products Act 1997, c. 13). Canada.
- He, Weiying; Foth, Paul J.; Roggen, Markus; Sammis, Glenn M.; Kennepohl, Pierre (2020): Why Is THCA Decarboxylation Faster than CBDA? an in Silico Perspective. ChemRxiv. Preprint. https://doi.org/10.26434/chemrxiv.12909887.v1