It is common practice to further process the cannabis flower into a concentrated extraction or infuse it into a food-grade substance (such as coconut oil). This has the benefit of increasing the relative levels of therapeutic compounds compared to inert compounds. There are numerous processes that can be used to do this, and the end result can be vaporized, smoked, eaten, or turned into a myriad of cannabinoid products like topical and transdermal patches.
High Pressure “Closed Loop” Extraction Involving a Solvent
The most common way to produce vaporizable (dabable) extracts are with a high pressure “closed loop” process involving a solvent, such as butane or carbon dioxide (CO2). The pressurized solvent is allowed to pass through the cannabis and pull compounds out of the plant material, and the compounds are later pulled back out of that solvent. The end consistency can be anywhere from a solid “shatter” to a gooey sap, depending on the ratio of crystalline cannabinoids to more viscous terpenes (among many other pertinent compounds). The equipment for this process tends to be more expensive, and the THC content (among other cannabinoids) of the resulting product is of particular emphasis.
To create the base material for edibles and other orally administered medications, a food grade oil and cannabis are heated over low heat (~200°F) to infuse the liquid with the desired compounds. The plant material is then filtered out. The infused oil can then be placed into edible food products, capsules, or consumed directly. Infused food grade oils are used in topical applications as well.
The “Rick Simpson Method” produces what is widely considered the most medically efficacious product. This process produces a thick sap that has profound healing results when taken as an oral medication. The process involves soaking cannabis in alcohol, straining out the plant material, and then evaporating ALL of the alcohol over low heat. Alternatively, the cannabis can be soaked in alcohol for an extended period of time. The resulting tincture can then be consumed either directly or after diluting with water. The ratio of cannabis to alcohol is high enough that the alcohol presence is insufficient to contraindicate.
Solventless Mechanical Extraction
Many traditional methods of making hashish (or hash) use relatively simple mechanical processes to separate trichomes from the rest of the plant material. The kief collected in the bottom of a grinder could be considered the most basic form of concentrated cannabis as the trichomes have separated from the relatively less potent buds. Dry sift hash uses specific screen sizes to formalize this process and select different compounds; ice water hash utilizes the mild solvent properties of water to assist in separating trichomes from the plant before running the solution through similar screens. Rosin is produced by applying heat and pressure to cured cannabis and squeezing out the desired compounds.
Short Path Distillation
Once the initial extraction from cannabis is obtained, it can be put through further purification processes to isolate the constituent compounds. This process is often referred to as short path distillation and can result in isolated cannabinoids, terpenes, or a “High Terpene/Cannabinoid Full Spectrum Extract” which denotes an extremely high level of purity while maintaining a more complete spectrum of compounds. Using the appropriate techniques, any desired molecule should be able to be isolated or recombined as necessary.