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Concentrate vs. Flower



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As time goes on, it seems that more and more patients, recreational users and legislators are leaning towards concentrated cannabis vs. actual flower. The new trend in legalization is to allow only vaping—no smoking, and many patients prefer vaping because it gives the needed medical dose in a quick and easy way. Similarly, recreational users favor it because they want to be able to vape discretely and save their lungs from inhaling unnecessary plant matter. But is this really the future of cannabis, or is an all-synthetic cannabis landscape problematic?

According to a recent study by Chief Medical Officer Perry Solomon of HelloMD, legal consumer sales data indicates that 66 percent of people enjoy vaping and 71 percent prefer smoking the herb. The study also indicated that it is our younger generations that prefer vaping to smoking flower more frequently than older generations.

Similarly, anecdotal data supports that more patients and recreational users are turning to vaping as a way to medicate or recreate more and more. Joshua Hindi of Dabble Extracts stated that he has seen a definite trend, as many of his cannabis consumers are purchasing extracts rather than flower.

“There are several reasons why patients prefer vaping,” he explained. “It’s substantially more discrete, and if you compare flowers and concentrate pound for pound, you probably need a gram of concentrate for an eight of flower. There’s also more likelihood that if users are with someone who isn’t familiar with the industry, they won’t know what the concentrate is—it’s substantially more discrete, and overall just a lot more convenient and a lot easier to use.”

Contents“Concentrates are usually for the more experienced cannabis user or for people working with illnesses like cancer,” Jennifer Price of HelloMD told CULTURE, referring to the strength of the medicine for treating more serious conditions. Many patients seek concentrates like oils and tinctures for their severe ailments, which are much easier to take than a shatter or a wax. While flowers generally range between 10-15 percent THC, a concentrate roughly ranges 50-80 percent THC. However, with the ever-expanding and evolving technological side of the cannabis industry, concentrates can be specified for ailments, giving patients only what they want and need. For example, patients can get tinctures that are only high CBD, or a shatter that is 30mg CBD and only 10mg THC. Note: The CBD concentrates are a good place for a newbie to begin.

In addition to the medical benefits for patients, healthy recreational users can also benefit from trying concentrates instead. The fact that vapers can avoid inhaling unnecessary plant matter such as pesticides, contaminants and residual solvents, and are only combusting THC or CBD, is a good way to help keep lungs clear and avoid the perils of traditional smoking. It is important however, to keep the issue of temperature at the forefront of your concentrate curiosity. Often times, cannasseurs turn up the heat on their vaporizers to produce an extra thick vapor or smoke, mostly for show. But, this can cause benzene production, which is a carcinogen.

Benzene can be found in things like car exhaust and tobacco. Cannabis tends to produce low benzene levels, according to a 1986 study, which found that benzene levels in cannabis consumers are lower than those of tobacco consumers, but higher than non-smokers. However, the chemical can still be released when consumers heat their product over 365 degrees, according to The Dab Lab and Seibo Shen of VapeXhale.

Though most consumers generally gravitate toward concentrates because of their discretion or their high potency, in recreational markets, the cannasseurs have drifted toward concentrates in search of “flavor hunting.” Cannasseurs who have been using cannabis recreationally or medicinally for a long time are often looking for new flavors and experiences when they smoke something. Ry Prichard from the Denver Post and The Cannabist explains, “Because well-made concentrates provide concentrated flavor instead of being muddied up by the taste of burning plant material, a properly-done concentrate will provide the pure flavor of the terpenes in that strain, giving a tasting experience like none other,” he says. “If you’ve ever had a flower that smelled amazing but just didn’t taste that great, chances are that it would be much more appealing in concentrate form.”

“While some people have a preference of an extract’s consistency, what’s important to many people is the solvent used and how compatible that extract is with their preferred consumption method,” Washington-based cannabis advocate and Leafly’s Engagement Specialist, Bailey Rahn explains. “Most concentrates are extracted using CO2, butane, hydrocarbons, propane, water, alcohol, and heat. Solventless extracts made using water (e.g., hash) or heat (e.g., rosin) are excellent choices for those wary of how consuming solvents might affect them.”

Gearing more toward concentrates could eliminate health problems associated with smoking and some of the stigma of using cannabis, as vaping is better for patients as well as those who want to recreate in public discretely. However, just because this form of imbibing is gaining popularity and has a lot of benefits, does not mean it is time to out flower completely.

“I find people are moving towards concentrate more today because of all the interesting things happening with them,” added Kelsey Liedman, store manager for Colorado dispensary Verde Natural. “CO2 extractions, adding terpenes for flavors and so much more. It’s new and exciting for many of us out there. However, there’s nothing better than rolling up some sticky, stinky flower and sharing it with your closest friends. As long as you’re doing the research on the grow methodology, source material, strains and extraction methods, it’s simply a personal preference.”

In a society that is becoming increasingly digital, fast-paced and clean, it is no surprise that concentrates are fitting right in as the new and sleek way to use cannabis. However, the cannabis flower can still offer many insights for research and benefits to the smoking experience and is a classic way to imbibe that some people will always love a little bit more.

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