You may be looking to dial-in your cannabis experience; to find the tastes and effects you enjoy the most. But to do that, you need to know what’s in the products you’re purchasing and really understand how those things will make you feel.
Although cannabis products in the state of California are required to have detailed labels that tell you exactly what’s in them, they aren’t super straightforward.
So let’s review what those labels mean and how to read them, and then do a deep-dive into another new addition to cannabis: Concentrates. But first, let’s revisit the distinction between Sativa and Indica strains that we explained in A Beginner’s Mind, because we didn’t quite give the full story there.
Sativa vs. Indica
It may not always hold true that Sativa strains provide head-highs and Indica strains body highs - the science isn’t in yet - but there is a physical difference between the two. Indica plants are shorter with wider leaves, and that helps to produce more compact looking flowers when dried. Whereas Sativa plants are taller with narrower leaves, which leads to dried Sativa flowers looking more feathery. Other than that, not much more can be said definitively.
In actuality, it’s the levels of specific Cannabinoids (e.g. THC & CBD) and Terpenes in your cannabis that determine how you’ll feel. And while the names of strains can be great guides, it’s important to remember that the concentrations of Cannabinoids can vary not only across strains, but also within. It goes without saying, but those differences affect how the cannabis makes you feel.
For example, Afghan Kush is known as an Indica strain, but consider batches grown by different people, methods, and in different locations with different soils. When you think about it, it’s obvious that those two batches may not have the same mix of THC and CBD, and so they’ll give you different results. But as long as you know how to read the labels on your products, you’ll be able to find the products with the right levels of specific Cannabinoids and Terpenes every time. For more on Cannabinoids and Terpenes, read the final chapter of our cannabis crash course, the Immovable Mind.
Labels on cannabis products may look different from company to company and product to product, but they all have to show the same things. We want you to be familiar with what those thing are, because when you can read the labels of your products you’ll know how to make the right product choices - it’s as simple as that.
The organization responsible for cannabis labeling requirements is the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Per the CDPH site: “cannabis products must be properly labeled to ensure consumers are informed about what they are purchasing and to prevent unintended use.” We’ve gone through the documentation to break down and translate the requirements.
Specific strain used
Universal Symbol for cannabis
Cannabis Leaf & exclamation point
Net weight or volume
THC and/or CBD per package
376 MG Total THC (75.2%)
00 MG Total CBD (00%)
1 High Intensity Extract Pod
For edibles, you will also see
“Cannabis-Infused” above the product name
The CDPH requires some additional information that is generally listed on a different label affixed to the packaging (depending on the product). Expect to also see the following on your cannabis products:
Manufacturer name and contact info
Date product was manufactured
Packaged on 01/03/2019
List of ingredients
Standard Government Warning
Product contains a Schedule I controlled substance
Instructions for use and preparation
For Vaporization only, do not ingest orally or apply topically
Lastly, in addition to the above information edible products will also show general nutritional content, and if there are any common food allergens those must be called-out on the packaging as well. Look for those products to have:
12.5 calories from fat
Allergens (If applicable)
Tree Nuts (Almonds and Coconut)
Knowing how to read labels will help as you experiment to try and find the products you like best. On that note, the next section will give you a better understanding of your options within one of the most potent categories of cannabis.
Now that you’re well-versed in the basics, let’s visit the products with the highest levels of Cannabinoids: Concentrates. They’re known as such simply because they have very high, or concentrated, amounts of Cannabinoids. There are lots of different types, each made in their own special way, and they can vary greatly in how they look and even in their consistency. So let’s explore them below to make sure you know what to expect.
These products are created by putting the cannabis plant through either a solvent or non-solvent based extraction process that filters out what we don’t want (what that is depends on the end product). The solvent based extraction method typically uses one or more of the following: Butane, Propane, Alcohol, or CO2. The non-solvent based process, on the other hand, uses water, pressure, and/or heat.
It should be noted that because of their high potency these products are recommended for experienced users, so we suggest that you tread lightly if you’re just getting started. It can be easy to get confused by all the names, so just remember: it’s concentrated cannabis.
Non-Solvent Based Concentrates
Kief is the unrefined separation of Trichomes (for more on Trichomes, read The Immovable Mind), collected either through grinding cannabis flower or during the trimming process. As you probably know, many grinders have a kief chamber that collects the dust-like particles over time. Dried Kief is traditionally sprinkled on top of flower or used as a “coating” for joints and other rolled cannabis products.
Hash, or Hashish, is a derivative of Kief and is one of the oldest known concentrates. It is simply Kief that has been collected by hand or through a sifting method, then pressed together to form a solid or resin-like ball. Hash is often rolled up into small balls and then smoked by itself or combined with flower.
Rosin results from using high heat and high pressure to separate the resinous essential oils from the trichome heads. This creates a solid resin that can be broken into smaller pieces and added to flower or smoked on its own.
Solvent Based Extraction Concentrates
Shatter is the result of a solvent-based extraction that separates the Cannabinoids and Terpenes from the cannabis plant. It is extremely versatile - several other concentrates start out as Shatter, such as Wax and Crumble. It typically has a smooth glass-like texture and can be brittle, but it may also be a little stretchy, resembling taffy. It is generally amber or yellow in appearance.
Wax, Live Resin and Budder
Wax and Budder are Shatter that has been whipped into a creamy consistency. To make Wax, the Shatter is kept under low temperatures during the whipping process, which introduces and redistributes air molecules. Live Resin is wax created from freshly frozen cannabis, which helps retain as many of the Terpenes and Cannabinoids as possible. Budder simply has a higher moisture content than Wax.
Crumble is Shatter that has been whipped, then placed in a vacuum-oven at low temperatures to “dry” out and give it a crumbly texture.
Sauce is extracted using a low-boiling-point solvent at sub-zero temperatures. It is generally thicker than Crumble, and more uniform and consistent in its crystalline structure.
After an initial extraction method has been used, it’s possible to further refine the concentrate to remove undesirable compounds - this is called winterization. Distillate must also undergo decarboxylation, which is just a fancy way of saying it’s heated enough to activate the medicinal potential. Finally the material is run through a steam distillation multiple times to purify the compound and hone in on specific Cannabinoids and Terpenes.
Unless you’re using a vape cartridge, concentrates require a specialized rig (i.e. a dab-specific bong, or water piece) and some tools. Rigs can be purchased at most smoke shops - just tell them you’re looking for a dab rig and they’ll point you in the right direction.
They are essentially identical to most bongs aside from the specialized bowl. They consist of a glass or acrylic body, a compartment for water, and a mouthpiece. The bowls are referred to as “bangers,” and are typically made out of quartz. Bangers are super-heated with a torch, then concentrates are “dabbed” into the bowl, which activates the vaporizing of the Cannabinoids. “Dabbing” as it is commonly referred to, requires a torch (NOT a lighter), a dabbing tool (a metal or glass device capable of managing small bits of concentrate), and sometimes a glass cap or carb to place on top of the banger after dabs.
Enjoy, my friends!