Create cannabis extracts safely at home—safely and legally in Canada

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By Adolfo Gonzalez

With hordes of Canadians taking to their backyards and basements this year with the aim of growing their first batches of legally produced homegrown cannabis flowers, hash and concentrate lovers should be reminded that there are safe and legal options for making extracts at home.

First off, it should be noted that using any form of flammable organic solvent (butane, propane, ethanol, et cetera) to make a cannabis concentrate at home is illegal and dangerous. All of these methods should be conducted by professionals at licensed facilities with explosion-proof containment walls, and for good reason.

Now, fortunately, there are several methods that the home enthusiast can safely and legally apply, each of which renders a product of distinct quality. These “solventless” extraction methods have achieved legen­dary status among what is now a global community of craft growers and connoisseur consumers.

Three solventless extraction methods have become craft favourites:

Rosin

The rosin-press method involves pressing buds at high pressures between two warm, flat surfaces. The bud is typically placed in wax paper before being pressed so that the oily secretions can be captured at the periphery of the flattened bud chip. Yes, it sounds like a terrible thing to do to your prized buds, but remember that you can still cook with that flattened chip (good for a spicy tomato sauce!), and you will have gained one of the most mouthwatering extracts in existence, assuming you used good-quality bud. The golden rule is always that quality buds make quality hash, no matter the method.

Bubble Hash

A long-time favourite on the B.C. coast, thanks to inventor and solventless-hash-scene legend Marcus “Bubbleman” Richardson. His company produces and sells the world-renowned bubble-bag system, which allows anyone to safely make hash using water and ice. Essentially, you put the starting material (whether leaf or bud) into a bucketlike container with a series of mesh-screen filter bags, each one slightly finer than the one before. Buds or leaf are placed in the bags with water and ice, which then get stirred together—hardening the oily secretions on the surface of the plant matter (a.k.a. trichomes) and allowing them to more easily break off through the stirring motion until they reach a screen of the right size, where they are captured. This light-coloured residue is then dried in a box with parchment paper, leaving behind delicious clumps of hash, ready to consume.

Dry-sift Hash

One of the most ancient forms of hash-making, still going strong today. This one is easy to understand and to do: cured buds are tumbled on fine-mesh screens, typically using rotating and/or vibrating mechanisms, allowing the particulate to break off and collect underneath. The right-size mesh screen allows for mostly only the oily secretions (trichomes) to be collected. The fine powder that results from the process—often called kif—can be easily pressed into hash with a bit of pressure and time. The remaining plant material is less potent after being tumbled, but it is still very much usable for smoking or vaporizing.

Concentrate fans will have legal extracts available for purchase at dispensaries as of December 2019, but thanks to solventless-extraction methods like these, you don’t have to wait until then. Also keep in mind that you will likely have to pay as much as $100 per gram once they are available at dispensaries, while home enthusiasts will be able to make solventless products like these for a small fraction of that price.

Adolfo Gonzalez is a cofounder of CannaReps.

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