Are Cannabis Concentrates Bad for You?

Cannabis concentrates are all the rage right now: wax, shatter, budder, crumble, rosin. They pack a much more powerful punch than your old-fashioned joints, and they can be consumed in a number of different ways. 

But considering the high THC potency and the (usually) solvent-based production process, you may be wondering: Are cannabis concentrates bad for you? The answer depends on a few specific factors. 

The Production Process

First, it’s important to understand the difference between a concentrate and an extract. In short, all extracts are concentrates but not all concentrates are extracts. A concentrate is any cannabis derivative where the cannabinoids and terpenes are isolated and pressed together outside of the plant. Hashish is an example of a simple concentrate; the trichomes are stripped from the plant and pressed together with no solvents or complex chemical alterations required.

An extract is a type of concentrate produced with the use of heat, pressure, and—in most cases—solvents. Most cannabis extracts—like wax and shatter—are created using a hydrocarbon extraction process. This process involves stripping the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant using a solvent like ethanol, propane, or (most commonly) butane. 

While most manufacturers take steps to eliminate all residual solvents from their extracts before going to market, you do have to be careful. Only purchase extracts that come with a certificate of analysis from a third-party lab. The lab analysis should confirm that there are no traces of solvents or impurities in the final product. 

You can also purchase solventless extracts like rosin. Solventless extracts are produced using only heat and pressure, often with the help of a rosin press or a hair straightener. This leaves you with a cleaner, purer product. 

The Potency 

Cannabis concentrates are very strong. A simple concentrate like hash may have 40-60% THC on average. A really pure wax can have up to 90% THC. Compare that to cannabis flower, which has 10-20% THC on average. Although overdosing is next to impossible, you still don’t want to take on more than you’re ready to handle, or you can end up having an extremely bad trip. 

Overindulging in cannabis concentrates can cause the following effects:

  • Blackouts
  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia

To avoid or minimize these side effects, start small. Use less potent concentrates at first, and focus on microdosing. The most important thing is to remember that a little goes a long way. Sprinkling a bit of hash over a joint is less intense than filling a dab rig with shatter and going to town. Start small. 

The Source 

This should go without saying, but never purchase cannabis concentrates from the street. You have no way of knowing how the product was produced or if it’s safe for human consumption. Concentrates sold in legal marketplaces are required to adhere to strict regulations and guidelines, so you can purchase with much greater confidence. 

And even when you do purchase from a recreational or medicinal dispensary, make sure to research the manufacturer and review the certificate of analysis. Different states have different quality requirements, and you always want to be sure you’re getting the best. 

How to Consume Cannabis Concentrates Safely

If you’re thinking of trying cannabis concentrates, remember the golden rules: 

  • Always buy legal 
  • Review the certificate of analysis 
  • Go with solventless extracts and concentrates when available 
  • Always microdose (at least in the beginning)! 

And most importantly, if you do notice any unpleasant side effects, cease use immediately. 

Happy dabbing.