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Shatter: Who Needs 90 Percent THC?

Francis Cassidy
shatter

Some patients need high potency shatter to combat chronic pain or overcome tolerance.

Cannabis concentrates have been around for as long as we’ve known about the medicinal properties of cannabis. While most of these concentrates were produced via agitation, in more recent times, solvent-based extractions have become more common. One particular concentrate of note is shatter.

When warm, it has the consistency of honey; when cold, it’s like golden glass. Commonly available with concentrations of up to 90 percent THC, shatter has gained popularity in some circles. While some take it for a quick hit, to others the potency of shatter really matters. The high dose of THC is required to combat chronic pain and overcome tolerances, which helps to make the lives of patients more manageable.

The Shatter Extraction Process

Shatter is a type of Butane Hash Oil (BHO) concentrate. Manufacturers expose cannabis plant material to a solvent alongside heat and pressure. This combination efficiently separates the potent trichomes from the plant matter. Liquid butane is generally the preferred option; during the extraction process, producers “blast” the buds with butane.

Once complete, the resulting mixture contains a potent extract of cannabinoids and terpenes. However, it also includes butane remnants, which, if consumed, could damage consumer health. Therefore, manufacturers must purge the butane remnants. Manufacturers use a vacuum oven to heat the product in a closed environment with lower atmospheric pressure to purge the remnant butane. Once heated, the product releases the gas, and the vacuum oven pulls it from the chamber. Although costly, vacuum ovens are the ideal way to purge butane.

The purged mixture is left to rest and settle. It then forms a thin sheet of extract before turning a yellow-gold color similar to honey.

shatter

What Materials and Equipment do you Need to Make Shatter? 

Working with butane is something generally best left to the experts. Butane is highly flammable and explosive, and so it’s not recommended to work with it at home. Those who work with BHO extracts on a large scale generally invest heavily in specialized equipment. 

But if you’re a DIY enthusiast with more minimalist tendencies, here’s one way you can make shatter.

Gather the following:

  • 1 ounce of cannabis flower, ground
  • Extraction tube
  • Butane canister
  • Pressurized vacuum pump
  • A coffee filter
  • An electric range and double boiler
  • A Pyrex dish 
  • Parchment paper
  • Razor blades

Method:

  • Fill the extractor with ground cannabis. Pack it tight, but not overly so. You don’t want large air pockets within. Place a coffee filter at the bottom to keep plant matter within the chamber.
  • With the Pyrex below the extractor, carefully spray the butane into the extractor until the canister is empty. Always do this outdoors and with great care as butane is highly flammable. A thick and dark-colored oil should begin dripping from the bottom holes. Allow them to collect in a Pyrex dish below.
  • Once complete, it’s time to evaporate the butane. Fill the double boiler with water and place it on an electric range. Place the Pyrex dish in the top section and allow the liquid to evaporate. The gradual evaporation is what will expel the butane. Keep boiling the solution until the shatter stops bubbling. 
  • To purge the remaining butane you’ll have to use a pressurized vacuum pump. With the shatter placed inside the chamber, the pump will remove both the air and butane. Use a pump that comes with a gauge. This lets you monitor the internal temperature to avoid burning the extract.
  • Once purging is complete, use a razor blade to remove the sticky extract and place it on some parchment paper to cool.

All that Glistens is Not Gold

The cannabis community praises shatter for its extremely high THC content. But it’s these high concentrations of THC that have become a source of contention in recent years.

The fear held by many who are opposed to shatter is that of the exponential rise in the potency of cannabis concentrates. Where typical THC levels in bud top out at a little over 20 percent, concentrations in shatter can surpass 90 percent.

One notable voice opposed to the consumption of shatter is that of Dr. Rav Iker, author of a book entitled Cannabis for Chronic Pain. He is a proponent of medicinal cannabis consumption, but has made calls to criminalize high potency concentrates. What worries him is the increasing reliance on concentrates, especially among teenagers with developing brains. He points to studies showing that those who are predisposed to schizophrenia and take THC may experience the symptoms up to 3 years earlier than otherwise. Additionally, there’s the potential for addiction among a small minority.

Others disagree, however. Many liken the act of limiting THC concentrations in shatter to that of prohibiting certain types of alcohol. Making it illegal to consume whiskey due to a 40 percent concentration of alcohol would displease many who consume it responsibly. What’s more, we all know the damage that excessive alcohol can do. Meanwhile, no studies currently show that THC consumption is a risk for a healthy and fully developed adult brain.

Why Legal Caps on THC Concentrations Hurt Pain Patients

THC has proven to be a most useful tool for the increasing number of people battling chronic pain. In jurisdictions where medicinal cannabis is illegal, doctors often prescribe opioids. Many of us are all too aware of the ethical mess this has led to.

In U.S. states with legalized medicinal cannabis, there has been a marked decrease in opioid consumption. The pain-relieving effects of cannabis are well studied, so it’s easy to see why many prefer it over pharmaceutical alternatives.

But, one thing that comes with increased THC consumption is tolerance. Those living with chronic pain who medicate with large doses of THC quickly run into this issue. The end result is that many come to rely upon concentrates, such as shatter, to provide them with an effective method of medicating to overcome tolerance issues.

Shatter is not everyone’s preferred consumption method. But we live in a world that, in some ways, is so far removed from our evolutionary roots. Our bodies evolved on the savannah – a far cry from the modern western cultural context. The associated suffering for some is too much to bear, and what some wish to make illegal, may in fact be a breach of a fundamental human right.

Francis Cassidy

Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog thestrayphotographer.com

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