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What Are Extracts?

By January 6, 2020 September 15th, 2020 No Comments

Cannabis extracts, or concentrates — solid or liquid products that are produced by processing cannabis flower into a concentrated form, to be either ingested or inhaled — are now legally available for sale in Ontario. We look at how they work, the pros and cons of consumption, and what to consider when shopping for these products.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cannabis extracts are now legal to produce, sell and purchase in Ontario.
  • Depending on their form, extracts can be a smoke-free alternative to consuming dried cannabis.
  • Extracts can contain a very high concentration of THC, so there is the potential for overconsumption.

It’s now legal to produce, sell and purchase cannabis extracts in Ontario. Here’s a rundown of what they are, how they work in the body, the ways they differ from other forms of cannabis, the pros and cons for using them and what to consider when shopping.

What Are Extracts?

Extracts (also known as concentrates) is actually an umbrella term for the variety of products that can be produced when cannabis flower is processed into a concentrated form. These products can come in liquid or solid form, such as cannabis oil, hash, vape cartridge liquid, shatter, wax, kief, tinctures, and are either ingested or inhaled.

The process for creating extracts varies depending on the intended finished product, but the basic goal is to isolate and remove the cannabinoids and terpenes. During the concentration process, dried or fresh cannabis plants can be sifted; exposed to heat or extreme cold, gas (such as carbon dioxide), a solvent, another oil or a combination of these; or further refined using ethanol.

How Do They Work?

The way the cannabinoids in the cannabis extract enter your body depends on the form of extract and method of consumption. When cannabis extract is ingested, it can produce effects that are similar to those experienced when cannabis flower is smoked or vaped; however the effects may be delayed due to digestion, which can take from 30 minutes up to four hours or more. When cannabis extracts are inhaled (such as by dabbing or vaporizing), the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is absorbed by the blood in the lungs and moves quickly to the brain, producing an almost immediate effect, possibly within minutes.

The duration of potential effects also depend on how the cannabis extract is consumed. If it’s inhaled, effects can last one to three hours, or longer. When extract is ingested, effects can be felt for up to 12 hours. The timing of the onset and duration of effects vary from person to person. Individual factors such as gender, mental and physical health, age, personality, genetics and even the amount of food ingested prior to consumption all play a part.

How Are Extracts Different from Other Types of Cannabis?

The main difference between extracts and other forms of cannabis is in their potential to contain much higher concentrations of cannabinoids than the raw plant. For example, extracts can have up to 99% THC, while dried flower typically contains 1% to 30% THC. Extracts available through OCS that are meant to be inhaled can contain no more than 1,000 mg of THC per package; ingestible extracts contain no more than 10 mg of THC per unit.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Consuming Extracts?

Depending on their form, extracts can be a smoke-free alternative to inhaling cannabis, which may come with risks to lung health. The higher concentration of THC may increase the risk of overconsumption.

What to Consider When Shopping for Extracts

Before you purchase a cannabis extract, read the label or the information available on the product page at OCS.ca so you know how much THC and CBD it contains. If you are trying extracts for the first time, choose a product with a low level of THC or a high amount of CBD, which can counter the unpleasant effects of THC. Learn more about the potency and safety of extracts here.