Cannabis legalization has brought both marijuana and industrial hemp to the forefront of public consciousness. The plants are now fodder for dinner table conversations and news reports alike. Unfortunately, confusion still abounds. The average American doesn’t know much about cannabis sativa and cannabis indica, let alone more confusing topics like CBD and marijuana extraction.
Cannabis strains are another area of mass confusion. Just what are they? More importantly, when it comes to products derived from cannabis extracts, do strains really make a difference? It is hard to say and ultimately really depends on what a processor does with its extracts.
- Flower and Derived Products
Long before California began pushing the envelope on cannabis legalization, people used marijuana by harvesting raw flower and smoking it. That is still the most popular method of consuming recreational and medical marijuana today. That being said, not all cannabis consumers are fond of smoking. They would not smoke marijuana any more than they would tobacco.
For them, there is an entire range of products derived from cannabis extracts. Take a cannabis vape cartridge. The cartridge is filled with a substance consisting of cannabis compounds in a suspension. Those compounds can be a mixture of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemicals commonly found in cannabis plants.
The interesting thing is that you can go on to just about any cannabis retailer’s website and find vape cartridges with liquids made from certain cannabis strains. But because you are buying a derived product rather than raw flower, does the strain actually matter?
- More About Strains
A cannabis strain is more or less a variety. The vast majority of cannabis plants grown in this country are either sativa, indica, or hybrid. Sativa and indica are the two varieties at the top of the proverbial cannabis food chain. Hybrid plants are produced by crossbreeding different sativa and indica strains.
As for those strains, they are produced through growing techniques designed to emphasize particular properties. For example, growers can encourage a particular strain to produce a certain cannabinoid and terpene profile. Upon harvest, an analysis of that plant should show higher concentrations of the desired cannabinoids and terpenes.
Developing new strains is an opportunity to develop new plants that have different effects on users. It all makes sense when you are talking about harvesting raw flower and smoking it. It even makes sense when using raw flower to make edibles. But what about products derived through hemp or marijuana extraction?
- More About Extraction
CedarStone Industry, a Houston company that manufactures marijuana extraction and distillation equipment, says that extraction is all about separating cannabis plant material from its chemical constituents. You put plant material, known as biomass, through a process to extract cannabinoids and terpenes. The biomass is of very little value at the conclusion of the process.
Once extracted, the resulting material is distilled in order to separate its many chemical compounds. This is where strains become tricky. If a processor uses an extract to make a derived product without distilling it first, you could make the case that strain matters. But if that processor distills the extract in order to pull out just one or two compounds, the strain becomes irrelevant.
This suggests that strains and product names only serve as marketing tools for derived products. It is more important for the consumer to know exactly what is in a derived product, the same way that knowing the ingredients of a food product is important. Strains and product names don’t tell you much because the constituents of a derived product are determined by extraction and distillation rather than the biological makeup of a given strain.