by Samuel Wells Samuel Wells is an Assistant Professor of English in Denver, CO
An Edible Enigma
As scientific and cultural understanding of the health benefits of cannabis therapies continues to grow, more patients are turning to infused edibles as a healthy and smoke-free form of ingestion.
Eating marijuana food is a tricky proposition at best, however: difficult dose titration, extended time until onset and poor potency are all common complaints with patients whether they purchase their cannabis edibles at a local dispensary or craft them at home.
How can hungry, relief-seeking medical marijuana consumers know the products they buy or bake will provide them with maximum benefit?
One answer to this problem that is quickly gaining pop-ularity is to cook with hashish: extracted, concentrated cannabinoids. Creating edible cannabis food with hash is an easy, cost-effective way to craft high-potency med-icine. Which methods of extraction are best for cooking, baking and eating? How can dispensary-going patients know the edible products they purchase are safe, healthy and effective?
Healing with Whole Plant Hash
The simplest and safest method for cannabinoid extraction is the cold-water technique, which creates what is commonly referred to as “bubble hash”. Plant matter is dried and frozen before being agitated in a bath of ice water and filtered through a series of mesh bags in order to collect the precious trichromes and plant resins.
Bubble hash kits are readily available for home use and the end product is particularly effective as the active ingredient in edible marijuana medicine.
Simply Pure, a Colorado company that specializes in creating organic cannabis edibles, uses a combination of marijuana-infused coconut oil and whole-plant bubble hash in order to insure potency and consistency. Their products, which range from chocolate coconut almond cups and sesame brittle bars to apple butter, mango salsa and green chile, provide patients with the comfort that comes with lab-tested food handmade by experts.
“We grow all our own organic medicine and use the entire plant to make our bubble hash,” proclaims Simply Pure Chef Lauren Gennett. “We don’t just use trim or sugar leaf. That way we get the entire spectrum of cannabinoids and their healing properties.” Growing all their own cannabis also allows Simply Pure to close-ly regulate the purity and strength of their edibles, which are batch-tested by Full Spectrum Labs; potency and individual cannabinoid content is listed on the label of every product.
“Another benefit of using fully activated (decarboxylated) hash for edibles is that you don’t need to include so much fat or oil in the meal,” Chef Lauren claims. “Patients concerned about calorie counts or fat content should absolutely consider using hash instead of or in conjunction with coconut oil or butter. Because the THC has been fully activated, adding those lipids becomes less important and more of the cannabinoids are available for absorption by the bloodstream.”
Cooking with extracts also has many culinary benefits as well. “Using hash allows us to maximize the medici-nal value of the plant while minimizing harsh flavors,” Lauren says. “Because we grow it ourselves organically and use whole bud, we know as much as possible about the raw material and can deliver a final product of the highest quality.”
Simply Pure is dedicated to helping medical marijuana patients create their own healthy, edible medicine at home. Along with a line of products that includes a pre-infused organic coconut oil, the company is releasing a cookbook stocked with recipes from their award-win-ning chefs for patients eager to experiment with hash-based cannabis cookery. There are many recipes for those who grow their own herb and extract it into bub-ble hash or who purchase it from their local dispensary as an ingredient in meals. Included at the end of this arti-cle is a preview recipe for a delicious Bubble Hash Rasta Pasta with Cilantro Pesto, straight from the kitchen of Simply Pure Chef Lauren Gennett!
The Problem with Solvents
Some of the most common methods for creating hashish for edible medicine involve the use of industrial solvents like ethyl alcohol, butane and even propane. While the popularity of these techniques is due primarily to their high rate of efficiency, many of these solvents are not only environmental pollutants but health and safety risks and should only be used by professionals with licensing and experience in the handling of hazardous materials. Butane extraction is illegal in both California and the Netherlands; many states with new medical marijuana laws are currently considering similar restric-tions.
Solvent quality is also a major concern when one considers the final edible product: only the cleanest, purest forms should be used. Novice extractors who use canned butane meant for refillable lighters are risking the possibility of exposure to harmful substances such as heavy metals: their effect on edible and orally-consumed products is unknown and best avoided by the do-it-yourself patient. It has also been surmised that some solvents may actually chemically alter cannabinoids in ways not yet fully understood: this might help explain why solvent extractions can yield final cannabinoid profiles very unlike those of the raw material from which they originated.
A Supercritical Solution
The ultimate answer to the problem of solvent-bashed hash is to use a safe extraction media that poses no harm to self or environment. OrganaLabs, headquartered in Denver, has chosen to use a cutting-edge method known as supercritical CO2 extraction to produce clean, potent hash oil with no dangers of adulteration by pollutants or poisons.
The process is commonly applied to decaffeinate coffee and teas but with proper adjustments can safely remove the entire cannabinoid profile from raw marijuana. “Supercritical” means that carbon dioxide is subjected to very specific temperatures and pressures until it exhibits characteristics of both a fluid and a gas: heat-ing CO2 until it is above 87° Fahrenheit and pressuriz-ing it between six and ten thousand psi before it inter-acts with the raw material produces a rich, molasses-like hash oil with a THC content of over 80% and a small number of plant waxes which are easily removed. OrganaLabs either combines this hash oil with a small amount of glycerin as a stable “mixer” or processes the oil directly into their CannaTabs, small dissolvable lozenges meant to be administered sublingually (under the tongue) in doses of 10 mg.
Owners Mathew Ellis and Ralph Morgan care deeply about delivering a high-quality, safe and pure product to medical marijuana patients. “This process allows us almost total control over effectiveness and bio-availability. I know why our products do what they do,” Mathew proclaims. Their CO2 CannaTabs are individually dosed at 10 mg but the unique formula allows for immediate relief upon application and the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into the bloodstream from the mucus membrane beneath the tongue. This fast-acting and pow-erful medicine can also be taken in liquid form by combining with food and drink or simply rubbing the hash oil onto the gums and tongue.
Although OrganaLabs’ single orally-consumable product is the CannaTab, (“We are not bakers”, they say) Ralph and Mathew work with edible infusers across the state and are always excited to discuss cannabinoid interactions with other foods, supplements and natural herbal remedies like kava and ginko biloba. Ralph, a former health care professional and owner of the upscale Evergreen Apothecary in south Denver, envi-sions a new form of health clinic where medical doctors, natural healers, nutritionists and herbalists would con-sult together to maximize a patient’s well-being. This form of cooperative medicine would not only help deliv-er the best possible care to each patient but would also spread knowledge of medical cannabis across the spec-trum of treatment options and add to our knowledge of how this miraculous plant aids health and well-being.
The supercritical CO2 method is the cleanest and safest form of cannabinoid extraction currently used for the creation of medical marijuana oils. Future potential for the technology includes the ability to extract individual cannabinoids from raw material in order to deliver focused doses of CBD, CBN and THCV tailored to each patient’s needs and requirements, a concept that eliminates the guess work from titration and will allow near-total control of the effects and benefits of medical marijuana. By embracing this eco-and health-friendly technology, companies like OrganaLabs are breaking new ground in the effective delivery of edible hashish oils and forging new paradigms of healthcare for patients every-where. Interested patients can learn more about the company at www.organalabs.com.