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CO2, Cannabis, and Terpenes Extraction Information

A Brief History of Solvent-Based Cannabis Extracts

Cara Wietstock
Written by Cara Wietstock
Hash oil, wax, and dabs are all solvent-based cannabis extracts, a product that has dominated the marijuana market for years. Advancements in methodologies and solvent extraction technologies new products are on and off the shelves weekly. While shatter and budder was the top notch product a year or two ago, now distillates and high terpene full spectrum extracts are the future. The processes used to create these new products are called the future of concentrate manufacturing but they aren’t so new in the well established botanical extraction industry.
It was in the 1940’s that the first cannabis concentrate reared its head, this was concentrate was adapted from pre-20th century botanical extraction technologies. The revival and adaptation of this solvent-based extraction are sort of new but has been taking shape over the last couple of decades. The long story of how hash oil earned shelf space beside high quality flower is mysterious but there are some major players worth mentioning in the movement.

MK Ultra & WWII

For thousands of years conctions infused with cannabinoids have been used by ancient healers and these recipes have evolved in a series of oral medicinals that used to line pharmacopeia in the 1800s. These practices helped lead the way to solvent-based cannabis extraction and in the 1940’s a product intended for vaporization before oral consumption.

Declassified intelligence documents from World War II show that the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) incorporated a THC “serum” extracted using acetate into their biochemical interrogation program. George White was at the head of this controverial program and he used LSD preparations and hash oil-laced tobacco cigarettes to interrogate prisoners and random persons. Later White would use these tactics in the highly publicized CIA program entitled “MK Ultra” in the ’50s and ’60s.

Hash Oil in the ’70s

The first edition of Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking by D. Gold was released in 1973 and gave a brief overview of how to prepare transclucent cannabis “honey”. Gold extracts the oil using pure alcohol and activated charcoal before putting the product through an evaporation procedure. The byproduct from this procedure is a transclucent amber oil that looks like dark honey.

In 1977 Micheal Starks elaborated on this method with an in-depth overview of hash oil preparation in his book Marijuana Chemistry: Genetics Processing and Potency. In his detailed analysis Starks reports on various solvents including chloroform, petroleum ether, ethanol, isopropanol and others. He described purification procedures and apparatuses and created an immensely detailed breakdown of all the ways to make hash oil.

The Closed Loop System

Popular psychoactive library Erowid was established in the mid-1990s, in 1999 they put out a paper entitled “Hash Honey Oil Technique” which is the first description of butane extraction that can be found on the internet as of today. This dangerous method exposes highly flammable butane, it is now referred to as “open blasting”. T hough this is process is no longer used it did inspire closed loop systems (CLS). The heavily refined method contains hydrocarbon solvents that are highly flammable and then recycles them back through the system.

The Dawn of Dabbing

Budderking first emerged in 2005 when he released an online article in Cannabis Culture entitled “Beautiful Budder”. The proprietary hash oil was made while refining the process with alcohol to create shatter in the ’90s. He left one of the amber glass samples in the windowsill for too long and noticed that the product had begun to “butter up”. Intrigued, they fine-tuned the product and got it on shelves at Da Kine dispensary in 2003. Alongside this product Budderking also invented a small unit that worked to make dabbing concentrates easier, this was the very first view of a dab rig. In cananda this product wasn’t available for long but eventually Colorado residents and Californians took hold of the product and ran with it.

About four years after Budderking made his mark in Canada an online buzz about high quality solvent-based hash was building and in 2010 they made a debut at the High Times Cannabis Cup. Soon thereafter dispensaries were rampant with wax of every name imaginable.

Cannabis Extracts Today

Since the dawn of dabs advancements have been steady and extractors are now using Co2 supercritical extractors, advanced CLS systems and more. There are organizations that are dedicated to making clean, safe hash oil products and the industry is only speeding up. The developments in the world of hash oil are part of the reason that this vein of the cannabis industry has such staying power. In the last two decades extractors are moving exponentially to refining their techniques and even going bigger and better with equipment. These facts make it all the more exciting to keep an eye on this industry for years to come.


About the author

Cara Wietstock

Cara Wietstock

Cara began working in the retail cannabis industry of San Francisco, CA in 2011 and continued in that sector for years. In 2015 she dedicated herself to writing full-time. Her passion for the written word and deep respect for the healing properties of the plant have brought her to Terpenes and Testing magazine. She now helps keep us on the cutting edge of scientific cannabis discovery as the Editor-in-Chief of the print publication.

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