So, you’ve grown some healthy cannabis plants and have had a successful harvest; what do you do with all of that weed? There are many different types of products one can make with their harvested cannabis and they aren’t all just for smoking, here is CannaDan’s quick guide to the variety of products you can make with your harvested cannabis plant!
Flowers (smoking, vaporizing, base material for everything else):
While the cannabis leaf is the most visually iconic part of the cannabis plant, it is the flower (or bud) that most consumers have experience with and a product that all home growers should know how to produce. Cannabis flowers are typically ready to harvest from September-October and need to be trimmed, dried, and cured before they are ready to be consumed. You can tell a flower is ready to be harvested by looking at it’s trichomes underneath a microscope; when the trichome turns from transparent to an opaque, milky-white color the flower is ready to be picked. Flowers are typically smoked or vaporized; the vegetative material can be harsh on the throat but the consumer gets to experience the full palette of terpines.
Kief (smoking, vaporizing, edibles):
Kief is the most common by product of cannabis production; any time you harvest cannabis you will inevitably produce some kief. Kief is simply the raw, unprocessed trichomes that have fallen off a cannabis plant and it tends to accumulate at the bottom of the bins of trimming stations during harvest time as plants. One can purchase special bins that have a screen for kief to fall through for easy collection and can purchase specialized containers or even mechanical devises designed to shake kief off of flowers. In it’s raw state, kief is typically smoked or used in edibles but more often than not it is processed into some form of hash.
Hash (smoking, edibles):
Hash, short for hashish, is essentially kief (or trichomes) that have been compacted tightly together (often under heat) to create a dense, cake-like product that can be smoked or used in edibles. The historical advantage of producing hash is that it has a virtually indefinite shelf-life and takes up relatively little space to store; the modern advantage of consuming hash is that it is a clean smoke that will allow the consumer to experience the pure cannibinoids without the harsh vegetation one gets with flowers. There are many ways of creating hash; most of them are time consuming, laborious, and messy but the end result is an artisanal product any home grower should be proud to produce. Home growers looking to make a little hash should use the traditional method of using the keif that collects on their fingers or falls to the bottom of bins during harvest, growers looking to produce hash on a larger scale should consider the “bubble hash” (or “ice hash”) method.
BHO (Butane Hash Oil) (vaporizing):
Butane hash oil is a highly specialized form of hash that is used for vape-pens. Highly combustable butane gas (typically used in cigarette lighters) is used in a controlled environment to extract the trichomes (kief) and turned into an oily substance that is stored in a small reservour attached to the vape-pen. Butane hash oil is highly prized as it preserves the terpenes (which are typically burnt up in other processing methods) while giving the consumer the clean product free of impurities one gets with flowers. Because of the dangers associated with using the highly combustable butane gas, we strongly recommend leaving production of BHO to trained professionals and do not encourage home growers to attempt to make it.
Canna-Butter/Oil (edibles, topicals):
Making cannabis butter (or cooking oil) is the traditional “first step” towards making edibles. Cannabis is not “water-soluble” in the sense that boiling it in water will not dissolve the trichomes to create a “cannabis tea” but it is “fat-soluble”; heating it in a fat base (butter or oil) will extract the trichomes (and their cannibinoids) into a consumable product. Canna-butter can be made with properly dried and cured flowers but is more often made with the “sugar leaves” (trichome-rich leaves surrounding the buds) and other cannabinoid parts people usually throw away after trimming. To create psychoactive edibles, the cannabis must be “decarbed” in the oven (typically at 250 degrees fahrenheit) before mixing and heating it into the butter or oil; if you skip this step you will not get “high” but may receive other medicinal benefits. Once the cannabis is mixed and heated with its base (butter or oil), it can be consumed on it’s own or used with any recipe calling for butter or oil.
Tincture (edibles, drinkables, topicals):
Tincture is essentially a “cannabis tea” made with alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin and was the most popular form of cannabis consumption for medicinal purposes in the United States before prohibition. The process for making tincture is very similar to making butter or oil; you decarb the cannabis at a set temperature and time to highlight the cannibinoids that you desire, then you mix and agitate it with your base for a set amount of time to separate the trichomes from the plant material, and then you remove the plant material to create your final product. Alcohol is far more efficient for extraction than vinegar or glycerin and the higher proof, “rectified spirits” (such as Everclear) will produce the highest returns when it comes to cannabinoids. Alcohol based tinctures also have a far superior shelf life (virtually indefinite under proper storage) to their non-alcohol relatives (2-3 months under ideal circumstances) which makes it an ideal cannabis product for long term storage and is the first step towards making “FECO”. Tincture is one of the easiest and cleanest products one can make with cannabis and every backyard grower should try making it at least once.
FECO (Full Extract Cannabis Oil) (edibles, topicals):
Considered to be the cleanest, purest, and most “medicinal” way to consume cannabis; full extract cannabis oil is slowly entering mainstream cannabis use. FECO (aka “Rick Simpson Oil”) is basically what happens when you make an alcohol-based tincture (see above) and then evaporate the alcohol; what is left is a tar-like substance consisting of pure, cannabinoid-rich trichomes that can be ingested directly or used in the creation of edibles. Consumed on it’s own, FECO is an “acquired taste” whose flavor can (at best) be compared to a highly concentrated wheat grass or a ridiculously concentrated, hoppy IPA. While some may get used to the potent flavor, many use FECO as a base material for creating highly potent hard candies which mask the flavor. FECO can easily be made from a high-proof, alcohol based, tincture simply by removing the lid and letting the alcohol evaporate into the air; more serious producers might want to consider purchasing a distiller that can reclaim the alcohol for your next batch of tincture and save some serious money in the long run.
As you can see, there are a variety of consumable products one can create with the cannabis plant and they extend far beyond the traditional “smoking pot”. Each product (and form of consumption) will highlight different aspects of the plant and it’s medicinal properties; it is the mutual goal of patient and the provider to figure out the ideal combination of cannibinoids, terpenes, strains, and methods of consumption to address the symptoms one is experiencing. Experiment, find out what works best for you, and remember that cannabis is for everyone.