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The Clear: The Raw Power of THC Distillate

THC distallate Cannabis Now
Many vape pens use distallate and add back terpenes for flavor/Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


The Clear: The Raw Power of THC Distillate

What started as a “repair” process for sub-standard BHO is now a concentrate phenomenon in its own right — distillate.

THC distillate, sometimes sold as “The Clear,” is a highly concentrated, viscous product that can reportedly reach purity levels as high as 98.85 percent. It is roughly analogous to THCa crystals with the major distinction that, unlike those crystals which are refined THC acid, distallate is decarboxylated ∆9-THC and can be consumed orally without any further processing. It’s the main ingredient in many vape pens on the market.

Clear is the result of a process called “short path distillation,” which refines “raw oil” (generally the product of butane, CO2 or some other solvent extraction) into a pale golden goo that, as the name implies, is more or less transparent. This transformative process takes product with an average cannabinoid level around 70 percent and produces a nearly pure THC product that can be dabbed or eaten.

However, like crystalline cannabinoid acids, the distillate lacks a terpene profile, which is destroyed by the same process that concentrates and decarboxylates the final product.

This creates a situation where there are no terpenes to inform the effects, meaning the product is fundamentally less effective without the addition of some high-terpene extract, like a live resin.

There are some extractors who claim to preserve the terpenes from their starting material and add them back to the distillate, but the vast majority — even those labeling their cartridges or containers with strain names like “OG” and “Jack” — are using food grade terpenes to simulate flavor profiles. Other brands embrace the artificial aspect of the added terps, offering high-THC dabs with powerful candy flavors like cherry, grape, lime, root beer and cotton candy.

While they are by definition non-toxic, there are some serious concerns about the safety of inhaling vaporized food grade terps.

And while there are certain circles within the dabbing community that view distillate with disdain, it has become a de facto staple of the dabbing scene, with dozens of producers offering even more flavors in a variety of delivery mechanisms, ranging from tiny jars to glass “applicator” syringes.

But distillate didn’t start as a preferred method, it was a “repair” solution for unattractive concentrates with low or poor flavor, and it’s still used that way by many extractors, although a few are deliberately setting out to make clear “from scratch.”

Ultimately, the process is the same. In a nutshell, you extract concentrate from cannabis flowers and then use distillation to refine that concentrate into clear. Short path distillation is basic organic chemistry, but like most extraction methods, it is potentially dangerous. Specialized lab equipment is required, but the cost for a table-top sized setup is not prohibitively expensive.

And while not everyone enjoys dabbing clear, it’s an undeniably potent product with effects similar to crystalline products, but with a generally much lower price tag for consumers.

Another advantage of clear is that it’s easily digestible for most people and, because it lacks a flavor profile, blends easily into food. And since the product is already decarboxylated, it can be added to cold foods like fruit for quick, inconspicuous consumption in public.

As with any concentrated cannabis product, one major concern around the clear is pesticides, which are also concentrated when they are present in the plant material which — unless the extractor takes major precautions — they generally are.

But as regulation (at least in California) creates a more reliable system for accessing safe products that have been tested for pesticides and other contaminants, this concern will be less pressing.

It isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking to push the limits of raw potency or just sneak a little extra medication into your lunch, the answer is clear.

TELL US, do you know what’s in your vape pen?

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