If you’ve ever gone shopping for a cannabis extract you have probably seen how much variety there is. Light or dark extracts, clear or opaque, gooey or hard and brittle; there are a lot of options.
Personally, I’ve always loved darker concentrates. But when I started working for an extract company, I realized what a bad reputation dark extracts have. The dark concentrates that I strongly preferred were going for far less money than those that were more light and clear. The market clearly preferred light extracts and buyers at dispensaries all had the same message, “If it’s too dark, it won’t sell.” But why? Could it be that we don’t have much reason to prefer light colored concentrates beyond visual bias?
Humans are actually very particular about color in items we consume. It is part of how we tell if something is safe. If something has a strange color, we don’t want to risk that it has gone bad so we avoid it. In food marketing, this has led to artificial dyes for a variety of common foods. Oranges are dyed to a vibrant orange, butter to the perfect creamy yellow. Flour and eggs are bleached to achieve the ideal white.
In our current extract market, there is definitely a similar bias towards extracts that are clear and light in color. The myth is that color is a marker of quality, and the lighter the color — the purer and more refined the extract is. Still this myth doesn’t hold up to the scientific facts — there is no real correlation between light color and quality. In fact, there are a variety of reasons to prefer darker concentrates.
Less Processing – Less Solvents
Extracts are made through a variety of processes, and those processes can affect the resulting color. The process used to achieve clear transparent shatter usually involves solvents like BHO and when those solvents are removed, the temperature must be kept low. This means that it is more difficult to purge the remaining chemical solvents and more likely to be residual solvents left in the extract. That isn’t to say that there are no clean clear extracts, but according to cannabis testing company, Steep Hill Labs, there is an increased likelihood of contamination.
Completely solventless options like rosin or water hash are guaranteed to be solvent-free (because no chemical solvents are used in the process) but they tend to be darker in color.
Feels like the Flower
Darker concentrates contain more of the plant. Some see this as undesirable and strive to isolate everything but certain cannabinoids like THC or CBD. Still, many find that when the plant is processed down to this level, you get a much different high than what you would have experienced with the original cannabis flower. While we have identified a large number of efficacious compounds in the cannabis plant, we have also found that these compounds are enhanced when combined. This is called the entourage effect.
When cannabis flower is smoked, there are many different chemicals in the plant all working together in synergistic ways to provide the complex profile of that particular strain. Extracts with more of the plant leftover tend to give a medicinal experience closer to the flower itself. Why strip away everything that we were enjoying in our joint?
Dark Extracts Deliver a Grounded Body High
Darker concentrates also provide a more grounded body high; unlike the high from clear and extremely concentrated THC (which tends to be a very cerebral and energetic). While effects vary from strain to strain, dark color tends to come either because of the type processing or because the plant itself was dark. Indicas and more sedative hybrids tend to have a darker color than sativa varieties, so often the more sedative plants produce darker concentrates. Keeping more of the dark plant matter with less processing also tends to keep more of the “heavy” effects. If you are looking more for the sedative, calming, pain relieving side of the medicine, darker concentrates are much more likely to provide.
Cannabis is all about personal preference and there are definitely people who prefer the effects of lighter or more processed extracts. But light color doesn’t always mean quality, and for some, it could mean the exact opposite. Patients looking for concentrates with the feel of flower or a more grounded high should put away “the clear” and find something dark and minimally processed. Darker isn’t always better, but it certainly can be.
TELL US, do you prefer light or dark extracts? Why?