Wax Weed 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Extracts
This post is part of our Best Dispensaries in Arizona series, brought to you by SWC Arizona.
Resin, budder, extracts, wax–what are they, and what’s the difference between them? If you’re intrigued by the intricate world of weed wax, follow along as we dive into the ultimate guide to marijuana wax. We cover everything from its origin story to how it’s made, different varieties and where you can purchase some in your pretty city.
Table of contents
What Is Wax Weed?
So what is wax weed? Broken down, wax weed is a purification and concentration of marijuana with extremely high potency, presented as an amber or yellow, waxy-like substance. Think of it as an extracted and compacted form of cannabis trichomes–resin glands on the cannabis and hemp plants. It looks nothing like cannabis buds, but it certainly will help you achieve a solid high.
Wax weed contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other therapeutic compounds but is heavily concentrated, so it should only be taken in tiny doses. In fact, a single hit can keep you high for many hours–its effects can even extend a whole day.
Hashish–its predecessor–came into being in Europe during the 18th century, and many civilizations–such as India, Persia, and China–used it in medicine as well as religious practices. It spread to the U.S. in the latter part of the 18th century, where pharmacists used cannabis-based tinctures to treat various ailments until the prohibition era. Concentrates came back into view in the 50s and 60s during World War II, where prisoners of war were–unbeknownst to them–dosed with hash-oil-laced tobacco cigarettes as a C.I.A. experiment to help establish drugs that were fit for interrogations, ones that could mentally “break” people via psychological torture.
However, the origin of butane hash oil–or BHO–allegedly didn’t appear in the U.S. market till the 1970s by way of a drug distribution organization–deemed The Brotherhood of Eternal Love–whose main quest was to spread peace, love, and acid into the world. They successfully smuggled marijuana and acid from Kabul, Afghanistan, to the U.S., as the quality and potency was far superior. Accessible hash oil at this time was only 10-30% THC, compared with 50-90% now.
Chemist Ronald Stark–one of the members of the organization credited to be the pioneer of BHO–came to the conclusion that a more thorough distillation process would make exporting the hash less costly and less detectable. While true, his solvent-forward method of distillation wasn’t necessarily safe. An explosion at HQ and the deadly aftermath of the continuous blasting of highly flammable gas prompted safer manufacturing alternatives. Today, a sophisticated–and regulated–closed-loop extraction system is used. Highly potent and aromatic butane hash products started receiving hype from retailers and consumers in the 2000s.
Types of Wax Weed
So what is THC wax, and are there different types? Precisely! Just as there are numerous types and strains of cannabis, there are several kinds of cannabis wax. The main distinctions are their viscosity, consistency, texture, and flavor. They have all been refined to concentrate the plant’s potency. That said, their potency can be identical. No matter what type of marijuana wax you dabble with, rest assured you will experience a more powerful high than dried cannabis.
As the name implies, crumble wax is more crumbly and flaky, often a bit harder in texture than budder or live resin wax. The color of crumble wax may shift from light yellow to an amber color over time. Due to its dry and fragmented, amorphous texture, it can be sprinkled on top of a bowl, or inside joints and blunts, meaning it is easier to work with than thicker, more viscous waxes. It can be added to joints, blunts, spliffs, not just limited to dabbing. While with most waxes, a flat tip is preferred to collect the wax, but with crumble, using a spoon-shaped dabber is a wiser choice as it prevents crumbs from falling to the wayside.
Crumble wax is made using a distinctive production method where the cannabis is distilled at a lower temperature for a protracted period of time. This keeps a large portion of the original compounds, such as THC and terpenes, and offers a potent high as well as a delicious burst of flavor.
Similar to crumble wax, Honeycomb wax is crumbly and somewhat dry, but also spongy. They are both more pliable compared with other concentrates, and honeycomb morphs into crumble when poked at. As the name states, Honeycomb can appear to take on a honeycomb-like structure that falls apart. It is also a light to dark yellow, with pores that make it look quite porous. It is also exceptionally potent and a tasty experience.
Just like peanut butter, Budder wax is typically thick and creamy, which is how it earned its title. Many claim that the consistency is similar to cake frosting–whipped, light, and somewhat goopy. Either way, it’s far more viscous than crumble wax, making it easy to dab with. Budder wax is highly potent, full of terpenes, and can have up to 80% THC or higher. The best part is that it smells and tastes phenomenal. Like most concentrates, budder wax is made using a solvent like butane or CO2 to extract the cannabinoids from the flower. You can identify budder wax by its smooth texture and orange and yellow hue.
Shatter wax is glossy and translucent, and quite brittle. It is generally amber-toned, though improper storage can affect translucency. It can be malleable and on the sappier side depending on which solvent is used, but often it is brittle and breakable when agitated. Instead of breaking into crumbs, it breaks off into tiny shards, resembling glass shatter. The main difference with shatter lies in the post-extraction process.
The most common solvent to make shatter wax is butane, mainly due to the fact that CO2 removes moisture from the plant matter and causes shatter to lose its characteristic glossy characteristic. Shatter is considered the purest form of wax due to its shimmery appearance. Put into perspective, it takes about 1 ounce of flower–roughly 7 grams–to yield 1 gram of wax or shatter. Wild, right?
Live Resin Wax
It’s a valid question to ask, “what is wax weed” when there are so many options out there–especially considering all with diverse flavors, aromas, extraction processes, and potencies. Live resin looks similar to honey–giving off a light or tanned yellow appearance. It is sticky, on the softer side, somewhat sugary feeling, though it can sometimes be more fluid like an oily sauce. Compared with other waxes, it is sweeter in flavor, and gives off a fruity aroma. The type of terpenes within the resin determines the viscosity and texture. Live resin is typically only 20-50% THC, delivering a subtle psychoactive high.
The extraction process of live resin is fairly simple–plant material is passed through with a solvent and then vaporized out of the final product to make sure it is still safe. This process helps retain the full spectrum of the plant’s natural terpenes and cannabinoids, meaning it is both potent and tasty.
How Wax Weed Is Made
So what is wax weed from a manufacturing standpoint? There are two main extraction methods to create wax weed–one being a safer technique and the other yielding more potent wax.
Solvent-based wax weed is created using a chemical process where a flammable gas such as Butane, Carbon Dioxide (CO2), or Ethanol is used in liquid form as the solvent to release the wax from the cannabis plant in order to extract the THC. During the extraction process, the marijuana plant is sealed off in tubes, and rinsed with the solvent. This washing technique helps to carefully separate the trichomes of resin from the rest of the cannabis plant. Once the plant matter is purified and the butane is completely evaporated, it will crystallize and begin to harden into a highly concentrated wax. Sometimes it requires additional processing, usually in the form of stirring or whipping into specific sticky wax forms.
As stated above, explosions can occur because the gasses used in this process are highly flammable. This process uses heat, condensation, and vacuum purging. THIS IS A CRUCIAL STEP. If done at home labs, it can be highly toxic and risky. That said, there is still a possibility that particles of the dangerous solvent might be present in the wax, which can cause lung damage. Lab testing for purity and potency is key if you want to avoid problems.
The solventless or solvent-free method is a less common way to produce THC wax, but it is definitely the more health-conscious choice. Solvent-free weed wax is made by isolating, gathering, and condensing cannabinoid trichomes into pure and potent form, without using a chemical solvent. The flower is refined to separate plant matter from essential oils, terpenes, and cannabinoids. The solvent-free route eliminates any risk of inhaling any toxic residue left from poisonous solvents if the material isn’t purified correctly.
Pros and Cons of Wax Weed
If you’re looking for an intense high with exceptional flavor, wax weed might be your choice. They offer a powerful psychoactive experience that is relatively odorless. It also takes up less space than a jar of weed. Let’s examine the pros and cons of wax weed, shall we?
Benefits of using wax weed
One obvious benefit of using wax weed is its strength; most concentrates contain far more THC than the average marijuana plant. With wax weed, a little goes a long way, so while it might be more costly upfront to purchase concentrates, though you won’t need to take nearly as many rips to feel elevated. You will experience immediate effects after inhalation, no need to wait.
Aside from potency, wax weed is straightforward and easy to work with because of its viscosity and compact nature. Very little, if any, goes to waste compared with dried marijuana buds, and there is a lot of versatility when it comes to taste, smell, and effectiveness.
Potential risks and drawbacks
As you might assume based on its high concentration, consuming wax weed can get you extraordinarily high. In fact, it might make you feel uncomfortable if you consume too much. Inhaling an improper dosage of wax weed can lead to auditory and visual hallucinations, or far worse–temporary psychosis. It can also impact your memory and increase anxiety and paranoia. Other negative side effects include elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and formication–the itchy feeling that one has insects under the skin.
If you frequently consume wax weed, it is likely you’ll develop a high tolerance which will make the effects of smoking weed less profound or strong, meaning that you’ll need more than the average person to get high. This can become costly. There are also potential health risks associated with impurities and contaminants in concentrate products. Both concentrates and dried cannabis might contain pesticides, though wax weed might also contain residual solvents that didn’t get fully purged during the extraction process. Yes, you might be inhaling remnants or residual butane. This can lead to neurotoxicity or cardiotoxicity, among other long term damage.
Look out for unregulated waxes, which might be made from left-over, unusable waste products, which contain unmeasured amounts of THC, and often do not have limits on the methods used to create the concentrate. Know your supplier and manufacturing process.
How to Use Wax Weed
There are different methods of consumption with weed wax, such as dabbing, vaping, or edibles. Arguably the most common way to consume weed wax is by dabbing. You’ll need a dab rig or oil rig, a dabber or tool to scoop and measure out the extract–typically flat-tipped or spoon-shaped–and a hot nail–made of heat-stable materials such as titanium or quartz. And, of course, weed wax. Since wax requires significantly higher temperatures than regular flower to combust, you’ll also need a small blowtorch, depending on the type of equipment you have.
Once you’ve gathered all your supplies, heat your dab nail. Once it has reached its desired temperature, use a dabber to scoop up a glob of wax, then delicately spread it around the nail. You can also use an electric nail that is already set to around 350–400 degrees. A carb cap is another add-on accessory that is responsible for regulating air flow and vaporizing the wax at a lower temperature. In this instance, you would lift the carb cap as you inhale the vapor through the mouthpiece of your dab rig.
Wax weed is usually smoked using a dab rig, but can also be vaped with a pen. Of course, this method is less effective. Either way, after inhaling it is recommended not to take more than a hit, considering the wax is heavily concentrated.
Is Wax Weed Legal?
Weed wax is legal in Arizona (and California), yes–with exceptions. It is much stronger than the leaves of a marijuana plant, so what you are legally allowed to have in your possession differs significantly. Due to its high concentration, the law states that adults 21 and older can use and possess up to 5 grams of hashish. Possessing more than that amount–between 5 grams to 12.5 grams is a petty offense and a $300 fine. More than 12.5 grams is punishable by potential jail time. This is compared with 28.5 grams–equivalent to 1 ounce–of dried cannabis flower. Even possessing a small amount can run risks–it’s not the same as a weed! Just know that the risk is high, and you can get a misdemeanor, or even a felony.
As far as producing your own wax weed, there are laws you must abide by to avoid potential jail time, and to also stay safe from potential explosions. The manufacturing and selling of weed concentrates is considered a felony. If you break the law, you will receive a 3-year minimum sentence to a maximum sentence of 12.5 years. You could also receive a fine of $150,000, so it’s best to avoid attempting to make wax weed altogether.
Where to Buy Wax Weed
Wax weed can be found at almost any local dispensary, although online options exist. Remember that it’s all about quality when it comes to wax weed. When going to make a purchase, consider the cost of wax weed, which can be an indicator of the wax quality. Don’t skimp yourself out of a good high! Dispensary-grade concentrates typically cost between $30-55 per gram, with the more pricey wax weeds containing higher THC levels and overall potency. Of course, if you buy more grams, the price point might be cheaper–you can cop 2 grams for $48, or 8 grams for $175.
If you want to find a reputable seller of wax weed, SWC Arizona has a fire selection of extracts and concentrates with unmatched quality and flavor. They carry hybrid Sugar Wax extracts from the brand Bud Bros called Wedding Cake with over 80% THC, Collie Walker Indica shatter with 72% THC from High Grade, and Sativa “Strawberry Cookies” Live Crumble from Amber. Needless to say, they’ve got a wide array of choices, so you can explore all that weed wax has to offer.
There are many options out there, so try them on for size and decide which might be right for you!
About the author: Courtney Pester is a San Diego based San Francisco bred millennial with a passion for design and self-expression. She prides herself in her charcuterie board making skills and has a soft spot for animals. When she’s not pumping out articles you can catch her playing tennis and enjoying the diversity of events and restaurants San Diego has to offer.