A History of Cannabis Extracts Part 1

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Solvent-based cannabis extracts, often referred to as hash oils or dabs, have completely dominated cannabis concentrate markets over the last several years. With the advancements in solvent extraction technologies and methodologies, new products are constantly circulating the shelves of dispensaries. Budders and shatters, once prized as the holy grail of hash oils, are now sharing retail space with new flavor-enhanced distillates and high terpene full spectrum extracts (HTFSE’s), products that were virtually unheard of just five years ago.

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These processes, now being hailed as the future of concentrate manufacturing, owe credit to decades of botanical extraction advancements that preceded them.

Cannabis concentrates are said to have been around (in some form) since the 1940s, adapting from the pre-20th century botanical extraction technologies that are responsible for bringing cannabis to the U.S. pharmacopeia throughout the 1800s. However, the revival and adaptation of solvent-based extraction practices as we know it today is somewhat new, taking shape only over the last several decades. Needless to say, the story of how hash oil came to popularity is a bit hazy and shrouded in anecdotes, but there are a few major players in the movement that are worth mentioning.

Infused concoctions involving extracted cannabinoids are nothing new and have been used for thousands of years. Over time, many of these recipes have evolved into the potent oral medicinals that once lined the shelves of U.S. pharmacies into the 1800s, before cannabis prohibition. Although these practices laid the foundation for solvent-based cannabis extraction, manufacturing a product intended for oral consumption through vaporization first appeared in the 1940s.

World War II and the MK Ultra Program

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Confirmed and declassified World War II intelligence documents point to an agency, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), that incorporated a THC acetate “serum” into its controversial biochemical interrogation program. The man responsible for this program, George White, used hash oil-laced tobacco cigarettes, along with LSD preparations, to interrogate various prisoners and unsuspecting persons. These controversial techniques would later be used by White throughout the ’50s and into the ’60s under the highly publicized CIA program “MK Ultra” (and yes, there’s a strain named after it).

Hash Oil in the ’70s

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In part 8 of D. Gold’s 1973 (2nd ed. 1989) book Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking, a brief overview is given on the preparation of a translucent cannabis “honey” oil. The solvents used pure alcohol and activated charcoal. After an evaporation procedure, the remaining byproduct described is a translucent amber oil that takes on the appearance of a dark honey.

Author Michael Starks elaborates on this methodology considerably in his 1977 (2nd ed. 1990) book, Marijuana Chemistry: Genetics Processing and Potency, with an in-depth overview of hash oil preparation. His analyses comprise of information pertaining to various solvents used, which include chloroform, ethanol, petroleum ether, and isopropanol, among others. Various extraction apparatuses and purification procedures are also described in detail, making this one of the earliest and most detailed accounts of the origin of modern hash oil.

Original Article by Leafly

Victor Madril