That vaporizing pen that delivers a high without that tell-tale smell is a very recent invention – there existed other ways of consuming cannabis for medical and social purposes in olden times. Ask your parents. The following is a brief look at the long history we have shared with this all-giving plant.
In olden times…
Cannabis is one of the species we have been co-evolving with for a long time, an LTR estimated to be close to 12,000 years. In this time, we have changed the plant as the plant has changed us. Artifacts that date from 12,000 years ago years ago, show that we used the cannabis plant for more than it’s chemical properties. Humans have used it for clothing, building, eating and the ceremonies that bound them. As humanity began to seek out the world, so did cannabis.
By most accounts, cannabis seems to originate from central Asia. First stop was the Middle east, where hashish (a paste made of cannabis resin) was born and became a popular edible intoxicant. Hash is ConcentratePrime – the original cannabis concentrate and still in use today. Hashish is the oldest form of concentrates and its modern form is still most potent (in smell as well as effect) because it consists of resin only. The Journal of Experimental Botany published an article that featured 2,700-year-old psychoactive resin from the cannabis plant. It was found in a grave in central Asia, Turpan China. This is the oldest evidence of cannabis being used for its psychoactive properties.
From the Middle East, on to India, where it became the principle ingredient a holy drink. Tagging along with explorers and traders, it made its way to Africa, where its medicinal properties were focused on healing and as a means of boosting courage before battle. In one of the bleakest times in human history, trans-atlantic slave-traders carried it to the Americas.
During America’s early history (17th century), hemp was the only type of cannabis plant grown and was a cornerstone of American agriculture. The plant could meet virtually all requirements of pioneer existence – food, clothing, building materials.
In warmer climates such as Mexico however, psychoactive cannabis cultivation thrived and following the Mexican revolution at the beginning of the 20th century, refugees brought it with them to the United States. During the 70’s in America, what became known as marijuana was brought in mainly from Mexico. To stem off the flow of cannabis across the border, the US paid Mexico to spray their marijuana fields with herbicides in 1975 – American citizens then began to grow their own and an industry was born. But the sativa plant only grew in the warmer parts of the US, like California. That changed in the late 70’s when Americans brought in a shorter, cold-resistant cannabis indica from the Hindu Kush mountains. These ardent agronomists began cross-breeding to create what we today call today hybrids. Hybrids then began to be cultivated in all US states.
In the 90’s, when marijuana was tested for potency, it was found to yield between 3% and 4.5% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the plant’s psychoactive compound). However, by 2008, the overall average THC content would hit 8.8%, and in 2008, the highest result from testing cannabis was 37% THC. No wonder there are so many green-outs these days. #newb
The appetite for greater potency product lead to what we know today as concentrates such as: distillate, sugar wax, shatter, dabs, crumble, etc.
Production of resin concentrates has not changed significantly since the 19th century, but as the appetite for more potent marijuana plant has grown, so did the opportunities for other types of products to flourish.
Solvent-based extraction (in the true sense, not in the paint-thinner sense) has been in use for hundreds of years. However, only after the 40’s did the the manufacturing of a product intended for oral vapour consumption begin.
In his book, Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking in the 70’s, the author known only as D.Gold offers a short description on how cannabis “honey” oil is prepared. The main solvents used were pure alcohol and activated charcoal. In the late 70’s Michael Starks elaborates on this methodology in his book Marijuana Chemistry: Genetics Processing and Potency offering a deeper look into effects of different solvents such as chloroform, ethanol, petroleum ether, and isopropanol, among others as well as different extraction methods and purification procedures. This is one of the earliest and most detailed accounts of the origin of modern hash oil.
Closed-loop systems have facilitated the leap to modern concentrates. Closed-loop systems remove the risks once associated with butane extraction (BHO). Adding even more value, these systems allow for more complete removal of sought-after phyto-components as well as removal of toxic residues and impurities in the final product. The “open-source” nature of the extraction community continues to spur improvements and advancements in purity, efficiency, variety and potency from the extraction process.