The World’s Strongest Pot Product Is for Sale in Seattle, and It Looks Almost Like Crystal Meth
A couple of weeks ago, I did something that looked remarkably similar to smoking meth. I used a blowtorch to heat up a glass pipe, dropped a white crystal-like rock into it, and inhaled a cloud of vapor that sent me into a deeply stoned state. Every muscle in my body relaxed like I was floating on a cloud, and I could feel each mellow beat of my heart. My mind moved from one idea to another in a disorienting spin.
The crystals I smoked don’t resemble the leafy green buds of cannabis, but they’re actually a highly concentrated form of weed. What I was dabbing is called THCa crystalline, and it’s the crème de la crème of the cannabis concentrate world, where dabbable extracts routinely test over 90 percent THC, but only crystalline reaches the 100 percent mark.
Most people think of THC as the sole intoxicating force behind weed, but the cannabis plant actually produces more than 100 active chemicals called cannabinoids. THC is just one of them. THCa is another, which, as it is heated, converts to THC. Each one of these cannabinoids interacts differently with our brains and each has its own physiological response.
The crystalline I tried was made by Oleum Extracts, one of the only processors in Washington that produces it. Justin Marsh, co-owner of Oleum Extracts, said that even at $120 a gram, it still sells out. (You can find Oleum products in stores across Seattle, including Dockside Cannabis, Have a Heart, Vela, Uncle Ike’s, and more.)
“Every time we get some in stores, it sells out. So for us, the difficulty is putting it out fast enough,” Marsh said.
THCa is one compound that Oleum has managed to isolate, but we still don’t have a good scientific understanding of how all of the cannabinoids work. For almost 50 years, the federal government has made it incredibly hard to study pot and its chemical makeup. But what scientific research has been done, combined with decades of stoner experimentation, yields a fascinating wealth of possible benefits from these individual cannabinoids.
Take THCV, a slightly different chemical than its more well-known cousin. While THC is famous for giving people the munchies (and Maureen Dowd a panic attack), THCV actually reduces appetite, delivers a burst of energy, and can stop a panic attack immediately.
Researchers are constantly finding differences between these chemicals. A University of Mississippi study found that some cannabinoids produce an antidepressant effect on mice, while others had no perceived antidepressant effects at all. And we haven’t even talked about terpenes, the aromatic compounds found in pot that are widely considered to modify the physiological effects of god’s greatest herb.
That’s all to say, pot is complicated. Rigorous clinical research probably doesn’t include me sitting at home doing dabs of THCa rocks on a Saturday night, but products like THCa crystalline and processors like Oleum are still doing valuable work in unraveling the inner workings of cannabis. Guild Extracts, a California processor that was one of the first to release THCa crystalline, even won a federal patent for its process of isolating the crystals. Mike Clemmons, owner of Guild Extracts, said products like THCa crystalline can control the type of high that pot delivers.
“We’d like to create a layer of predictability from our product to our consumer, to help them integrate our products into their lifestyle,” Clemmons said.
This is one of the holy grails of the legal weed industry: If they can develop a way to control pot’s effects, the market for both medical and recreational cannabis will exponentially increase. In theory, pot products could replace a whole slew of side-effect-heavy drugs, from anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or ibuprofen to anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Klonopin.
The high from that methy looking THCa crystalline was powerful, but also not that interesting. I vastly prefer Oleum’s other concentrates, which are rich in a broad profile of cannabinoids and tasty terpenes, and pack a heady punch without being quite 100 percent THC. But I still think these crystalline rocks are incredibly exciting.
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Both Guild Extracts and Oleum Extracts have released other single-cannabinoid or single-terpene concentrates, giving customers the ability to handpick their specific intoxicant. Who knows? Maybe in the future, instead of asking your friends if they want to smoke some pot, you’ll ask if they want to try some THC-8 or some CBCVA. Or maybe it’ll be CBGA with some myrcene and limonene mixed in.
Whatever it is, the future sounds bright.
These crystalline rocks are incredibly exciting
Molecular Cannabis Study Reveals How CBD Offsets the Psychiatric Side-Effects of THC
By University of Western Ontario October 4, 2019
Researchers at Western University have shown for the first time the molecular mechanisms at work that cause cannabidiol , or CBD, to block the psychiatric side-effects caused by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis.
It has been previously shown that strains of cannabis with high levels of THC and low levels of CBD can cause increased psychiatric effects, including paranoia, anxiety, and addictive-behaviors, but why that was occurring was not fully understood.
Steven Laviolette, PhD, and his research team used rats to investigate the role of a molecule in the brain’s hippocampus called extracellular-signal regulated kinase (ERK) which triggers the neuropsychiatric effects of THC.
Steven Laviolette investigates the role of ERK in the brain’s hippocampus which triggers the neuropsychiatric effects of THC. Credit: Western University
“For years we have known that strains of cannabis high in THC and low in CBD were more likely to cause psychiatric side-effects,” said Laviolette, a professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “Our findings identify for the first time the molecular mechanisms by which CBD may actually block these THC-related side-effects.”
The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience demonstrates that rats that were given THC had higher levels of activated ERK, showed more anxiety behaviors and were more sensitive to fear-based learning. Rats that were given both CBD and THC acted like the control rats: they had normal levels of activated ERK, less anxiety behaviors, and were less sensitive to fear-based learning.
Based on these results, the research team proposes that CBD blocks the ability of THC to overstimulate the ERK pathway in the hippocampus and thus prevent its negative side-effects.
PhD Candidate and Vanier Scholar Roger Hudson showed that by co-administering CBD with THC, they were able to reverse the anxiety-like and addictive-like behaviors caused by the THC. Credit: Western University
“Our findings have important implications for prescribing cannabis and long-term cannabis use. For example, for individuals more prone to cannabis-related side-effects, it is critical to limit use to strains with high CBD and low THC content,” said Laviolette. “More importantly, this discovery opens up a new molecular frontier for developing more effective and safer THC formulations.”
PhD Candidate and Vanier Scholar Roger Hudson, lead author on the study, says another interesting finding was that CBD alone had no effect on the ERK pathway. “CBD by itself had no effect,” he said. “However, by co-administrating CBD and THC, we completely reversed the direction of the change on a molecular level. CBD was also able to reverse the anxiety-like behavior and addictive-like behavior caused by the THC.”
Laviolette says they will be following up these studies by continuing to identify the specific features of this molecular mechanism. The research team will examine ways to formulate THC with fewer side-effects and to improve the efficacy of CBD-derived therapies.
Reference: “Cannabidiol Counteracts the Psychotropic Side-Effects of Δ-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in the Ventral Hippocampus Through Bi-Directional Control of ERK1-2 Phosphorylation” by Roger Hudson, Justine Renard, Christopher Norris, Walter J. Rushlow and Steven R. Laviolette, 30 September 2019, Journal of Neuroscience.
Molecular Cannabis Study Reveals How CBD Offsets the Psychiatric Side-Effects of THC By University of Western Ontario October 4, 2019 Researchers at Western University have shown for the first