How Cannabis Distillates Changed the Meaning of “Getting High”

The ‘golden age’ of cannabis was also a simpler era when it came to choice. The primary option was marijuana flower of varying quality. All you could do was smoke it or create rough homemade edibles. These days, consumers are spoiled for choice with vape juice, world-class edibles, topicals, and much more.

We are also privileged to have access to some extraordinarily potent forms of cannabis. These include shatter, wax, and other forms of marijuana concentrate. Marijuana distillates are one of the latest ultra-powerful options on the market. The level of THC such products contain is extraordinary.

What Are Marijuana Distillates?

You have possibly heard of cannabis concentrates before. These include potent products such as BHO wax, dabbing butter, and crumble. Many of these products exceed 70% THC, while some contain over 90%. Marijuana distillates are on another level entirely and can have up to 99% THC.

Distillate is a cannabis extract where the end product is stripped of all materials and compounds barring a specific cannabinoid. CBD isolate is a popular example. However, unlike its CBD equivalent, THC distillate causes an intoxicating high.

How Is Cannabis Distillate Made?

The distillation process involves separating chemical components from a liquid mixture by controlling condensation and boiling. Humankind has used this process to refine alcohol for centuries. Therefore, it isn’t a new technique. However, the use of it to create incredibly potent cannabinoid products is.

Up until recently, there were two main methods for creating cannabis concentrates. The first is the use of solvents, such as butane. The other is the use of pressure or rinsing methods to extract plant compounds.

Unlike either method, distillation separates and refines molecules, and doesn’t leave behind solvent or plant residue. The process involves using heat to vaporize cannabinoids. Manufacturers then collect the vapor in a distillation cooling system. This removes everything from the cannabinoids, including chlorophyll and plant matter. The result is a clean and concentrated liquid free from solvents.

Next, a company can infuse the distillate into a wide variety of consumer products. It is a popular addition to topicals and edibles, for example.

Short Path Distillation

Let’s take a quick look at how companies create this potent product. The process of distilling the cannabis plant’s compounds that are extracted is called ‘fractional’ or ‘short path distillation.’ It can produce oils with over 99% THC.

As the name suggests, short path distillation involves the distillate traveling a short distance to separate the compounds. Companies tend to use alcohol and hyper-controlled temperatures. They feed the extract material into a gradually heated flask. Next, a vacuum pulls the newly created vapors into fractionating tubes first, then a condensing tube.

It is often necessary to repeat the process several times before refining the final product. This method is excellent for creating highly-concentrated cannabinoid distillates. The short path the compounds take means minimal loss during the extraction process.

Isolating Cannabis Compounds

There are several methods of isolating THC and other compounds into a pure, thick oil. In each case, it must undergo several refinement layers. Remember, cannabinoids and terpenes have different boiling points. Therefore, it is essential to use CO2 extraction techniques. They help remove the volatile compounds from the plant matter and keep lipids, fats, and other compounds.

The above requires a process called winterization, which involves the use of a solvent such as ethanol. Also, isolated cannabinoids must receive enough heat to decarboxylate them and unlock their potential. Finally, manufacturers must put the material through short path steam distillation several times to purify the THC to its isolated state.


Short path distillation uses heat, steam, and vacuum pressure to manipulate boiling points. This ensures compounds are exposed to lower temperatures when they pass through. Companies can choose to fraction the compounds individually or simultaneously for collection.

All of the above helps separate volatile compounds by their individual boiling point and molecular weight. This ensures that unwanted compounds remain behind. Some brands pass distillate through the above process several more times for an ultra-pure substance. What remains is a substance that looks a bit like refined honey in terms of color and thickness.

How Do You Use Marijuana Distillate?

Although it is a relatively new product, there is an array of tried and trusted methods to use it. These include:

  • Sublingual Consumption: You can place a THC distillate beneath the tongue; a drop or two is plenty. Instead of swallowing the oil, allow it to dissolve into the bloodstream. It should produce faster effects than via oral consumption.
  • Vaporization: You can also use a vape pen to consume THC distillate. Make sure you purchase one with a refillable tank. Realistically, it is more sensible and safer to add a few drops to an existing cartridge for an extra kick.
  • Dab Rig or Bong: Place a tiny amount of CBD distillate into a bong or bowl. Light it, and inhale the smoke.
  • Old-School: You can try the classic method of smoking distillate via a spliff, joint, or bong. Again, it is better to add a small amount to some cannabis flower. Trying to smoke pure distillate is asking for trouble.
  • Edibles: You can add THC distillate to cannabutter for cooking, or any food or drink you like. Some users even consume a hardened form like a pill.

Pros and Cons of Marijuana Distillates


  • Fully Decarboxylated: THC distillates are already decarbed and ready for use. The cannabinoid quickly travels to your bloodstream, depending on the mode of consumption, and produces the results you seek.
  • Purity: Marijuana distillates are almost entirely THC (there are also CBD options). Therefore, you know precisely what you are putting into your body.
  • Discretion: You can quickly and easily sample a distillate in public if you wish. Of course, this means oral consumption because taking out a dab rig is a bad idea! Then again, it is illegal to use marijuana in public places!
  • Potency: If your goal is to get stoned, a distillate is your best friend. A tiny amount of it will produce severe intoxication.


  • No Entourage Effect: If you use a single cannabinoid or compound, you won’t benefit from the entourage effect. This is the phenomenon where compounds work better together than in isolation.
  • Extreme Intoxication: Although it is almost impossible to overdose on THC, you could put yourself at risk in other ways. Excessive consumption of this cannabinoid could lead to hallucinations, anxiety, or paranoia. Make sure you only use the tiniest amount of distillate possible at first.
  • Destroys Terpenes: Distillation destroys terpenes, so the product you use could lack flavor. Many companies sidestep this problem by extracting terpenes separately and adding them later.
  • Cost: You must pay a lot of money for a high-quality THC distillate.

Final Thoughts on Marijuana Distillates

One of the most exciting aspects of cannabis distillates is their potential for medical marijuana users. Proponents of MMJ suggest it has an array of medicinal properties. If THC has beneficial properties, giving patients the ability to use it in a 99% pure form could yield positive results. However, the jury is very much out on this claim. It seems more likely that it is a combination of compounds in marijuana that provides possible benefits.

Those looking for a new form of intoxicating high also flock to marijuana distillates. The extreme potency means it doesn’t take much of the product to have a significant effect.

Also, distillates are extremely versatile, so there are many options available apart from smoking it. Please remember, it is incredibly potent, so approach it with extreme caution.

If you don’t want to experience intoxication, you could try CBD isolates instead. You get over 99% of the cannabinoid, but there is no high. The best quality products are pure, clean, and worth consideration.

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