Demystifying Distillate: Busting Common Cannabis Distillate Myths

Busting common myths about cannabis distillates, is distillate hotdog water?

The cannabis industry has a wide range of products for consumers to enjoy. Some may be new formulations and products that are gaining traction, while others are tried and true through years of consumer enjoyment.

But like anything, people have preferences. And sometimes people with preferences like to shame other’s preference. This is the case when it comes to cannabis extracts, and cannabis distillate specifically. 

As one of the first forms of extracted cannabis to hit the market, distillate has been around a long time. Despite new extraction methods being introduced bringing new products to consumers, distillate remains the highest selling extract in legal cannabis markets.

Despite this, many have a negative view of distillate, from its quality to its cost. We are here to clear the air (pun intended) about cannabis distillate, and debunk a few of the most common myths you may have heard about many consumer’s favorite cannabis extract.

Myth #1 - All Cannabis Distillate is the Same

Cannabis distillate comes in all kinds of colors, smells, and flavors depending on how it was processed. It can be anywhere from 99.9% pure cannabinoids with no real flavor or smell and a naturally light color, all the way down to 60-70% cannabinoids with a burnt smell and taste and a nasty brown color, and everything in between.

Some people have learned tricks to try and make bad distillate appear better. This includes color remediation, but this process does not improve the overall quality of the distillate by any important measurement. 

These tricks can often be identified due to having an almost crystal-clear color which will oxidize very quickly in most instances. In general, distillate is simply purified material. The quality can change drastically depending on how it was processed and the skills of the producers who purified it.

Myth #2 - Distillate is Cheap

Cannabis distillate is cheaper than rosin and resin products, but this is simply due to the economics of scale and processing complexity that factor into each process.

For example, live resin is more expensive because the extraction is performed on flower material that has not undergone any curing, and was frozen following harvest. This is done with the goal of maintaining the full plant profile in an extracted form. This is a different goal from creating distillate, which is intended to create a highly pure extract featuring nothing but cannabinoids.

When you extract frozen material, water makes up much of the weight of the material being extracted, which means that up to 85% of the weight of the extracted material is water (as opposed to the 10-12% of weight that water makes up in cured material)! So, if you extracted 100 grams of fresh frozen flower, and 100 grams of cured flower, 75-85% of the fresh frozen flower weight will not yield anything useful to the extractor, while only 10-12% of the cured material will be discarded as water.

Because of this, in order to get the same mass of final extract from fresh frozen material as from cured, significantly more fresh frozen material must be extracted, meaning that the operational costs of extracting it are higher (and more difficult to scale due to live resin coming from hydrocarbons).

Resin is in a similar situation but worse. The yield of resin (live or cured) is dictated by the genetics of the plant that the resin is extracted from, but the overall yield is very small.

Even in plants with excellent genetics for live resin extraction, the best case scenario for yields typically won’t exceed 7-8%, so  significantly more material has to be run in order to attain the same amount of distillate extract as resin. The method of extraction also makes a huge impact.

As mentioned earlier, hydrocarbon extractions are more difficult to scale because their volatile nature means that a lot of money and care have to be put into it. Running a larger hydrocarbon extraction only increases the risk and the relative costs associated with mitigating that risk. Resin extraction is simple and cheap, but is still limited on scalability.

Some folks have had various levels of success in scaling the pressing of resin, but this may come at a sacrifice to quality or consistency. In general, distillate is more affordable because the process and extraction efficiency of attaining high quality distillate inherently lends itself to better economies of scale.

Myth #3 - Cannabis Distillate is "Hotdog Water"

Cannabis distillate is not hotdog water. In fact, it is more like the cleanest hotdog you’ve ever had.

“Hotdog water” implies that distillate is a generic extract; a shadow of the original plant with no special or defining qualities. However we believe that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Creating high quality distillate required excellent chemistry skills and a solid foundational knowledge around the cannabinoids that make the cannabis plant so enticing. While distillate does not (ideally) contain any of the other original plant materials or compounds aside from the cannabinoids, that is sort of the point.

Cannabis distillate allows us to derive consistency between flower batches, to create a purified material that has no other unknown compounds potentially influencing the behavior of distillate, or the reactions of those who use it. Many useful molecules originally found in plants have been purified, because the presence of other plant compounds present alongside the useful molecule can create too much inconsistency. At worst it can cause negative reactions from those using the plants for medical or other benefits.

Why does one strain of live resin feel great and the next time the reaction is totally different? There are any number of reasons, but the only way to guarantee consistency is to remove the variables inherent to plant cultivation over time, and cannabis distillate allows us to do that.

So while it may be considered “hotdog water” by some, it is better to think of it more like having a perfect hot dog with the exact flavor you love, every single time.

What Distillate Myths Have You Hear?

We’re interested in hearing what you’re hearing about distillate, whether from friends or at the dispensary. Shoot us a DM on Instagram with your myths and we’ll do our best to bust ’em!