Call me Ishmael, or Captain Ahab, maybe. I’ve been hunting a white whale of my own for a few years. It hasn’t driven me to the point of myopic desperation but it has, in its own way, become an obsession. Joints are my traditional preference for consumption of cannabis but at a certain point the various organs required for smoking, vaping or dabbing reach their collective limit and an alternative is required. Enter edibles.
I started regularly consuming edibles back in 2017. The Twisted Extracts 80 mg gummy lego cubes the Atlantic Compassion Club in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia carried were my jam. One of those to myself and I’d be set for at least half the day. However, as time and life’s woes piled up so did my tolerance. I became determined to make my own high-grade edibles but was disappointed at the potency attainable with questionable internet recipes. In order to keep medicating properly I’d need to eat a dozen cookies a day. I’d seen 500 mg cannacaps (gel capsules filled with activated THC) at some of the dispensaries before legalization. How did they obtain such high potency in such a small volume? Could I do it myself at home?
My search led me to the folks @SweetLeafStudios based on a recommendation by another concentrate expert who goes by @TheMandoWeed. The couple running SweetLeaf had no problems taking time out of their day to explain that yes you can make extremely potent butter using flower and then use that to fill capsules. But to reach the THC potency I was looking for would take a lot of bud and a lot of time. The trick? Decarboxylation of cannabis concentrates.
It’s time to decarb, Barb
You can’t get high off weed unless you decarb it. Every time you smoke a joint you are “decarbing” your weed. Every time you vape you are “decarbing” your weed. In fact, decarboxylation takes place over time naturally (a process called “curing”) but can be sped up by applying heat. The cannabis plant has at least 113 different naturally occurring cannabinoids. When we decarb we are turning one of these 113 molecules into THC—the stuff that gets you high. The naturally occurring precursor to THC is called THC-A which is shorthand for THC in “acid” form. When heat is applied it releases a carbon dioxide molecule, hence the term decarboxylation. Too much science? Too bad, you’re too smart to avoid details like this anymore, friend. Making edibles is usually the first time cannabis lovers will start to research decarboxylation. You can’t just throw weed into brownie mix and get high. It has to be decarbed first. Many folks use herb that’s already been vaped but a common alternative is simply heating a covered container in an oven. Decarbed bud can be saved and used in recipes like any other spice. You can eat it straight to ingest the THC but most folks like to combine decarbed weed with butter or another solvent like olive oil as this allows the THC to become more bioavailable to your endocannabinoid system. Another important ingredient often left out of any edible recipe is lecithin: an organic binding agent which reams of anecdotal evidence shows drastically improves the bioavailability of THC. Optimal results in an oven vary widely but a good rule of thumb is to decarb at 110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit) for 1 to 2 hours. One major note of caution: the longer your weed is subject to heat the more of this precious decarbed THC is actually burnt off. Leave the heat on too high or for too long and you’ll waste that green gold.
The problem with using flower to make a high potency cannacap is the volume of weed required. To reach the concentration required I would have to “wash” different batches of decarbed bud with some kind of oil over and over again—a tedious and messy process which would result in highly variable potency from batch to batch along with significant losses. The couple running @SweetLeafStudios explained I could take any old concentrate (shatter, wax, rosin, etc.) and decarb it just like I did my bud. In fact, it’s even possible to see the CO2 bubbling up out of the substance.
The only consideration I had then was the use of solvents to make concentrates in the first place. Depending on the extraction method used there are foreign chemicals which remain in the concentrated product afterward. I’d rather not eat this. Only rosin and hash, which are produced through heat and pressure alone, are made without solvents.
The other major benefit to using concentrates for cannacaps is being able to calculate dosage more accurately. To figure out how powerful my terp caps were I looked at the THC concetration on the original packaging: 760mg/g. Research suggests I’d only get about 70% of the THC because of losses during decarboxylation. So I took 70% of what’s reported on the packaging (760 mg x 0.7) and I ended up with 532 mg/g of THC. Because I used 2 grams the total amount of THC that could be infused was 1064 mg.
To finally arrive at the potency of the caps I needed to know the total volume of the mixture that would contain this 1064 mg of THC. It’s helpful to note one gram is equivalent to one millilitre. I started with 2 grams of slush and added 1 ml of oil. I also added 1 gram of soy lecithin to help bind the THC to the oil. The means my total solution volume was 4 ml. When I divide 1064mg by 4 ml I arrived at 266mg/ml. My capsule size is about 0.5 ml so my potency per pill was around 130 mg. Th cost for 2 grams of slush is about $150. I was able to get 8 pills out of this solution, making my cost per cap $18.75. You may at first think this is expensive but keep in mind none of the 130 mg of THC will burn off while I’m ingesting it—I’m getting the full effect of 130 mg of THC.
Since this initial experiment I’ve been dabbling with some other concentrates such as Cannafarms B.C. Bubble Hash and 7 Acres Sensi Star Live Rosin. I’ve also tried repeated washings of the solution with decarbed flower. By playing with the amounts of lecithin, heat and time of each stage I can now methodically work my way towards the lowest cost, highest potency, home made cannacap. If I really want to capture that white whale now I just have to sharpen my harpoon and set my sails.
Home Made High Potency Cannacaps Recipe
- Preheat oven to 230°F
- In a small, oven-safe container combine 2 grams of concentrate, 1 ml of MCT oil and 1 gram of soy lecithin
- Cover and cook for 60 minutes, stir every 20 minutes
- Remove and let cool for 10 minutes
- Use an eyedropper to fill empty capsules