The wave of marijuana legalization and, just as importantly, normalization that is sweeping the nation has provided an opportunity for those curious about cannabis to take a peek into a culture that for decades was too taboo to even talk about for most folks.
For these low-level psychonauts, one look at the high tech gear, high class glass, and high grade hash fueling the dabbing scene could easily lead them to believe that this method of consumption has been around for quite a while.
The fact is, the act of vaporizing cannabis extracts may have been experimented with for quite some time, but the entire niche has really become specialized and honed over the past ten years.
Just as the process of taking a dab has evolved from torching a borosilicate or titanium nail until it was glowing red and naively incinerating our dabs, to using a perfectly calibrated e-nail to dial in the exact desired temperature to preserve flavor and boost effects with every rip, so too has the purity and quality of the hash evolved over the years as new extraction techniques have been discovered and refined.
This article will discuss the history of one of the latest and greatest methods for extracting and concentrating the precious cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis flower – rosin tech.
LET’S TAKE IT BACK
Back in the mid-2000’s, the amount of reliable and accurate information to be found about weed on the internet paled in comparison to the wealth of knowledge we have at our fingertips today. One place that always provided a safe harbor for intellectual discussion, however, was the ICMag forum.
It was there, in the year 2006, that a user by the name “Comphashion” began to describe a process he was using to extract the highly desired compounds found in the head of every trichome without also pulling the waxy cuticle surrounding those compounds into the final product.
Cannabis lovers have been making “bubble hash” or “ice water hash” for decades, using icy cold water and gentle agitation to freeze the trichomes on the buds and break them off to be collected. Those “mechanically” separated heads, once dried and properly processed, could resemble beach sand or be pressed into bricks or balls or whatever shape you could come up with. But each head was still composed of that waxy cuticle and that less than desirable byproduct was weighing down the mainstream viability of this extraction method.
Regarding “rosin”, he was talking tech that nobody else had mastered, and although he didn’t make the word up out of thin air, he is commonly credited with being the first to coin it for cannabis concentrates. His “tech” may seem a bit crude by today’s standards – using heated stainless steel spoons and bowls to separate the desired compounds from the unwanted plant material – but it is a testament to how far the method has progressed in such a relatively short amount of time.
Through this same time period, and dating back even further, massive hash production facilities in Morocco and other major exporters would experience the seepage of oils from the bricks of hash they were pressing, but nobody ever thought to smoke any of it, or if they did they never wrote about it.
Roughly a decade after Comphashion’s generous knowledge dump at ICMag, the cannabis culture had changed dramatically as California’s robust medical marijuana market found its footing and inspired similar reform in states from coast to coast.
In 2014, both Colorado and Washington voted to legalize the recreational adult use of cannabis, showing the rest of the country that cannabis was here to stay and inspiring a boom in branding and product refinement in all existing MMJ markets.
When it came to hash, most heads were hooked on BHO – Butane Hash Oil – or other similar forms of concentrated cannabis that would use a polarizing solvent like butane to essentially melt all the trichomes into a liquid form. The process of purging out the residual butane/solvent from the final product proved to be incredibly dangerous for many wooks and as a result way too many people were vaporizing unsafe levels of butane compounds.
Those opposed to such forms of hash were still high on bubble hash, and the very best producers of ice water hash had honed their techniques to create “full melt” hash that could be dabbed (sort of) on a hot nail or a heated mesh screen. I can remember being at such a sesh and watching as a friend poured a pile of 6* hash onto a sheet of parchment paper. He then folded the paper in half and pressed down on the pile with the blunt end of a glass rod that he had heated up. The result was a flat patty of incredible hash that was easy to dose out and dab up. But aside from the fancy glass rod, his method was really no different from what Comphashion was preaching ten years earlier – but that was about to change.
In 2015, Phil “Soil Grown Sal” Salazar took rosin tech to the next level. He didn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, but he realized that by applying more pressure and regulated heat to the pressing process, he could maximize the amount of cannabinoid and terpene-rich oil that would spew from the hash he started with. This was an ideal way to convert low-grade undabbable hash into something that would melt and vaporize more consistently. Out of hash one day, this Marijuana MacGyver decided to go straight to the source and he squished an actual nugget of weed and sure enough it produced a high grade hash byproduct – he called it Flower Rosin.
Salazar leveled us all up again with the introduction of the micron mesh filter pouches that helped to contain the plant material during the squish, allowing oil to escape by keeping unwanted bits of leaf and wax within. He certainly did not “invent” rosin, but with his openness and honesty about his methods along with his commercial rosin presses, Sasquash Rosin Press, Salazar spread the ability to safely produce dabs worldwide and has re-sparked the “solventless” hash movement. Any of you ladies who finally got your hair straighteners back after a year of “experiments”, you can thank Soil Grown Sal for that!
Why rosin? For most rosin lovers, the answer is simple – they finally decided to say no to BHO. In fact, the acronym most commonly used for rosin is SHO, or Solventless Hash Oil. This debate about the definition of “solventless” is almost a cornerstone of cannabis culture at this point.
Back in the day, bubble hash or ice water hash makers sought to separate themselves from the rising popularity of butane extractions by tossing around the term “solvent free” or something similar. Critics were quick to mention that, technically, water is a solvent sooooo…. There have been many claims about the potential harms of dabbing butane hash oil, but honestly so far none of them have really come to pass. However, there are plenty of cannabis consumers who know from their own anecdotal experiences that BHO is not for them.
Flower Rosin is created by squishing the nugs themselves, not pre-separated hash, so with the proliferation of this technique, the debate has reared its silly head again in an unnecessary battle between BHO vs. SHO
Again though, the highly educated among us will point out that the hydrocarbon terpenes themselves that are being squished out of each trichome head can act as an all-natural solvent.
I just like to get baked, man.
THE FUTURE OF ROSIN
Throughout the timeline presented in this article, there have been a handful of artisan hash makers that have continually pushed the water hash movement forward. Sometimes they discovered a new technique for extracting or processing trichome heads, or ways to store hash to preserve its aroma, flavor, and effects, and just as often they have embraced the ideas of others like Comphashion and Soil Grown Sal, and expanded on them.
One of those pioneers is Nick Tanem, aka Nikka T, founder of Essential Extracts – the first legal, tax-paying cannabis extraction company since prohibition began. Tanem was among the first hash makers to recognize the benefits to “washing” fresh frozen “whole” plants. By hand selecting the farms and phenos that they worked with, Essential Extracts proved that Solventless hash could absolutely be a viable commercially produced product worthy of any top shelf.
While rosin can be squished out of virtually any form of cannabis (we see you pressing those Backwoods, wooks!) the quality of your final product is invariably tied to the quality of what you start with. Flower rosin, though convenient, will not be as dank as rosin pressed from fresh frozen ice wax. So, since it can be made at home by a weekend warrior with a Revlon hair straightener and a strong grip or perfected by the most talented and experienced hash makers on the planet, we envision rosin retaining its high rank as a cannabis concentrate for many years to come.