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.
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.
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.)
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.
“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.
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 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.
“Every time we get some in stores, it sells out. So for us, the difficulty is putting it out fast enough,” Marsh said.
These crystalline rocks are incredibly exciting