BY ALLISON STEIN
“Diamonds”, “Crystals” and “Gems.” No, it’s not a new jewelry store, it’s the newest cannabis craze.
Pioneering in AZ in 2017, Tru-Med, Phoenix Cannabis Co., and MPX were among the first laboratories to manufacture the super concentrate. Today it seems everyone has jumped on a ‘diamonds brand wagon’. Bloom dispensary hit the ground running with its concentrates brand Echo extracts, picking up a trophy in July 2018 at the Errl 710 competition for their version, called “Gems.” In January 2019 it was High Grade with their “Diamonds” that took home the Errl Cup for “best sauce.”
So, what is this dabbing fad? In the simplest terms, it’s crystallized THC Acid or THCA. THCA is the non-psychoactive precursor of THC, and is markedly different from its compound descendant, THC. THCA extractions start like most concentrates, dissolving the cannabis flower in a solvent of choice. For this process, a concoction of butane and hexane or acetic acid works best. After that, filters strain out the plant material, leaving behind a jumbled mix of cannabinoids and terpenes.
To further isolate the THCA, a rotary evaporator uses pressure and heat to form THCA crystals. The leftover terpenes liquify into a sauce. The THCA crystals are divided from the rest of the sauce and are baked through the rotary evaporator again, ending with pure THCA. The separated sauce can either be added back to the diamonds, used in other products or be packaged and sold on its own.
According to The Phoenix New Times, “Cannabis doesn’t start making THC until its THCA is exposed to heat, like sunlight or the flame from a lighter.” The result of dabbing THCA is a near pure THC hit, unlike shatter and vapes which is 70 to 90% THC. That said, you will not feel the same effect eating THCA crystals, as you would from eating CO2 distillate or shatter. This is in part that the THCA has not gone through decarboxylation to activate the THC. THCA is a larger compound than THC and because the molecule does not fit the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, it remains non- psychoactive. Until you go to dab it or heat it in some way.
Either way, raw or cooked, there are plenty of benefits to THCA crystals. Here are some listed by Leafly:
Anti-inflammatory properties for treatment of arthritis and lupus.
Neuroprotective properties for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases
Anti-emetic properties for treatment of nausea and appetite loss
Anti-proliferative properties noted in studies of prostate cancer.
–Scottsdale native Allison Stein is a Tempe writer who volunteers with the PHX Cannabis Coalition.