Cannabis extracts, sometimes known as concentrates are exactly that: concentrated forms of cannabis. As with many legal medicines often it isn’t feasible to ingest enough of the active ingredients when in their natural form. Extracts also provide a much wider scope for methods of ingestion. Cannabis Oil can be put into capsules to be eaten or in suppositories. It is also possible to create a THC-rich form of oil especially for inhaled vaporisation which is proving to be one of the safest and most effective ways to ingest cannabis, as well as the fastest acting, and most effective pain relief available from the plant. All of this is essential to take into account for a medical cannabis patient.

Butane Hash Oil. One form of cannabis, usually inhaled, with a high THC content.

It could be argued that, due to prohibition, in the absence of a properly regulated and legal industry developing cannabis based medicines, patients and many businesses (such as those developing vaporisers) have worked out the kinks. Due to the progression of modern technology, cannabis consumers and entrepreneurs have developed ingestion methods that are safe and effective and that the medical industry may find it hard to match in terms of efficacy or efficiency when legislation eventually catches up.

Eating cannabis oil can take up to an hour to take effect. This means it’s impractical for those in need of immediate pain relief. “Canna-Caps” however, seem very effective as a course of treatment for the underlying condition and to reduce symptoms over time. There is also the benefit that, when eaten, the effects can last for many hours. For those using it to keep themselves asleep, when pain might resurface throughout the night, this is very useful. With caps it is also possible to provide a level of pain relief or sedation throughout the day. As with cannabis strains, different oils from different types of cannabis can have different effects. Some uplifting and energising and some are more sedating. For people who cannot inhale cannabis in any form (due to lung problems) or who cannot ingest via sub-lingual sprays (there are a multitude of medicinal reasons why this might not be possible). Oil caps are going to be the only possible course of medicine for them to get relief without having to bake their medicine into brownies or other foods (saving time, energy and money).

For those who don’t want to experience the “high” from cannabis, suppositories and topical ointments are the only option and again, it must be oil rather than herb that is used. We expect a great deal of medical cannabis use to be done by the over 50’s once legalised (as is the case in many states in the USA that have legal medical cannabis). Many of these people don’t want the heady highs that are often experienced with this kind of medication and this can be avoided. Leaving oil illegal will simply mean that this “high-free” option is more difficult to source for those that want or need it. Try going to work on high doses of cannabis, without a substantial tolerance, it can prove rather difficult. Suppositories mean one can go about their day, ingest a very high quantity of cannabinoids but not be seriously inebriated. For those who have chronic conditions but still have to work, putting a canna-cap in their rectum before starting a shift is a surreal but possibly life-saving reality.

One of the other main reasons concentrates are useful is that, for serious conditions and severe pain, cannabis can often not be strong enough in herbal form with people often combining it with opiates. This has meant a reduction in opiate overdoses in states where cannabis has been legalised (hyperlink to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4392651/) but with concentrates, a patient’s dependency on opiates can be reduced further still.

A patient might inhale more than a gram of cannabis in a single “joint” and still not come close to easing their pain. No herbal vaporisers cater for that size of dose. Few vaporiser can fit more than half a gram of cannabis in at one time (to my knowledge). Vapour-able cannabis oil however, can be vaporised in tiny amounts that contain large doses and can be done discretely in public. One can only fit a tiny amount of herb in a portable vape (about 0.3-0.5g at most) whereas an oil vape can hold enough cannabinoids to keep a patient pain free for hours, sometimes days, whilst out and on the go. It’s also subtle enough that it can even be used in cinemas & restaurants without detection (believe me). When at home a rig (a pipe or bong with a heated element used to vaporise oils) can be used to take a very high dose of THC, in just one lungful, that could only otherwise be ingested by smoking or vaporising for a solid half hour. It’s efficient and it’s effective and again saves time, as well as a patients lungs. Although little research has been done (again, due to prohibition), it is believed that vaporising oils in this way is considerably safer than smoking herbal cannabis.

 A vaporiser specifically made to inhale cannabis oil.

Last, but not least, cannabis concentrates are different to cannabis. In two important ways:
Firstly, there is some difference in effect. A Sativa dab (a single dose of vaporised inhaled cannabis oil made from the bud of a Sativa plant) has a very different effect to any other form of cannabis. The last thing a chronically ill person wants when getting up to get to work is something that’s going to make them feel more tired. What’s needed is a high dose of THC in a way that doesn’t make the individual feel lethargic or lazy, that’s going to keep them on their feet as they shower and dress and go about their day. The Sativa dab does this perfectly. Any form of smoked herb can make the consumer feel lethargic, vaporised herb doesn’t ease the pain enough and if they eat any form of cannabis, it will take an hour to take effect. Do you think, if we legalised only herbal cannabis, that a patient using concentrates effectively would revert back to using only herb? Rather than this particular oil that does exactly what they need, when they need it, and is available in the UK already despite the fact that it’s unregulated and the price is extortionate? Do you think someone with a chronic illness puts a price on being able to get up and get out to work..?

Secondly, Some cannabis extracts are produced using solvents and need expensive, professional CO2 extractors as well as vacuum ovens to remove all residual solvents to make these products safe. Here, far more so than with herbal cannabis, a regulated route for production and supply is needed. Patients ARE going to use concentrates, it’s a fact. Very few pain patients who haven’t made the move onto vaporised oils (dabs) once they’re aware of them haven’t merely due to lack of supply or due to cost. We have a duty to improve these peoples quality of medicines by legalising and regulating them all, not just some forms.

A legal cannabis extraction facility in Colorado, USA.

Those who have cancer are not going to hesitate to make the RSO or Full Extract oil that they believe will treat them. Regardless of the science behind cannabis as a treatment for cancer, providing them with safe access is another obligation. These are people trying to find peace in their final hours or that hope to prevent a painful death. I’m sure I don’t need to explain how desperation leads to bad decision making. These are the people who are being scammed most commonly; sold oil for ridiculous prices or sold oil that is simply not the product they had thought they were buying. This issue is at the emotional heart of the campaign to legalise medicinal cannabis and desperately needs addressing. Speak to Jeff Ditchfield if you need any more convincing.

At the end of the day, concentrates are cannabis. The two things are the same thing in different forms in the same sense as olive oil is made from olives or cider from apples. If we can provide a wide array of potencies and methods of ingestion with safe, regulated, affordable cannabis concentrates why would we not do so? Why would we limit patients ability to medicate using just one form that works in just one way when we already have multiple forms with many features that make them far more suitable medicines for specific patients, symptoms or scenarios. Why would we not strive to develop regulated outlets for these medicines that patients are already using.

Three forms of cannabis: herbal, Full extract in a “cannabis cap” and a half gram of BHO.

We must be very clear about what we are actually trying to do when we talk about legalisation or regulation of medical cannabis: We’re not creating a marketplace and we’renot introducing “new medicines” to the UK. These medicines already exist, there are people making high quality extracts of all kinds in the UK, there are many established brands making edible cannabis in various forms, all illegally. We’re not creating “medical cannabis in the UK”, it already exists, we’re just legalising it, regulating it, and (hopefully) improving on it. Why would we settle for anything less?