By Marguerite Arnold

Cannabis has already travelled far from the bud. However, a new production technique is now hitting the commoditised world of weed. It is called distillation. It is also very likely to be the future of commercial marijuana.

Distillate - in other words, cannabinoids that have been distilled from concentrate or plant matter - has arrived. Distillation is a technique for creating cannabis extracts that are pure on a molecular level. It is possible to isolate specific cannabinoids. It is also possible to create odourless and tasteless THC (or CBD) that is 99% pure concentrate.

This is the next stage of cannabis science. And it is likely to show up near you, no matter if you are a recreational or medical user. This technology is very likely to catalyse some major changes worldwide. It has already begun to show up at trade shows everywhere there is a legal cannabis market. And at every conference, these booths have constant traffic.

Cannabis Distillate: What Is It And Why Is It Important?

The Next Step Of Cannabinoid Processing

Distillates use a process very different from other concentrates you may have heard of, such as wax, shatter, or hash.

Up until now, there were two main methods of creating concentrates. The first uses a solvent such as butane to extract the key components from plant matter. This category also encompasses alcohol-based methods. Using solvents is a common production technique for making shatter and wax. The other method, commonly used in making bubble hash, flower rosin, and full-melt hash, does not use solvents. Instead, these techniques use pressure or rinsing methods to extract cannabinoids and terpenes.

That said, both approaches have drawbacks. And both processes can leave behind residue from the solvents, or from the plant matter itself.

Distillation, on the other hand, employs a process that actually separates and refines molecules. It is frequently nicknamed “The Clear” or “The Pure” for this reason.

Distillation uses heat to vaporize cannabinoids. This vapour is then collected in the distillation cooling system. This strips everything from the cannabinoids, including plant matter and chlorophyll.

This in turn creates a very clean, very concentrated liquid that is also completely solvent-free.

The distillate can then be infused into everything from consumer products to medicine. And the benefit, obviously, is that there is nothing in it except the desired cannabinoids. Research and experimentation on how to capture terpenes is ongoing.

Cannabis Distillate: What Is It And Why Is It Important?

How To Distill Cannabis 

This is something you can do at home, but you need the right equipment. There are kits beginning to be sold online, not to mention many online tutorials on DIY distillation.

Depending on where you live, there are even classes now being taught by local experts.

Distillation is a time-consuming, fairly expensive hobby. But the results are absolutely worth it. It is also a far safer method of making concentrates than others.

On the commercial level, there are kitchens who open their facilities to interested groups for classes. The big machinery required, however, are far too expensive for most home enthusiasts to access. These are professional, commercial pieces of lab equipment. Some of the top distillate manufacturers, in fact, come directly from the pharmaceutical world.

Drawbacks And Criticism

The biggest critique of the distillation method so far is that it usually destroys all terpenes. The culprit is heat. Terpenes are quite delicate and can only be extracted at lower temperatures. That said, extractors can sidestep this issue by separately extracting terpenes, then infusing them with cannabinoids later.

This practice has already evoked a storm of criticism from those who claim this is the dawn of “engineered” cannabis. That said, this practice will likely continue because of the level of customisation it offers manufacturers. Flavour, in other words, can be added from any flower downstream of the extraction process. Distillate is not only odour, but taste free.

Distilling also cannot remove all pesticides. That is one of the reasons this process requires raw product that is safe. Finally, distillate is far more expensive. That said, there is a reason; it is a highly concentrated cannabinoid extract. You can use less of it than traditional methods to achieve similar effects.

Cannabis Distillate: What Is It And Why Is It Important?

The Dawn Of Combined Cannabinoids 

This production process is becoming commercialised at a time when demand is outstripping supply. If there was such a thing as pure cannabinoid essence, distillate is it. To see a glimpse of the future of cannabis distillates, here is a short list of what’s likely to come.


The impact on this segment of an already huge market cannot be underestimated. This opens up the door for cannabis home-cooks. Distillate has no flavour or odour, so gone is the ever-present weed taste of old-school edibles. On the commercial side of the equation, this is only going to make a hot market even hotter. The Canadian recreational market comes online next July - and this means everything from soda to gum and a range of savoury products. Because of the strong connections to the European markets by Canadian cannabis exporters, look out for distillate edibles in Europe as soon as next summer.


The path is now open, fully, for pharma recombination of cannabinoids in every possible way. That is good news indeed for the growing medical community in Europe. Expect major innovations to be commoditised on the medical side of the equation. Distillation essentially means the ability to create your own customised cannameds in a bottle. The Israelis are already ahead of just about everyone else on this. However, you can expect the impact of distillation to effect a medical market near you. If it has not already.

Topicals and Cosmetics

Topicals. This is a relatively new market just about everywhere, but expect it to explode, too. Particularly in the medical and sports medicine verticals. Then there’s beauty products. Combine some tropical nut oil (like coconut) and canna-distillate. You now have the basis for most canna beauty products. And they are already coming. Distillate makes a raw ingredient that can be added easily to just about any cosmetic on the market.

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