Karhlyle Fletcher   |   July 01, 2020

Creating THCa Crystalline

Royalty in cannabis extracts, creating THCa diamonds takes a special touch.
Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

Pure isolates and their terpene-rich byproduct live resin have been changing the cannabis concentrate game. Through mastering the creation of THCa diamonds, producers have introduced a precise and clean consumption method. 

How Can THCa Crystalline Be Used?

THCa crystals can power both the most radical dabs and the most approachable topicals. Additional usages include use in edibles, and so these crystals are very flexible. The advantage of using them lies in their near 100 percent THC content. 

For the consumer, this advantage is apparent. While with other products it's difficult to judge the bioavailable cannabinoids, THCa crystals or "diamonds" are nearly pure. Having this purity allows for accurate dosages, and thus a repeatable experience. 

Perhaps more groundbreaking with the rise of THCa diamonds is their pharmacological appeal. With a product that boasts almost complete purity of a single cannabinoid, it meets pharmacological standards, particularly useful for future research. Much of the available research on cannabis depends on testimony remotely supplied by volunteers; however, pure cannabinoids could allow for the study of individual cannabinoids and their potential therapeutic value. 

Don't think these diamonds come alone, though. Through the process of creating diamonds, "live resin" is also created. Live resin is the terpene-rich sauce left behind after THCa diamonds crystalize. During the process of preparing the crystals for purging, the live resin is poured off of it. After purging, the live resin can either be added to THCa diamonds or used as an independent product. 

Recombining the diamonds and live resin creates a unique concentrate. Not only is there pure THCa present in the crystals, but the live resin is potent. With up to 50 percent cannabinoid content, the live resin can get users high on its own. Additionally, its rich terpene content allows for producers to create concentrates with only cannabis-derived terpenes. 

Photo Courtesy of Apothecary Extracts

How To Extract THCa Crystals

The process of creating diamonds and live resin is complicated in that it's chemistry, but it makes sense. 

First, you start with an extract, then mix it with acetic acid and hexane. Doing so will separate dissolved plant matter from the acidic cannabinoids. After a while, when the mixture settles, it is filtered, and the acetic acid and hexane are evaporated off. The resulting concentrate is mostly THCa. 

After this step, chromatography methods purify the concentrate further. Once the chromatography is finished, chemical washes, filtered, and roto-vapes. In the end, the concentrate is treated with methanol, and then pentane. Finally, after one last roto-vape, the result is diamonds with greater than 99.97 percent THC content. 

However, this doesn't cover how to create live resin. We've reached the point of purity diamonds, but how do we end up with both? 

How to Create THCa Diamonds and Live Resin

Artful techniques take a while, and so you're out of luck if you want to make live resin happen quickly. The best method is to create butane hash oil (BHO), and then purge it at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Doing so will evaporate most of the butane. Once that's done, seal the concentrate in a container and leave it for two to three weeks. 

During this time, the THCa naturally crystallizes at the bottom of the container. The remaining mixture is live resin. After the crystals form, separate them from the live resin. It should be a manageable task, as the live resin will pour off. If the two won't separate, they can still be purged together. However, ideally, live resin and crystals are purged at different times. 

After purging and recrystallization, both the crystals and the live resin are ready! Either recombine them for a flavorful concentrate or use them separately for different products.

The Michigan Conundrum with THCa Crystals

Michigan is the Midwest's misguided promised land of cannabis. Although caregivers control ample plants to supply medical cannabis centers, laws prevent their crops from ever entering the market. In such a tumultuous market, it's obvious to see why creating concentrates out of unsaleable product was attractive for many growers. 

In August of 2018, the state of Michigan outright banned the production THCa crystals. This ban was put in place due to safety precautions, as the administration knew no safe ways to produce the crystals. In October of 2019, Michigan's Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) issued an update.

In effect, the ban is listed, but producers must be cautious to earn all of the right approval before operating. Future states will hopefully learn from this story and see that there are responsible ways to produce THCa crystals. There's no reason not to allow for these crystals when they're almost pure THC and can be created even from shake. Create BHO, purge, wait, and harvest. The future will see even more of an acceptance of clean cannabis products. 


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