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Natural Awakenings Boston

Full-Spectrum Versus Distillate Cannabis Products

Jul 30, 2020 04:22PM ● By Matthew Herrold

A national observance of the cannabis market reveals that as state cannabis industries mature, consumer preferences for full-spectrum products often rise while distillate products remain popular.

Charlie Yon, director of operations at Native Sun Wellness and formerly the director of operations at CommCan Inc, shares that some Massachusetts dispensaries have begun to offer full-spectrum edibles. Thus far, the majority of edibles available in Massachusetts dispensaries have been infused with cannabis distillate or isolate. “That’s what the patients want—full spectrum cannabinoids in a non-smokable option,” Yon says. He speculates that consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of full spectrums of cannabinoids and terpenes and suggests that some people may have distillate fatigue.

Eminent Consulting Firm’s co-founder and cannabis educator, Emma Chasen, whose company provides scientific-based educational initiatives to both consumers and companies, explains why people should care about the difference between full spectrum and distillate products. She says, “If you care about the kind of experience you will have with a cannabis product, you should care about the extraction methodology used to produce that product.”

Full spectrum and distillate products are created with different extraction methodology. Chasen explains, “Full spectrum and distillate products have quite a different range and diversity of compounds present in the product itself. With the understanding that greater compound diversity equates to greater therapeutic value, the extraction methodology used to make distillate, full spectrum, or isolate will have a dramatic impact on the overall experience that you will have when consuming cannabis.”

The Differences

According to Chasen, full spectrum retains the unique fingerprint of the plant material used to produce that product. This means that a large range of cannabinoids and terpenes are present in the product. Distillate requires a thermal distillation process that fractions compounds from each other and results in thermal degradation of terpenes, often leaving a high concentration of one cannabinoid—typically tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—with lower concentrations of other minor cannabinoids present.

Distillate products with terpenes mix the terpenes into an extraction that’s been distilled separately where full spectrum extractions can keep terpenes and cannabinoids together throughout the process. For distillate products, terpenes must be extracted from cannabis, set aside and mixed back in. The terpenes mixed into distillate products are not necessarily from the same cannabis cultivar, or as many would say the same cannabis strain.

Two potential advantages of distillate products that Chasen points out are that distillate products have very high cannabinoid concentrations, and leave little cannabis taste when making cannabis edibles. “So in cases where very high cannabinoid concentrations are preferable, or when an option without cannabis taste or odor is ideal, a distillate product may be a good choice,” she suggests.

Full-spectrum products, Chasen says, “have greater therapeutic value, as the cannabinoids and terpenes work together synergistically to encourage the highest potential for therapeutic efficacy.” The strongly supported entourage effect theory, a proposed mechanism by which cannabis compounds other than (THC) act synergistically with it to modulate the overall psychoactive effects of the plant, agrees with her. For example, CBD can reduce the high from THC. That’s because CBD is known to block the production of a more potent form of THC in the liver as it is metabolized after consumption. This can allow some patients and consumers to consume higher amounts of THC with a reduced high and uncomfortable feelings.

There are also more potentially helpful synergies between terpenes and cannabinoids. Full spectrum offers a complex mixture of up to hundreds of these compounds. “That’s one reason why terpenes may be added to distillate,” Chasen says. “There’s still a lot left to learn.”

Weighing Options

When determining which is better, Chasen offers this advice. “First check in with yourself about what kind of experience you would like to have with cannabis. How do you want to feel from consuming cannabis? What is important to you in regards to the experience? Is it more about the feeling, the taste, the consumption method, or all of the above?”

This information will allow individuals to have a better idea of their cannabis goals, which can then be shared with their budtender or patient care consultant at a local dispensary. This will allow for more informed product recommendations based on the desired experience. In Massachusetts, these cannabis employees are known as dispensary agents. It is also a good idea to ask different dispensary agents the same question. In this way, patients and consumers can learn a lot of helpful information.

Massachusetts Cannabis Dispensaries


For information on how to become a Massachusetts medical marijuana patient, read AccessingCannabis Medicine During Covid-19 from Natural Awakenings Boston’s July edition.

For more information on Eminent Consulting Firm, visit EminentConsultingFirm.com. Companies that work with Eminent learn how to build their business model with a craft cannabis ethos and how to install education into the core of their brands.

Matthew Herrold is a certified wellness program coordinator and currently helps to develop the Massachusetts marijuana industry through branding and education. Connect at [email protected]