Flowers are what most people think of when they think of cannabis. Also called “buds” this part of the plant contains the vast majority of its medicinal properties, cannabinoids and terpenes, found within the “trichomes” of the flower.
Trichromes are the tiny crystals that cover flowers and tend to be glossy, sticky, and carry intense aromas. Trichromes are the “fuzz” found on the leaves and flowers of many plants (including algae, lichens, and more), and the word literally means “hair” in Greek. In cannabis, these are the tiny pieces on which cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are produced, thus are responsible for the flower’s overall potency, efficacy, and unique qualities. Protecting them is essential in medical grade cannabis.
Preparation for Use
Cannabis patients can experience a highly diverse range of individualized effects from flowers depending on potency and flavor profiles; advanced growing processes and techniques allow a range of products for much more individualized experiences, depending on the condition being treated. During the growing cycle, advanced CO2 levels and other innovative growing techniques make buds round, plump and potent.
High-grade flower should be sticky (a quality that comes from frosting the trichomes) without being wet. Buds should break apart without becoming dusty when ground, and should leave white ash behind when burned (vs grey or dark, which indicates moisture and possible mold in your flowers).
Once harvested, fresh buds next go to a process known as curing, which includes drying buds slowly in a clean environment to prevent damage, mold, or pollutants from entering during this phase. Buds are then sealed in glass jars for several weeks to allow natural plan processes to occur. Without the curing process, buds will never achieve their peak potency and quality; they may be ok straight off the plant, but curing processes make buds worthy of smoking.
Buds sold at medical dispensaries have not only been grown to extremely strict standards, but have also been cured by experts. This is the largest reason so many are amazed by the high quality and smoothness of medical-grade cannabis.
Once the flower’s slow-cured process is completed, it goes through the process of trimming. Trimming is threefold:
Improves its presentation for sale. Connoisseurs take great pride in this process as it’s the last phase in cannabis production before patient use. If cannabis appears leafy, it’s usually because the leaves surrounding the buds are heavily covered in trichomes; seeds are extremely rare to find in the finest-quality cannabis.
Reduces harshness. By trimming off certain parts of the bud, the “harsh” feeling left on patients’ throat/lungs is greatly reduced, resulting in a much smoother smoking experience.
Regulates the THC Concentration. Buds all have sugar left on them at this phase, which inherently has a lower concentration of THC than the bud itself, which means you’re getting less THC per gram than with the bud itself. Thus the lower-quality parts of the bud are snipped away, leaving only extremely high-quality, more medically-potent sections.
The final product is thus an optimally-grown, cured, and trimmed bud.
Storing your flower
How you store your flower will determine how potent, safe, and enjoyable for use it will be when you use it over time. Here are some expert tips to get the best experience:
- Keep product out of sunlight in a cool, dry location. Glass is by far the best container, but anything with a neutral charge will work.
- Monitor RH levels using hygrometers and use products like humidity packs to control moisuture.
- Tightly seal jars and containers to reduce oxygen exposure; consider using a vacuum-sealer
- Do not seal different products together; protect original flavors and aromas by keeping them sealed separately
- Keep an eye our for new cannabis storage methods, as they are changing everyday while the industry continues to grow
- Leave in the refrigerator. The humidity and temperature changes can increase the chances of mold growing on your flower.
- Keep in the freezer. Freezing cannabis flower damages the trichomes causing them to break off the bud.
- Use plastic containers or baggies. The static charge of plastic can attract the trichomes and lessen your cannabis experience. If you do use a plastic bag, do not use longer than short-term storage and only use for small quantities.
- Use a tobacco humidor, as most use cedar wood that can upset the flavors of your cannabis.
Store near warm areas, such as windows, on top of electronics, or around appliances that give off heat. An alternative space would be in a low cupboard, shelf, or basement where temperatures do not fluctuate.
How to Ingest Flowers
The second most important consideration for patients to make about flowers, outside of quality, is the method of ingestion. Many cannabis users think all flower is bad based on only one or two delivery methods, when in fact there are many. Each method creates a unique experience for the user both metal and physically, so it is worth trying more than one to determine individual preferences.
There are currently two major kinds of inhalation techniques: smoking and vaporization. Smoking is by far the most common and longest-practiced, dating back thousands of years and comes most commonly to mind with cannabis. Smoking may be done with rolling papers, pipes, and more. The second method is vaporization, which many consider healthier due to the fact it does not produce smoke. Smoke-free is a popular method for medical cannabis and many devices are available for this method, which can be overwhelming at first but allow exciting options for patients to customize their experience. Each method allows changes to the amount of smoke inhaled and provide different patient experiences.
Thin paper is used to create and smoke a joint, or “blunt.” The paper used to make joints is generally made from rice, bamboo, hemp, or a combination of the three. A blunt on the other hand is rolled with cigar paper made (tobacco) so it does contain nicotine, and are preferred by some due to this fact and the flavor. Medicinally, nicotine is not recommended for patients.
Available in so many styles they are often sold for their aesthetic appeal as well as practical, hand pipes are a favorite method for smoking cannabis because they’re low-profile and easy to operate. Once adding cannabis flower to the “bowl” of the pipe, the user then lights the flower directly with a flame while simultaneously inhaling; the pipe thus traps the smoke so more of it can be inhaled.
Also often elaborate in style are water pipes, also known as “bongs” and “bubblers.” While these methods are operated similarly to hand pipes and do still produce smoke, their health benefits are debated due to the fact they also incorporate water. Water cools the smoke and many report this makes smoking it feel smoother, however this may not filter all of the smoke’s harmful elements.
For a truly smokeless experience, vaporizers are heavily recommended for medicinal grade cannabis use. Instead of setting the cannabis on fire to create smoke, vaporizers steadily heat the flower to the point its THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids can be extracted, but not to temperatures high enough to combust, which creates the smoke that contains potentially harmful toxins. Thus, when it comes to inhaling cannabis flower, vaporization is widely considered the safest method for patient use.
Other advantages of vaporization include a large reduction in odor, which can be appreciated by patients with neighbors or who simply do not enjoy the smell themselves. However, when it comes to flower, vaporizers are fairly limited as the design for flower is more sophisticated than standard vaporizers, requiring an advanced kind of heating element.
The other forms of cannabis most vaporizers use include oils, waxes, resins, concentrates, and more. Some vaporizers take cartridges designed for that specific model, while others are optimally designed with one form of cannabis in mind. While other forms of cannabis are gaining a reputation for being cleaner than the combustible dried flower, these forms also tend to be higher in THC and are not preferred by some patients.
As the market grows, more options will continue to become available for vaporizing flower, but plenty of options do currently exist.
Typical Packaging Sizes for Flower
- 1/8 ounce = 3.5 grams
- 1/4 ounce = 7 grams
- 1/2 ounce = 14 grams
- 1 ounce = 28.35 grams
If you prefer a static resource, here’s a visual guide to cannabis quantities.