SOME TIME AROUND the mid-aughts, folks in the weed industry began to notice a shift in the market. Pot smokers were smoking less, and dabbing more—heating the plant’s oily extracts to inhale high concentrations of hallmark marijuana molecules like THC. Extracts, which go by names including shatter, batter, wax, dabs, and honey, weren’t just stronger than their plant-based starting materials. They were also more convenient to consume and easier to use discreetly. Elevated by its potency and portability, formerly-niche cannabis oil was going wide.
Today, extracts are more popular than ever. Dispensaries that use the cannabis database Leafly to organize their inventories have added 300,000 concentrate items to their offerings since the beginning of the year—an almost 600 percent increase over the same period last year. To keep up with demand, extraction labs and equipment manufacturers have developed increasingly sophisticated apparatuses to produce the stuff, and safer, higher-volume production methods.
These advances have afforded cannabis extracts—the intense highs of which have drawn misgivings from researchers and policymakers—a measure of legitimacy; last December, when California issued its initial round of business licenses for its legal marijuana market, the state gave its first temporary license to Moxie, a company known for its cannabis extracts. To distinguish itself in the Golden State’s new, booming legal market, it had to develop a wickedly efficient manufacturing pipeline for producing its sticky, icky wax.
Moxie specializes in a concentrate known colloquially as live resin. Unlike other forms of extract, which use dried and cured marijuana plants as a starting material, live resin begins its life as fresh crop. Harvest crews start by plucking buds from the plant’s stem (a process known as bucking), weighing them, and transferring them into vacuum-sealed bags. When the marijuana is harvested from an indoor facility, those bags go straight into a walk-in freezer cooled to -40 degrees Celsius. If it’s harvested from a farm, the bud goes in a cooler chilled with dry ice or liquid nitrogen. “Either way, within an hour or two of being harvested, you have a frozen solid biomass that’s measured out and ready for processing,” says Moxie CEO Jordan Lams.