Like most marijuana products, liquid THC has many names. There’s the hyper-technical tincture of cannabis or marijuana tincture. There’s the more common liquid marijuana or liquid THC. And then there are the myriad and inevitable slang terms like green dragon, mayzack, and tink that always seem to pop up out of nowhere like code names in some spy drama.
Regardless of what you call it, liquid THC has seen dramatic growth in popularity in recent years. This growth in popularity is thanks in large part to the introduction of vape pens and the increased presence of marijuana dispensaries across the country.
But despite its growing popularity, much mystery and confusion still surrounds liquid THC. What exactly is it? How is it made? What does it look like? How is it used? What are its effects? And what are its dangers? This article will answer those questions.
Beyond the Vape Pen: The Birth of Liquid THC
Somewhat similar to how Kleenex has become synonymous with tissue, or Coca-Cola with soda, the Grenco Science G Pen set the standard for vaporizer pens. Similar in design to sleeker and thinner e-cigarettes, the G Pen—no longer the industry standard, but now merely one amongst many capable vape pen products—was initially created to be used solely with marijuana concentrates. In fact, the official Snoop Dogg model G Pen is designed to be used for vaporizing ground herb.
Liquid THC, a.k.a cannabis e-liquid. It’s designed to mimic the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes, except for consumption by cannabis users. Though a relatively new way to consume cannabis, it’s already been quick to fire up support in the public sphere: in 2014, comedian Sarah Silverman was spotted carrying a vape pen filled with liquid THC on the Emmy’s red carpet.
Liquid THC is generally sold in either pre-filled vape cartridges designed to screw onto a variety of vaporizer pens, or in more cost effective dropper bottles, allowing users to refill vape pen cartridges themselves. In either case, many of the benefits sought by e-cigarette users—namely portability, less harsh smoke, and discreteness—are also at play.
What Is Liquid THC?
Technically speaking, liquid THC is a tincture. A tincture is a liquid extract made by soaking a substance in alcohol to release its active ingredient. In the case of most tinctures, that active ingredient is going to be THC from potent strains such as Bruce Banner or Death Star. That said, you could make a CBD tincture by using a high-CBD/low-THC strain like Charlotte’s Web or Sour Tsunami.
The list of tinctures is literally endless as any plant, combination of plants, or even animal material can be used to make a tincture. Common medicinal tinctures include garlic, hyssop, and sage. As the name implies, tincture of cannabis (or marijuana tincture) is just a tincture made using a cannabis plant.
While alcohol is the most common liquid used to make tinctures, oils, vinegars, and glycerins can also be used. In addition, different types of alcohols can be used in the creation of a tincture including, but certainly not limited to, vodka, brandy, and ethanol.
How Is Liquid THC Made?
Tinctures, and liquid THC specifically, can be made in a number of different ways: the more traditional room-temperature method, the cold-brew method, or the accelerated (and more dangerous) hot method. Here’s a description and recipe for each.
The Room-Temperature Method
This traditional method doesn’t rely on any fancy technology like refrigerators or stoves. Instead, it’s very much like brewing tea: throw in your solids, add water, and let sit. The nice thing about the room-temperature method is that it pulls every last molecule of THC out of the plant. The drawback to the room-temperature method is that it takes a lot longer to produce a finished product (15-30 times longer when compared to the cold method). So if you’re in dire need of a tincture, the cold or hot method would be a better choice. To make liquid THC using the room-temperature method:
- Chop your plant matter and decarboxylate it in a 230℉ oven for 35 minutes.
- Place the decarboxylated cannabis in a quart (32 ounce) mason jar.
- Pour in 32 ounces of the highest proof alcohol you can get. Everclear works well, but by all means, avoid Isopropyl alcohol.
- Cover the jar tightly. A screw-on lid works nicely here.
- Shake well.
- Place the mason jar in a brown paper bag and store in a cabinet or closet. Storing the jar in a bag in a dark place keeps sunlight from spoiling the tincture.
- Monitor the location where you store your brew. It should warm/room temperature, NOT hot.
- Let the mason jar sit for 30-60 days (the longer the better).
- After the steeping period, remove the plant matter from the remaining liquid by straining through a cheesecloth.
- Store the liquid in an opaque bottle out of the sun to preserve its potency.
The Cold Method
The cold method involves chopping or tearing the cannabis plant into small pieces and then freezing it to preserve the integrity of the cannabinoids. The mixture is then shaken periodically, for 48 hours while the cannabis plant material steeps in the alcohol. At the end of the steeping period, the plant matter is strained out and discarded leaving the tincture behind. Here’s a step-by-step procedure.
- Dry and decarboxylate your plant matter.
- Grind the plant matter, place it in a zip-top plastic bag, and store in the freezer for a few hours.
- Place your bottle of alcohol in the freezer as well. Don’t worry, it won’t freeze solid.
- When the plant matter is frozen stiff, mix 1 ounce cannabis with 1 quart (32 ounces) alcohol in a mason jar.
- Seal the jar tightly with a lid and shake for 5 minutes.
- Return the jar to the freezer.
- Every 2-3 hours, remove the jar from the freezer and give it a good shake.
- Continue to alternate shaking and storing for the next two days.
- After 48 hours, separate the solid material from the liquid by pouring through a cheesecloth.
- Then, pour the liquid through a coffee filter to strain out any small, left-over plant matter.
- Finally, store the tincture in an opaque bottle and avoid prolonged light exposure.
The Hot Method
The hot method, often called “green dragon”, is the same basic process. But instead of letting the mixture sit for weeks, heat is added to speed the process. This reduces total production time from weeks to hours. But the green dragon method is not without its risks. There is a very real potential of catching the alcohol on fire during the heating process. On top of that, the hot method increases the risk of ruining the medicinal benefits during the cooking process.
Despite those risks, the hot method is fairly simple and only requires about 30-60 minutes to produce a fine cannabis tincture. So if you don’t want to wait 30 days, or even 48 hours, this may be the method for you.
We recommend starting small with this method until you’ve done it a few times. To that end, we’re going to start with ⅛ ounce cannabis and 2 ounces alcohol. After you have some experience, you can double or even treble the recipe. Just be sure to provide plenty of ventilation.
- Dry and decarboxylate ⅛ ounce cannabis.
- Chop dried plant matter using a coffee grinder or marijuana grinder.
- In a 1 pint mason jar, combine the chopped cannabis and 2 ounces of the highest-proof alcohol you can find (Bacardi or Everclear).
- For the next few steps, you’ll need a quick-read or candy thermometer.
- Place about 1 inch of water in a medium-sized sauce pan.
- Bring the water to a low simmer.
- Turn the oven fan on high.
- Place the thermometer in the mason jar and then place the mason jar in the simmering water (this is called a water bath).
- Monitor the liquid in the mason jar and bring the temperature to 170℉. The boiling point of pure ethanol is 173℉, so you want yours just below boiling.
- Simmer this way for 20 minutes making sure to keep the alcohol temperature around 170℉.
- After 20 minutes, separate the plant matter and the liquid THC using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
- Store the tincture in an opaque dropper bottle.
The Basic Production Principles
Regardless of which method you choose, the basic production principles remain the same. During the steeping or cooking process, the cannabinoids are released from the cannabis plant. These free cannabinoids are then absorbed by the alcohol. Finally, the plant matter is discarded. The resultant tincture is a powerful, concentrated liquid that is very much greater than the sum of its parts. Liquid THC has been tested up to 90% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content compared to 50% for oils, waxes, and shatters, and 12-25% for bud that’s smoked.
Tinctures are often stored in a dropper or small pump spray bottle. This helps with consumption and dosage.
Storing Liquid THC
As was mentioned in the recipes above, tinctures are often stored in a dropper bottle for easy access. This helps with consumption and dosage. A standard eyedropper can hold about 1 milliliter (or 1 gram) of liquid and this makes for a nice dosage amount.
You can also store your tincture in a small spray bottle and administer the liquid THC by squirting it in your mouth like breath spray. However you choose to store your tincture, be sure to NEVER drip it into your eyes. It should always be taken under the tongue.
When stored in an opaque bottle out of the sun, your tincture should last for a good long time. Simply put, you’ll likely use it up before it goes bad (unless you’re only doing one dropper-full a year).
What Does Liquid THC Look Like?
Liquid THC is typically some shade of green. Depending on the plant matter used, it can range in color from light to dark green and can even be a greenish-brown. The liquid THC should smell like bud and give off a somewhat floral aroma. If the liquid is a bright green and smells like grass, the decarboxylation was insufficient and the resulting tincture will probably be weak.
Stories abound of unknowing cannabis consumers purchasing “liquid THC” from unreputable sources only to find out that what they had purchased was just water or some other liquid. Be sure the liquid you purchase is at least green and, if possible, always buy from a reputable source.
How Is Liquid THC Used?
Liquid THC is most commonly consumed orally, but it can also be vaporized in an electronic vape pen and smoked like other eliquids.
Oral consumption is the more traditional, and most common, method for experiencing the effects of liquid THC. Start with 2-3 drops of the tincture administered sublingually (under the tongue). Because of the significant blood supply to the soft tissue under the tongue, absorption of the liquid THC will be quite fast. That said, onset of the psychoactive effects can take some time (see effects section below), so don’t take more thinking you’ll speed the process. That’s just a recipe for a bad trip.
Liquid THC can also be sprayed on food for a cannabis-infused meal. Start with 1-2 sprays on your favorite dish. Keep in mind that ingesting liquid THC in this manner is more akin to traditional edibles than it is to smoking or simple oral administration. Because of that, onset of the psychoactive effects may be significantly slower but can last longer.
Vape pens are a relatively new way of consuming liquid THC. Within the pen, the liquid THC is vaporized and then smoked like regular eliquids.
What Are The Effects Of Liquid THC?
Because liquid THC is just that—concentrated THC—the effects will be the same as those experienced when smoking a high-THC strain. More specifically, THC is known to cause distortion of time, increased receptivity to stimuli, drowsiness, and euphoria.
Keep in mind that when you use liquid THC, you’re not getting any of the other active ingredients in marijuana. The cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol, cannabiverin, and cannabigerol (along with other compounds) are absent in liquid THC. Those additional ingredients have their own physiological and psychological effects that are not possible with liquid THC.
For example, CBD reduces nausea and vomiting, suppresses seizure activity, combats psychosis disorders, and combats inflammatory disorders (just to name a few). Liquid THC offers none of that.
The onset of effects with liquid THC depend on the way it is consumed. Taken under the tongue, effects can manifest in 15-45 minutes and reach their peak at about 90 minutes. Taken with food, effects take longer to manifest but can last from 2-4 hours.
Because of the rather large amount of time it takes to feel the effects of liquid THC, it’s important to stick with one dosage amount until you figure out how everything works. We recommend starting with one dropper per 12 hours. See how long before your first feel the high, and then keep track of how long the high lasts. If you don’t feel a lot on one dropper-full, try two droppers next time. But again, be careful so you don’t get too much and have a bad trip. The highs produced by ingesting liquid THC (whether it’s through tinctures or edibles) can depend on your metabolism, body composition, and a whole host of other factors so what works for one person may not work (or work too well) for you. Start with a small dose and increase slowly from there.
What Are The Dangers Of Liquid THC?
Remember that liquid THC is basically just highly-concentrated THC. It’s very much like highly-concentrated alcohol like Everclear: a little goes a long way, while a lot can have some serious consequences.
At the most extreme, there is the potential for a really bad trip. Because the THC is not tempered by CBD and other compounds, debilitating anxiety or paranoia can occur with liquid THC. In addition, the high concentration of THC has been known to induce vomiting and even unconsciousness. And when we say unconsciousness, we’re not talking about sleep.
Regardless of how you consume liquid THC, and your experience with the substance, it’s recommended that you tread lightly when using this powerful liquid. Even experienced users can have a bad trip so be cautious and take it slow.
One Method Among Many
As the legality of marijuana continues to spread, methods for consuming it will continue to grow. Liquid THC can be an effective alternative to smoking and dabbing. It can be a discreet way to get the effects you need without all the equipment and obvious signs that burning leaves behind.
Give liquid THC a try and see if you like it. That said, be sure to purchase your tincture from a reputable source. If liquid THC isn’t for you, there are myriad other ways you can continue to enjoy the benefits that marijuana has to offer.