Shatter is a brittle, glass-like cannabis extract named for its breakability. It has a glassy appearance and tends to break, or shatter, like glass when snapped in two. Like other cannabis concentrates, shatter is a favorite among dabbing enthusiasts. Properly cured shatter comes from a careful and unrushed manufacturing process.
The first drugs were likely discovered through accident and observation. As early humans tried different plant, animal, and mineral substances, they realized that some substances produced special medicinal effects. They were then able to use the substances that had beneficial effects to achieve desired results, and they passed their knowledge of these drugs from generation to generation.
This has not been the case with recreational drugs; with these, there has been a “fast track” to find new ways to create, distill and distribute highly addictive drugs for profit and gain. The latest addition to this race is the marijuana derivative called SHATTER.
Also called Butane Hash Oil (BHO), Shatter has a number of street names, including Honey Oil, Wax, Sap, and Budder, Shatter is still a relatively new marijuana concentrate that garnered its nicknames due to its brittle texture and color (although some call it Dabs because the drug is used by taking a small amount of the extract and “dabbing” it onto a heated surface and then inhaling the smoke.
Even more alarming than Shatter’s highly addictive properties, however, is the manufacturing process, in which a natural plant is mixed with a chemical which, in turn, can often yield literally explosive results. At its base level, Shatter is concentrated marijuana that is extracted through an extremely volatile chemical process.
What is shatter?
Shatter is an extract, which is a type of cannabis concentrate produced using a combination of cannabis plant matter and solvents. The appearance of shatter weed is typically translucent, though its coloring can range from bright, honey-like amber to a darker yellow shade like corn oil.
Visually, all shatters may appear to have the same consistency, but the physical texture of individual marijuana shatter products can vary from extremely brittle to a taffy-like snap-and-pull quality, leading some to categorize the latter as pull ‘n’ snap. This inconsistency gives some insight into an individual product’s concentration of cannabinoids.
Specifically, shatter that’s higher in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will result in a product that has more sap or oil while a product with a higher level of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) will be much more brittle and glass-like by comparison. At room temperature, THC concentrate is a sappy oil, giving shatter with a high THC content a more viscous consistency, whereas THCA is solid at room temperature, yielding a fragile concentrate that’s easier to break apart.
What’s the history of shatter?
Shatter is a relatively new addition to the history of cannabis consumption. Its roots can be traced to the age-old practice of hashish production. By the late 1990s the process of modern cannabis concentrate production was being refined, and what we’d now consider shatter was first produced.
In 1989 author D. Gold published a second edition of his 1973 book, Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking, which included the first full explanation of how to make hash. A year later, in 1990, medical technologist Michael Starks also published a second edition of his 1977 book, Marijuana Chemistry: Genetics Processing and Potency, with a detailed account of the hash manufacturing process.
By the late 1990s, Canadian cannabis maker BudderKing first marketed budder and shatter, with its products hitting the shelves of dispensaries in 2003. The techniques for producing these products were published in Cannabis Culture magazine in 2005 and by the 2010s, shatter emerged as a staple method of cannabis consumption. Its popularity lead many dabbers and concentrate users to proclaim, “If it doesn’t shatter, it doesn’t matter.”
How is shatter made?
Shatter can be made using a variety of production methods, but it is typically created using butane or hydrocarbon solvents. Butane extracts are also called BHO, short for “butane hash oil.” To make BHO, cannabis is typically contained in a tube where butane or other hydrocarbons are pushed through the plant material, stripping away desirable compounds like THC and CBD. The concentrated oil is collected and may be further refined using additional techniques. “Purging,” for example, refers to the removal of excess residual solvents using a vacuum chamber, and “winterization” refers to the separation of fats and lipids from the oil.
Shatter and other types of BHO are extremely dangerous to make using at-home DIY setups due to the flammability of butane fumes. Attempts to make BHO in home environments have resulted in several accidental explosions. Professional-grade shatter is produced using safe closed-loop systems that prevent these fumes from entering the ambient environment.
Difference between shatter and wax
Shatter refers to cannabis extracts that take on a hard, glassy form while waxes are softer and more malleable. The difference between shatter and wax is primarily a superficial one: it’s merely a cosmetic difference caused by a difference in molecular agitation. Shatter maintains its glass-like consistency because the molecules in the extract were left undisturbed during processing, whereas the molecules in wax were agitated.
The level of transparency achieved in the production process does not reflect the potency of the extract. In other words, shatter is not necessarily higher in THC than wax, and vice versa. To determine the potency and chemical composition of any given extract, refer to the lab results of individual products at your local dispensary.
One practical difference between shatter and wax has to do with ease of use. Wax is softer and sometimes easier to handle using dabbing tools like scoops. Because shatter tends to crack apart into unpredictably sized pieces when broken, you may find that it’s a little harder to scoop and dose the correct sized dab.
How is shatter made?
First, a quick warning: only professionals should manufacture shatter and other solvent-based cannabis concentrates because these processes can be extremely dangerous and illegal in many jurisdictions.
The overall process for producing this concentrate is the same as other cannabis extracts. The most significant difference is the post-extraction process. Shatter is typically made by passing a pressurized solvent through a chamber packed with plant material. The solvent separates the desirable cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant matter before it’s removed through a purging process. Shatter starting material can be anything from cannabis flower buds to cannabis plant remnants such as trim or shake.
Shatter can be made with myriad solvents, but the most common is butane (which produces butane hash oil or BHO) though solvents such as liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) or ethanol can also be utilized. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, extraction is used for other cannabis concentrates, but CO2-extracted shatter would lack its characteristic texture, as this extraction method removes the moisture from the plant matter.