Can cannabis help with glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a common eye condition that often causes optical nerve damage and when left untreated can lead to blindness. In the US, about three million Americans live with glaucoma; globally, the figure is close to 60 million. Glaucoma is recognized as one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness.

Since 1980, surgical procedures and treatments have improved significantly, cutting the risk of developing blindness nearly in half. Nonetheless, while treatment has improved, the number of effective topical drugs remains limited.

Almost universally recognized in medical marijuana states as a qualifying condition, increasing numbers of people have turned to cannabis to help their condition. But is marijuana actually good for glaucoma?

Given the improvement of existing glaucoma treatments, do the benefits of medical cannabis outweigh the potential side effects or risks? Likewise, given the vital role the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays in disease, what promise does the future hold for developing cannabinoid-derived medications to help with glaucoma?

Evidence increasingly suggests glaucoma—now widely considered to be a neurodegenerative condition—has a connection to other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Glaucoma appears to be a significant predictor of Alzheimer’s. A precise cause of glaucoma, however, remains a mystery and continues to elude the scientific community.

current treatments for glaucoma

Because intraocular pressure (IOP) influences the onset and progression of glaucoma, ophthalmologists prescribe treatments that target intraocular pressure. In fact, the only way to prevent vision loss or eventual blindness is to lower IOP levels.

Depending on the severity and progression, ophthalmologists may treat glaucoma with medications such as prescription eye drops, or, if necessary, surgery.

Going back to the 1970s, studies have shown that cannabinoids can alleviate glaucoma-related symptoms because they lower intraocular pressure (IOP) and have neuroprotective actions. For example, this 1971 study found that ingestion of cannabis lowers IOP by 25-30%.

Despite the findings from early research, few ophthalmologists support the use of medical marijuana for patients with early to mid-stage glaucoma. The main issue ophthalmologists have is that potential adverse effects—particularly when smoking weed—might outweigh short-term benefits. For example, smoking can lead to unstable intraocular pressure, thereby increasing the risk of permanent vision loss.

Further, because its therapeutic effects on glaucoma are short-term, patients would have to consume cannabis frequently—once every three to four hours.

Doctors claim that because glaucoma needs to be treated 24 hours a day, patients would need to consume cannabis six to eight times over the course of a day to achieve consistently lowered IOP levels. Such frequency is hard to maintain and could increase the risk of developing a cannabis use disorder.

However, when it comes to late-stage glaucoma, ophthalmologists are more inclined to embrace cannabis to help with the condition. In later stages of glaucoma, it’s less about directly targeting glaucoma and more about alleviating the accompanying symptoms.

According to ophthalmologist Andrew Bainnson, MD, “We’ve known for some time that medical marijuana is very effective for treating nausea and pain, but not so much for glaucoma. There are some patients with end-stage pain and nausea who may benefit [from medical marijuana], but not from the glaucoma point of view.”

cannabis based treatments for glaucoma

The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), is one of our most important physiological systems. Nearly every aspect of our health—including inflammation, immune response, neuroprotection, and pain modulation—are all dependent on the ECS. Given the vital role of the ECS, particularly in neuroprotection and inflammation, cannabinoid-based medications could be immensely useful in treating and preventing glaucoma.

Cannabinoid receptors are prominent in ocular tissues responsible for regulating intraocular pressure. Cannabinoid-derived medications could be developed to serve two roles: lower IOP and protect retinal cells.

Evidence suggests two cannabinoid agonists—WIN55212-2 and anandamide—and several cannabinoids, including CBD and CBG, may be good candidates to develop as therapeutic agents, particularly because even when administered topically (directly to the eye), they are well tolerated.

Challenges with treating glaucoma with cannabis

However, challenges persist: Oral preparations are not good because bioavailability is poor and absorption unpredictable. Inhalation isn’t ideal because effects don’t last long enough.

That leaves topical preparations. But cannabis eye drops—while superior to oral and inhalation administration—do a poor job penetrating intraocular tissues.

The future of medical marijuana and glaucoma

While cannabis, as it is administered today, may not be an ideal treatment for glaucoma, the development of cannabinoid-derived medications represent a promising future direction. And, whether or not cannabis is an ideal glaucoma treatment, there are some people who swear by it as a godsend for their condition, while others consume it as an adjunct to therapy, but not as their primary treatment.

If you or someone you know has successfully used cannabis to treat glaucoma, share your experience with us in the comments section.

This post was originally published on September 22, 2016. It was most recently updated on March 13, 2020.

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How to choose the right rolling papers for your skill level

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This article is brought to you by vapor.com, an online hub for rolling papers, smoking accessories, and more.


Rolling a joint is a mandatory skill for any cannabis connoisseur but choosing the right papers can really help elevate your skill level from competency to mastery.

Selecting the papers that are the best for you is completely up to preference and style. Do you want your rolling papers to be easy-to-use or are you willing to fiddle a little extra for the right smoke? Do you prefer a straight joint or a cone?

Whether you’re a brand-new smoker or an expert joint roller looking to upgrade from the usual gas-station papers, this mini-guide featuring popular kinds of papers should get you well on your way.

They’re all available on vapor.com so you can stay stocked up on a wide selection of joint papers, cones, and wraps for the perfect smoke every time.

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As you decide which papers you want to use, you’ll want to consider things like how nimble your fingers are, how big of a joint you’ll want to roll, and how much ash you want to deal with. While joints that ash a lot are fine outdoors, many people try to keep it to a minimum when they smoke inside.

If you like smoking with others, be patient and learn the technique behind rolling a j before you dive into thinner, fancier papers. While they may love to spark up with you, they might still flame your poor rolling skills if you volunteer as roll-master.

Skill level: easy

Hemp is an easy choice for rolling a joint—you’re essentially covering your cannabis in more cannabis, although it’s gone through a few extra steps. Since they’re sturdy and easy to roll, hemp is a great choice if you’re venturing away from wood-pulp papers for the first time. Hemp papers have a mild flavor that doesn’t get in the way of the taste of your herb. There’s also an added bonus that the nerds amongst us might enjoy.

Hemp crops are space-efficient, fast-growing, and good for soil conditions, so they can be a more sustainable choice than standard papers.

A few examples of natural hemp rolling papers that you might enjoy include:

Vibes hemp rolling papers (red)

Rap and cannabis legend Berner—who you might know as the entrepreneur behind the Cookies brand—designed his line of rolling papers for a consistent experience in a variety of sizes.

RAW organic hemp rolling papers

This stalwart brand of vegan, eco-friendly rolling papers is a classic for a reason. While sustainably-harvested hemp is a nice bonus, they make for a great smoke, too. The papers are designed with cross-weaving and stop lines for slow, even burn.

OCB hemp rolling papers

These GMO-free papers are designed for sturdy cones and environmental friendliness. OCB uses 100% natural Arabic gum to provide a dependable seal, and all of its papers are organic, vegetarian and placed in recycled cardboard packaging.

Skill level: medium

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Rice papers are like selecting professional-mode for rolling because they are more delicate and thin. But once you get the hang of them, get ready for tidy, smooth-smoking joints.

Many people choose rice papers because they don’t outpace the burn of the herb, and the clean taste makes your cannabis flavor profile really pop. If you’re looking for a longer, quality session with your friends, rice papers are a great choice.

If you’re interested in trying rice rolling papers, vapor.com suggests:

Vibes rice rolling papers (blue)

Vibes’ rice rolling papers are around the same length and thickness as their hemp counterparts, but burn a little bit slower for longer sessions.

Skill level: expert

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Once you trust that you can manipulate thin papers, ultra-thins are your next challenge. Ultra-thin rolling papers can be made out of several materials, but the idea behind all of them is the same: minimize the amount of paper when you smoke.

Ultra-thins help limit combustion for cleaner hits, less coughing, and less ash. They can be a little harder to handle than papers with more density there’s slightly more risk for more tearing as you handle them, but with a little practice, you’ll be rolling joints that smoke like there’s no paper at all.

If you’re ready to take on your final form as a rolling champion, the following ultra-thin papers are a great start:

Vibes ultra-thin rolling papers (black)

These thin versions of the Vibes hemp papers are designed to pack in more herb and flavor.

Elements ultra-thin papers

Made from rice paper and designed for a smooth, ash-free burn, Elements Ultra-Thin Papers are practically invisible. Real rollers will appreciate the magnetic closure on the packaging, so you don’t lose a single one.

Now, you can keep calm and roll on, knowing exactly what to consider in order to choose the right rolling papers for you. Check out more smoking accessories at vapor.com.

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What is a cannabis vape cartridge?

When it comes to ease of use, portability, and functionality, one cannabis product stands tall above the rest—vapes. You may know them as vape carts or pre-loaded cannabis oil vape cartridges, and they have quickly become the go-to concentrate-based product for both cannabis novices and enthusiasts.

However, when it comes to choosing the right vape pen, various factors come into play. Many of these products seem similar at first glance, but there are many nuances that distinguish them. Understanding the differences between these disposable pens can help you make an educated decision on which product is right for you.

Jump to a section in this article:

A vape cart is a glass cartridge pre-filled with a gram or half-gram of cannabis oil. This oil contain various combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes extracted from cannabis.

Most oil vape carts are high in THC, however, more and more CBD-dominant vape cartridges are entering the market, as are 1:1 THC:CBD products. Vape cartridges come in many forms: 510-threaded cartridges (the most common), as well as some proprietary forms like Pax Era Pods and Airo Pro oil cartridges.

Vape cartridges work in conjunction with vape pen batteries. The vape battery will power an atomizer in the cartridge that heats up the oil, activating the various chemical components in it. You then inhale the vape smoke, which produces the effects of cannabis. Some vape batteries have multiple functions that enable temperature customization and dose management.

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Here are some of the benefits to using oil vape cartridges.

Ease of use

Vape cartridges take the guesswork completely out of the equation. Contrary to other methods of consuming oil, such as a dab rig and nail setup, carts require little to no effort—just press a button and inhale.

Portability

Oil vape carts are the easiest method of enjoying cannabis while on the go. Their sleek and minimalist design allows for discreet vaping, free of the distracting traits of larger setups, and they don’t produce noticeable smoke or odor.

Dosing

For uninitiated cannabis concentrate consumers, dosing can be a major concern. Nobody wants an overwhelming experience when attempting to enjoy cannabis. Unlike dabbing, using a pre-loaded vape pen allows for a highly controlled dose with each inhalation, giving you more control over how much or how little you consume.

While vape cartridges are great for ease of use, portability, and dosing, there are a few drawbacks over other consumptions methods.

Cost

Vape carts can be pretty pricey, with costs between $20-60 or more per half-gram or gram of hash oil, depending on the market and extraction method. When you can get a gram of flower for a lot cheaper than a one-gram vape cartridge, it makes it a little tougher to choose the latter.

Physical effects

Vape cartridges tend to provide a shorter-lasting high than other methods like joints, dabs, and edibles because you consume them in smaller doses. However, while the effects may last shorter, they can also hit harder if overconsumed, so make sure to monitor dosing appropriately.

Battery life

Having to monitor a vape battery’s usage and power levels can be pretty annoying as frequent usage can drain them pretty quickly. To avoid this nuisance it’s best to charge your vape battery each night before bed or have a backup on hand that’s fully charged.

It’s pretty simple: Just attach your cart to the battery and start puffing. If there’s an On/Off button, use it.

Here are a few quicks tips to remember when smoking an oil vape cartridge:

  • If your device has an On/Off button, chances are you turn it on by clicking 5 times. The same number turns it off.
  • Make sure your cart is completely attached to its battery to avoid any oil leakage.
  • Keep your vape pen upright to avoid oil leakage.
  • Start slow with dosing as it is very easy to overconsume with vape carts.
  • Monitor temperature to make sure your cart isn’t burning too hot, which could alter some of the oil’s chemical components—usually 3 clicks will adjust the temp.

Remember to always buy carts from a reputable vendor for the safest products!

An extract pod of Cinex cannabis oil for the Pax Era

An extract pod of Cinex cannabis oil for the Pax Era (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Familiarize yourself with the many types of oil vape cartridges on the market so you can purchase the one that best fits your needs or preferences.

Cartridge/battery combos vs. disposables

Most products typically come with a standard 510 thread that a battery screws into. The exception is a pre-loaded cart designed by a specific company to be used with their own vaporizer/battery systems—an example is PAX Era Pods.

Alternatively, some vape pens are available as “disposables,” which contain a pre-charged battery designed to support the device until the cart empties. These pens require no charging and are meant to be disposed of after use. They contain no threading and are not meant to be separated from their battery.

What is a 510 cartridge?

A 510-thread cartridge is the most common type of vape cartridge. 510 describes the type of threading that is used to screw the bottom of the cartridge to the appropriate vape battery.

Distillate cartridges vs. CO2 oil

For a vaporizer cartridge to function properly, its contents must have the proper viscosity, otherwise the oils will either be too thick or too thin to properly vaporize within the device. Depending on the starting material used, cartridge manufacturers use several methods in order to create the perfect oil for their pens.

CO2 oil. Certain high-grade winterized CO2 oils are uniquely compatible with vaporizer cartridges due to the fact that they do not require additives of any kind to meet the viscosity levels needed to vaporize in an atomizer. If made properly, these oils are able to retain modest levels of plant-based terpenes, which act as natural thinning agents as well as give the oil their signature strain-specific flavor.

Distillates. A cannabis distillate cart is a highly refined oil containing pure cannabinoids and almost nothing else. The upside to using distillates in vaporizer cartridges is that the oil can be produced from a range of starting materials. Virtually any cannabis oil variety from CO2 to BHO and everything in between can be purified into a distillate with the right equipment.

The downside to using distillates in vape cartridges is that because there are no residual terpenes left behind, there is nothing to cut the viscosity of the material. In order for a distillate to be used in cartridges, a thinning agent of some kind is often required.

Additives. These are sometimes used in vape cartridge oils as a supplemental thinning agent. In some cases, methods have been taken to cut or infuse various cannabis oils with certain substances such as polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), or even medium chain triglycerides (MCT), such as coconut oil, in order to maintain a less viscous and lasting oil consistency conducive to standard atomizer functionality.

This process has become highly controversial due to raised health concerns, and products containing these thinning agents are showing up less on the market.

One way that vaporizer cartridge manufacturers have been able to steer away from artificial cutting agents is by using terpenes.

Terpene infusions and strain-specific flavorings

The use of terpenes in vape cartridges has been found to help lower the viscosity of cannabis oil as well as increase flavor and aromas, making them a potentially safer alternative to other cutting agents.

Terpenes not only add flavor and aromatics to the experience, they can also help alter the effects of a product due to their ability to influence how cannabinoids interact with our bodies.

There are several ways to use terpenes with vape cartridges. Some manufactures rely on CO2-based extractions—when refined with ethanol, they can actually retain plant-based terpenes at a percentage conducive to achieving proper viscosity. This is how manufacturers are able to sell flavors based on natural strain profiles.

Natural cannabis-derived terpenes that have been fractioned through refinement can be re-added to cannabis oils in small percentages, creating a spectrum of flavors and effects while also giving an oil the correct consistency required to function in a cartridge.

Products labeled by effect

Sometimes, oil vape cartridges are labeled and marketed by their supposed effect on the consumer. Products of this variety tend to claim they provide “relaxing” or “energetic” effects, with some are labeled as indica, sativa, or hybrid.

Many of these vape cartridges incorporate carefully mixed combinations similar to what would be traced in a strain or strain type. How well these infusions imitate a specific strain is debatable.

CBD-specific vape cartridges

Although many oil vape pens are labeled by flavor or effect, some focus on cannabinoid concentration. Aside from the typical high-THC product that most pens offer, some manufacturers offer products containing elevated levels of cannabidiol (CBD).

High-CBD pens may or may not contain added flavors, but they do guarantee a ratio of THC to CBD that can range from 2:1 all the way to 20:1 and greater. These types of pens offer great wellness benefits for those looking for CBD in an easy-to-consume product.

Full-spectrum vape cartridges

The pinnacle of oil vape cartridges in terms of overall quality rests with full-spectrum extracts. These products are created using the entire spectrum of bioavailable molecules found within a given cannabis strain. A full-spectrum oil does not add, reintroduce, or remove any active compound within a strain and offers flavors and effects with more depth than most other products.

Full-spectrum cartridges are hard to come by and are only offered in certain markets, and their price tends to reflect their rarity as well. If you’re fortunate enough to live where these products are available, we recommend forking up the extra cash to give one a shot. In terms of strain comparability, the flavor of a full-spectrum cart is incredibly similar to what you would experience with flower.

How long a vape cartridge lasts entirely depends on an individual’s rate of consumption. The only thing we do know for sure is that a one gram cartridge will last you a lot longer than a half-gram cartridge.

How to refill a vape pen cartridge

Some vape cartridges can be refilled with fresh oil from a syringe. It’s important to use a syringe as it reduces the potential for making an oily mess. Proprietary carts like Pax Pods are not refillable, so you have to dispose of them and buy a new one.

Browse nearby stores for vape cartridges

All in all, there are many types of oil vape cartridges to consider, each one with pros and cons. If you’re interested in learning more about these types of products, always ask your local budtender before committing to a purchase.

Often, labels only offer a fraction of the information compared to the knowledge and expertise of a cannabis professional like a budtender. Regardless of your taste, there’s bound to be a cannabis oil cartridge available to suit your individual needs.

This post was originally published on October 17, 2017. It was most recently updated on March 10, 2020.

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What is cannabis reclaim and how do you collect it?

If you’ve ever smoked weed from a pipe, you’ve seen the black greasy gunk form inside it. This substance is called resin, and it’s the residue left behind after you smoke cannabis flower. A similar substance forms inside your dab rig when you smoke concentrates, only instead of resin, this yellow/gold/brown sticky substance is called reclaim.

Reclaim is best described as the re-condensed form of cannabis concentrates left behind after a dab sesh. Think of it as the cold solid that remains from the hot oily liquid. Reclaim coats the walls and base of your dab rig and dropdown, and also collects in the water. Cannabis extracts are oils, and as we all learned in 2nd grade science class, oil and water do not mix.

Great question. The short answer is: yes, it is safe to consume reclaim, and yes, you will get high from it. According to MCR Labs, a state-certified cannabis testing lab in Massachusetts, reclaim still has the main active cannabinoids that promote physiological changes.

The long answer is: yes, you can get high from smoking reclaim, but it will not be the tastiest or most enjoyable experience because truly, reclaim is oily sloppy seconds with zero terpenes and no taste or smell.

Also, quality matters, so the higher the quality of the original concentrate, the higher the quality of the reclaim. But overall, it’s still going to have a pretty gross taste as the terpenes were zapped during the original burn.

marijuana reclaim, dabbing, marijuana concentrates

(Leafly)

There are couple ways to collect reclaim from your dab rig, both pretty simple.

The first way is to pour the water out of your rig and then pick out the little goldish clumps. Chances are there won’t be many as the majority of reclaim will be stuck to the inside of your device.

The second way to collect reclaim is to melt it out. All you need is a torch and some wax paper:

  • Pour the water out of your rig
  • Let it dry (you don’t want water in your dabs/reclaim)
  • Remove the banger and hold the connector/dropdown over the wax paper
  • Torch the reclaim enough to liquify, and it will drip onto the wax paper

Just don’t let it get too hot because you don’t want to burn out the cannabinoids.

There are 3 possible ways to use reclaim after collection: dab it, eat it, or trash it.

If you dab it, just be aware that it will not taste anywhere near as good as your original dab.

Since reclaim has already been decarboxylated, you can just straight up eat it as is and you’ll be fine. However, we suggest consuming reclaim alongside something flavorful like a handful of grapes or a Reese’s cup to mask that dirty hash taste. To completely avoid that taste you can also infuse food with reclaim.

If consuming reclaim doesn’t appeal to you, but having a squeaky clean bong does you can also just collect your reclaim and toss it into the trash.

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What are full-spectrum cannabis extracts and how are they made?

Full-spectrum extracts, often called whole plant extracts, maintain the full profile of the cannabis plant. They contain a variety of cannabinoids, including THC, THCa, CBD, CBDa, CBG, and CBN, as well as terpenes and other compounds such as flavonoids, proteins, phenols, sterols, and esters.

These extracts are desirable for several reasons. From an experiential standpoint, they replicate the flavor and aroma profile of the plant. From a therapeutic or medicinal standpoint, you get the full benefits of the entourage effect—the theory that the various components of the plant work synergistically to enhance the action of the active substances, such as THC and CBD.

Full-spectrum extracts are notoriously difficult to produce. While you need to keep as many of the desirable compounds as possible, you also want to rid the extract of unnecessary components. Some extraction methods filter the latter out using a variety of refinement techniques.

However, those very techniques often strip extracts of some of the more delicate compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids.

The processes used to create full-spectrum extracts must dance a fine line to keep the wanted compounds in and the unwanted out.

Note that the full spectrum of compounds of a given strain is relative to the point at which the extraction is performed. For example, a live resin extract taken from a fresh plant will have a different profile than an extract of dried plant material. This is because some compounds change during the drying process.

What’s more, the profile of a plant can depend on various other factors, including the part of the plant, its age, and environmental factors. As such, you could have multiple full-spectrum extracts of the same strain that all have different profiles.

Hydrocarbon extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction uses butane or a butane-propane blend to create full-spectrum extracts. This method allows for the profile of an extract to be tweaked.

In this type of extraction, hydrocarbon gas is cooled and liquefied before being passed over raw plant matter. The desirable compounds from the plant are dissolved and the resulting solution is refined using various techniques, such as winterization and dewaxing. Both of these processes use additional solvents and low temperatures to remove wax and lipids from the final product.

Full-spectrum extracts can be finicky, so the process parameters must be exact. Small changes in solvent composition and temperature can result in a different product. For example, a small increase in temperature might volatilize certain terpenes, changing the flavor profile of the extract.

Supercritical CO2 extraction

In supercritical CO2 extraction, temperature and pressure are used to create phase changes in CO2. It goes from being a gas to displaying properties of both a gas and a liquid. It has a gas-like viscosity and low surface tension, so it more easily penetrates porous solids than a liquid does. This results in a substance that forces out compounds of plant matter based on their weights.

By adjusting the temperature and pressure, you can “tune” the CO2 to create a very precise environment whereby the supercritical fluid will only extract the most desirable components. While CO2 extraction involves complex pieces of equipment, it requires little or no post-processing, unlike other extraction methods.

Pressure

The idea behind full-spectrum extracts is that unwanted components are removed. For example, some plant lipids can lead to poor flavor or a harsh vapor. That said, certain concentrates containing these lipids, such as rosin, are sometimes considered full-spectrum. Rosin is made by squeezing resin from the starting material (such as dry sift) using heat and pressure, often with a special rosin press.

The main benefit here is that processing doesn’t require the use of a solvent and it is relatively safe. However, because heat is involved, there is a concern that some of the desirable components of the plant, such as terpenes, are lost in the process.

There is little regulation to determine what constitutes a full-spectrum extract, and some products are labeled as such even when they don’t meet the general definition. The only real way to tell is to examine the lab test results for the extract.

Here are some product names to look out for when selecting a full-spectrum extract.

Live resin

Live resin is produced using fresh (sometimes frozen) cannabis plants instead of dried plant material. Not all live resins are full-spectrum extracts, and their composition will depend on how they are processed.

If it’s extracted using one of the above methods, then you could obtain a full-spectrum extract. But, for example, if you use a process that involves heat, you’ll lose certain compounds from the plant profile, such as terpenes.

High terpene full-spectrum extract (HTFSE)

The extraction process for this product is designed to yield a high level of terpenes, sometimes up to 40%. It is viscous and clear with a consistency similar to honey. Some HTFSEs are labeled as “sauce” or “terp sauce,” names that indicate the high terpene content. However, not all sauce is full-spectrum.

High cannabinoid full-spectrum extract (HCFSE)

For HCFSE, processes are tweaked so that the final product has a high cannabinoid concentration. The result is a crystalline structure, similar to sugar or diamonds. Although HTFSE and HCFSE can be produced from the same plant, they are both considered full-spectrum extracts since they still contain the full roster of desirable compounds present in the raw material, albeit at different levels.

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