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What is Shatter?

A form of cannabis extract, shatter is a hard, translucent concentrate similar in texture and appearance to glass.

One of the most beautiful and photogenic types of cannabis products on the market right now is shatter. Highly sought after and often Instagramed, shatter burst onto the scene early this decade, giving cannabis consumers a potent new way to vape their favorite strains.

Shatter is a type of cannabis concentrate, created by extracting the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. The term shatter specifically refers to a specific texture of translucent cannabis concentrate that breaks and shatters like glass.

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What Are Cannabis Concentrates?

Cannabis concentrates are created by passing a solvent, such as butane, hexane, isopropyl, or CO2, through cured or fresh cannabis material that has been thoroughly ground. This produces a thick amber-colored cannabis oil full of the plant’s active chemical compounds.

Next, the solvent is purged from the oil using heat and vacuum. The resulting cannabis concentrate is then processed into one of a number of potential forms, including wax, crumble, honeycomb, sap, budder, live resin, and of course, shatter.

These concentrates are then vaporized or “dabbed” by consumers from a vape pen or specially equipped water pipe called a dab rig. With a potency ranging between 50-90 percent cannabinoids by weight, cannabis extracts like shatter are a fast, efficient, smoke-free way to consume cannabis.

You can find more about dabbing, including our How To video, here.

dabbing weed

What Makes Shatter Different?

For most practical purposes, there is little difference between shatter and other forms of cannabis extract. They are consumed in the same ways and largely have the same potency range. Most differences between concentrate types then are cosmetic.

Shatter is an amber or gold color and is transparent to some degree. The reason shatter is semi-clear has to do with the molecules in the extracted cannabis oil. In shatter, they’re all stacked nice and neat in straight rows, one on top of the other. This molecular alignment allows light to pass through the extract and gives the shatter it’s glass-like properties.

Heat, moisture, and high terpene content can affect the texture an extraction, which may turn extracted oils into a runnier substance that resembles sap but retaining its translucent appearance.

Concentrates other than shatter and sap are whipped, stirred, or shaken at various times during the process, agitating the individual molecules in the mixture. Shatter is not agitated which accounts for its translucency.

However, once the molecules in the cannabis oil are disrupted, usually by whipping, stirring, or shaking the oil during processing, they form irregular structures that are more opaque and let less light through. This is when you get wax or similar cannabis concentrates, instead of clear shatter-like concentrates.

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Benefits of Dabbing Shatter

A main benefit of dabbing is that it offers an incredibly fast method for cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream, offering near instantaneous effects. Due to the potency of cannabis concentrates, users are also able to take on a “less is more” approach in using their cannabis. Dabbing means you no longer need to inhale large amounts of burning plant material to get the effects you want. That is a good thing. Rather than smoking entire joints and exposing your lungs to harmful chemicals in the smoke, consumers can dab once or twice to get their cannabinoids, inhaling only vapor – not smoke.

Shatter is also more stable due to its molecular structure, so it will last longer before degrading compared to wax and other similar extracts. However, some users find the hard consistency difficult to break up and measure out into individual uses.

Check with your local marijuana dispensary for their selection of shatters and other cannabis extracts. You can learn more about cannabis extracts, dabbing, and more on our Cannabis 101 page.

Post by Jeffrey Stamberger

Jeffrey writes media content covering the latest in news, medical research, policy changes, and product education from the cannabis industry.
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