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The Rosin Factor

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The latest revolution in cannabis started with a flat iron.

Making “rosin,” the latest craze in concentrates, is incredibly simple: apply low heat and extreme pressure to flowers or hash, harvest the golden goodness that’s been literally squeezed out, and proceed to dab.

Not exactly the Hyperloop of marijuana.

Still, there’s an undeniable buzz building around rosin. People without ready access to dabbable extracts are enticed by the promise of quality product with little or no associated equipment cost. And with no explosive chemicals in the mix, the biggest safety risk at play is a nasty burn — no explosions, and less of a risk of being labeled a “meth lab” by authorities.

A quick web search for “rosin tech” turns up dozens of instructional videos and articles outlining simple DIY approaches to extracting rosin. These are sometimes coupled with hyperbolic pronouncements of “the death of butane hash oil” from the most zealous proponents of the method.

The DIY scene being what it is, the quality and quantity of what amateurs are able to produce ranges wildly, just like it does with home-blasted BHO. But when it comes to potency and flavor, top-shelf rosin packs just as hard of a punch as any solvent-based product on the market.

And the market has begun to take notice.

Timothy Anderson, purchasing manager for Harborside Health Center, said rosin has been on his radar for a while now, but that demand only spiked in the last year.

“We went from a few token rosins to at least 20-plus varieties of remarkable rosin in stock,” he said. “Rosin may lack some of the flash or pizzazz of a BHO shatter or wax when it comes to certain aesthetic qualities, like color, but where it counts, the quality is there now.”

Anderson’s job has him looking at hundreds of samples from prospective vendors each day. So what was it about rosin — BHO’s shy, unassuming little brother — that captured his attention?

“The strength had been there for a while, but the thing that really eliminated all skepticism about the quality was my palate,” he said. “I took a hit of this Sour D rosin, and my mouth just felt like was stuffed full of Sour D buds.”

Looking to put my own skepticism to rest, I arranged a meeting with the mastermind behind High Noon Extracts.

Evan X., 27, is standing in front of a green park bench facing Lake Merritt in Oakland. He’s wearing large, black sunglasses and stands most of the interview, but his vibe is perfectly casual, like we’re meeting up to discuss postage stamps or salt water aquariums.

He fires up a chunky blunt of OG right as I walk up and greets me with a strong but polite handshake. He’s from Georgia and exudes the southern charm and social graces one might expect, but with the unmistakable hard edge of a man who’s broken bulls, boxed for a prize purse, and worked as a welder much of his life.

“When it comes to production methods, I do everything, man. That’s what I pride myself on,” he says, adding with a bit of aw-shucks modesty, “I don’t want to be like, you know … but I want to be known as the best.”

“I’m in [famed hash-maker] Frenchy Cannoli’s head stash. That means something to me.”

Evan, who’s been making hash for more than a decade, said he’s known about rosin for years, but only really saw an uptick in mainstream awareness in the last six months or so.

When I ask him about the potency of rosin versus BHO or shatter, he pulls out a stack of papers. The first three are printouts of test results for three High Noon products: a rosin and two BHO waxes.

The fourth is a sheet of parchment paper with a translucent amber-gold disc the size of a coffee can lid stuck to it. Evan peels the pancake of rosin from the paper and holds it up to the sunlight, offering me a dazzling glimpse of the clarity.

The first three pages shed some light on my question. The Cherry Cheesecake rosin clocks in at 86.2 percent THC, beating both BHO samples (66.1 percent and 71.5 percent respectively) by a sizable margin.

But it’s the fourth page that proves the most illuminating.

There’s a hashy hint of the rosin’s previous life as bubble, but the predominant flavor notes reach further back to its primordial origin: kush flowers.

The thundering impact is glaringly apparent well before I exhale. The onset borders on overwhelming, giving way to a crushing wave of relaxation and euphoria.

Looking out at the glittering sun-dappled ripples of Lake Merritt, I feel the incomparable buzz of being completely blazed in the warm embrace of the Golden State.

But to fully understand the current rosin craze, we need to get our heads out of California, where obtaining quality product for dabbing is as easy as picking up a phone.

Doug F., 36, is a cannabis user living in Nebraska who spoke with SF Evergreen on condition of anonymity. He’s been using cannabis for more than 20 years and says it helps with his migraine headaches.

While visiting with family in Denver, Doug took his first dab hit, which he said provided pain relief he’d never experienced before.

“Weed always helped with the headaches, but [dabs] just made it vanish,” he said.

But when he returned to Nebraska, where simple possession of a cannabis concentrate is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, he found it more or less impossible to find dabbable extracts.

“At first, I was asking the people I buy bud from, but after being told no enough times, I just stopped,” he said with a whiff of resignation. “Then I discovered rosin, and it changed everything. Now, I make shit just as good as anything I tried in Denver.”

Like anything else inventive cannabis enthusiasts start playing around with, rosin technology has evolved far beyond its humble domestic roots.

My own attempt at making flower rosin involved parchment paper, a ceramic hair flattening iron, half an eighth of top shelf bud and a lot of frustration. So on the last day of Hempcon, I decide to call in a professional.

During the first day of Hempcon SF, I meet BJ Extracts founder Big Joe. He’s sitting in front of a specialized pneumatic press, fitted with heating plates and a digital temperature regulator. I tell him I need to make some flower rosin and ask if he’ll press out a few odds and ends from my personal stash to that end.

Joe’s happy to help and even kicks in a free gram to round out the source material to what he deems a “fat eighth” before juicing it with his machine.

Moments later I’m marveling at the results: roughly half a gram of what looks like dark honey smeared on two pieces of parchment paper, which Joe packs into a pair of custom BJ Extracts envelopes.

Like Anderson, my taste buds have the last word on the matter. As I sample the rosin Joe pressed for me, a raging flood of unmistakable floral flavors washes away all lingering doubts I have about the remarkable potential of rosin.

Photo by Greg Zeman