Can hash gummies really give you a heavenly, holistic high?

Photo: PLUS
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I swore off edibles almost as soon as I first tried them five or so years ago. Like many cannabis newbies, I bit off way, way more than I could handle, sending myself spiraling into a pit of panic. A tentative nibble of a hash-infused Kiva espresso dark chocolate bar a few months later turned me back onto the edibles I’d once feared. My restraint and the high concentration of supposedly chill-inducing cannabidiol, or CBD, probably had something to do it. But I wonder if the hash it's infused with did, too. The company partly credits its "pure cold water hash" with imparting a “richer, fuller cannabis experience that captures the essence of the whole plant .”

Other brands, like Papa & Barkley and Space Gem, have also released hash-infused edibles, specifically gummies. PLUS and Biscotti have collaborated on a limited-edition hash gummy that promises a “a heavenly, holistic high.”

I’m intrigued by claims about the distinct effects of hash, but as a health journo familiar with the marketing hype that permeates the weed world, I’m a little skeptical. Still, it’s hard not to appreciate that edibles made with hash seem to be having a moment. “You’re definitely seeing more hash-infused products make their way out of the hash aisle, where they typically live around flower and other inhalable products, and you’re starting to see more and more of them in edibles, i.e., gummies,” says Tara Soltow, VP of marketing at PLUS. “You’ll also see them sometimes in chocolates and things of that sort.”

While I’ve been hearing more about hash, there’s still a lot I don’t know about it — so I turned to cannabis experts, who walked me through what hash is, how it makes you feel, and why people are so into hash edibles these days.

What is hash, exactly?

Let’s start with what you’re probably more familiar with: weed. “When you buy weed, you’re buying the flower,” a.k.a., the bud or nug, explains Lewis Nelson, chair of the department of emergency medicine and chief of the division of medical toxicology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. At the tips of these flowers are “these tiny globules called trichomes, and the trichomes are actually what contain the highest concentration of THC,” short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound in weed that gets you buzzed.

Trichomes give pre-harvested bud that alluring sugarcoated appearance — and they’re extremely fragile, “almost like glass balls at the tips of these flowers,” Nelson explains. They've usually broken off by the time the weed reaches you. That’s why cannabis purveyors gently remove them from the plant right after they harvest it.

They usually freeze the plant material to stabilize the trichomes, Nelson notes, then sift them out. “You collect the little globules, and you press them together into what we would call hash,” he says. It often comes in bricks or slabs, and has a marshmallow consistency. This process is known as the ice water hash technique. Other extraction methods use solvents like butane.

The practice of smoking hash — or hashish (Arabic for “grass”) — dates back millennia, per Weedmaps, and can be traced to Persia and Central Asia. Consuming it in edibles, though, is a more recent development.

Edibles are typically made with distillate, a thin, oily extract that consists only of a ratio of at least two cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, as PLUS explained in a blog post. A distillate can undergo further refining to yield a powdery isolate, which — you guessed it— contains only one type of cannabinoid.

Every company does it differently, but Soltow says PLUS and Biscotti use the ice water hash technique. Unlike distillate, the resulting hash contains all the cannabinoids, as well as aromatic compounds known as terpenes, in the plant. Extracting it in this way doesn’t involve adding any heat or chemicals.

“Because you are using more of the plant matter, it does to tend to have more of a weed-like taste,” Soltow says. But based on budtender research PLUS conducted before launching their hash gummy, “there’s actually a lot of heart for being able to taste the plant because it validates that yes, I’m actually getting more of this magical plant.” For me, a major selling point of Kiva bars is their earthy flavor, which pairs perfectly with chocolate.

Why are people so into hash edibles?

Nelson thinks our hankering for hash is consistent with a larger trend of people wanting higher and higher doses of THC. Weed in 2021 isn't your parents' weed — it's been cultivated to be much more potent.

Soltow says the craving for hash edibles falls in line with a growing interest in what exactly is in our food, household products, and other consumer-packaged goods. She cites one survey of PLUS consumers in which 80% said they cared about what inputs — like distillate or hash — were in their cannabis products. Half of these respondents, in turn, preferred whole-plant options, like hash.

How can hash enhance my experience of an edible?

With the caveat that everyone experiences cannabis differently, Soltow says hash blends the best of edibles and inhalables — the body high of the former with the head high of the latter. Based on her experience, “you feel relaxed, but you don’t necessarily feel heavy, and I’ve also enjoyed a lot of the euphoric kind of head high that you actually feel from smoking.”

Soltow and PLUS Chief Science Officer Ari Mackler credit this balanced experience to what’s known as the entourage effect, the theory that cannabinoids and terpenes work in harmony to create a person’s experience of the plant. Remember that hash has all of these compounds, while distillates tend to contain only cannabinoids.

“It is this kind of cocktail of chemicals, the THCs, the CBDs of the world, plus these different types of terpenes that kind of come together that give you the flavor, the feel, the effect in totality,” Mackler says.

But Nelson has a less rosy view. “There’s nothing magical” about hash, he tells me. “It’s the same THC…. It’s just higher concentration.” Whether you add it to edibles or a joint, for the most part, “you don’t know it’s there,” he says.

Because hash has a high concentration of THC, though, remember that a little goes a long way. “It’s easy to overdose,” Nelson says, especially if you consume it in the form of edibles, whose effects tend to sneak up on you, whereas those of smoking usually hit right away. Mackler notes, however, that PLUS normalizes its hash gummies to each contain 10 milligrams of THC, making it easier to keep track of your dosage. Other brands do the same, so this precaution might apply more to making your own edibles or rolling your own joints.

While it’s “very uncommon” to die from too much THC, it can cause scary physiological effects, like vomiting, extreme dizziness, and low blood pressure, Nelson says. And as with any cannabis product, you need to be vigilant about keeping hash-containing products out of the reach of kiddos, especially if they look like candy or other sweets.

Regardless of whether hash edibles make you feel any different from regular edibles, they’re worth trying if you want to change up your cannabis consumption. For what it’s worth, noshing on a Kiva bar is still my fav way to imbibe.