Among the nearly 850,000 medical marijuana cardholders currently in Florida, vaporizing oil is becoming an increasingly popular method of conveniently consuming cannabis. In my time as a patient, I've sampled nearly every style of THC vape cartridge offered on the local legal market, from cheap and potent distillate flavored with botanical extracts — aka the weed equivalent of Everclear and Kool-Aid — to solventless liquid live rosin, which I consider closer to a top-shelf single malt Scotch.
Although I usually prefer concentrates that preserve the full spectrum of the plant's original properties, a shiny new product available locally from Curaleaf has recently upended my personal rankings and added a glittering new entry to my ganja lexicon: liquid diamonds.
I've given props in the past to Curaleaf, which is currently the fourth-largest player in Florida's medical cannabis market, for their socially conscious B. Noble flower pre-rolls, but my previous opinion of their vape carts had been decidedly mixed. That shifted recently after I sampled Curaleaf's liquid diamonds — a crystal-clear fluid of isolated THC-A and hemp-derived terpenes — and spoke with Jessie Kater, Curaleaf's Senior Vice President of Innovation, to learn about this high-end addition to their Select line.
Although the headshot on Kater's corporate biography suggests he's barely old enough to rent a car, he's actually been involved in the cannabis industry for nearly a decade and a half. An analytical chemist by training, Kater was working in biotechnology sales as California's legal marijuana market was emerging and "realized we had a large line of supercritical CO2 extraction [and] testing technology," he recalls. "At that time, there weren't a lot of chemists and engineers working in cannabis." So he co-founded the West Coast's first contracted marijuana research facility.
After selling his consulting company, Kater joined Curaleaf six years ago to oversee their research "from technology [and] product formats to the consumer safety testing and quality work that goes on behind the scenes, to make sure that the products we put to market are safe and consistent and deliver on what they should deliver." With a staff of more than 20 multidisciplinary scientists and engineers, Curaleaf has developed over 100 cannabis products, a number of which Kater says include a lot of "breakthrough innovations."
To understand what makes liquid diamonds different from other cannabis concentrates, you need to know a little bit of chemistry. "THC-A is the naturally occurring form of THC that is produced by the plant," Kater explains. "The 'A' means it's in the acidic form — the THC has a carboxylic acid on the end, which makes it acidic."
THC-A itself does not get you high; it must be decarboxylated through heating to become psychoactive, so Curaleaf extracts the highly purified THC-A (which Kater describes as "like a white crystalline powder") and warms it into a crystal-clear oil. While Curaleaf wasn't the first company to create liquid diamonds, they make theirs through a unique water-based process called "aqueous cannabis extraction," instead of using harsh hydrocarbon solvents.
The result is an exceptionally clean, smooth vapor that's noticeably nicer to your lungs than ordinary vapes. When using traditional CO2 or ethanol extraction methods, says Kater, "You're extracting the cannabinoids, but you're also extracting a lot of fats and waxes and lipids that are native to the plant, [so] your finished product has on average 10 to 20% plant byproduct in it."
In contrast, a liquid diamonds cart contains just cannabinoids and terpenes, so not only is the potency noticeably high [up to 92% THC], but incredibly smooth. Kater says, "As someone who's been consuming personally for 30 years, I vape a lot less these days [because] as I get older I cough a lot, my throat gets irritated. It's almost shocking when you take a big hit [of liquid diamonds] and you exhale, how smooth it is."
For those of us who joined Florida's medical cannabis program back when concentrate options were limited to a handful of extraction methods, Curaleaf's introduction of liquid diamonds marks another welcome step in the maturation of our marijuana market.
"I've for better or worse got a Ph.D. education in state-by-state regulations, and of course it's ever-evolving," says Kater, only half-joking. "Our goal is to come up with breakthrough innovations that apply universally, but there's always state-specific regulations that need to be taken into account, [and] Florida is a good example of a state that has unique [and] different regulations than many other states." Kater says Curaleaf has "evolved with it, but there are still categories and products that are unique to Florida," and my alveoli are happy that liquid diamonds are now among them.
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