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Mythbusting: Sugar’s not (always) for cooking

When you hear “sugar” in the context of cannabis, do you automatically think of an ingredient to bake sweet treats or stir into your morning coffee? You’re far from alone if you do. But if you head to the dispensary to look for a five-pound bag of infused sugar, also called “canna-sugar,” you may not find what you’re looking for.

“Sugar” refers to two types of products — a tiny jar of crumbly, waxy-looking concentrate nicknamed sugar, and canna-sugar that can be added to your food. These two products share a name, and that’s about it. Read on to learn about how each one is used.

Sugar concentrate is inhaled

When you see sugar listed on a dispensary menu, this is most likely referring to the concentrate “sugar.” Also called “sugar wax,” this concentrated cannabis product has the appearance of wet sugar — hence its sweet name. It’s consumed by using an electronic dabbing device like the Puffco Peak, a dual vaporizer with a concentrate insert like the PAX 3, or with a glass or silicone dab rig. 

Sugar is one of many variants of the same kind of potent cannabis extract, just with a different final appearance. In the case of sugar wax, this concentrate starts out by using a solvent like butane to extract the phytocannabinoid and terpene content from the cultivar of origin. This extract is then agitated until it achieves its eponymous wet sugar-like appearance.

You’ll find sugar in two forms: sugar and “live sugar.” Sugar refers to any of this concentrate type extracted from flower that’s traditionally dried and cured. Live sugar extracts phytocannabinoid and terpene content from flower that’s been flash frozen. The flash frozen process is believed to better preserve and stabilize phytocannabinoids and terpenes.

Canna-sugar is ingested

Certainly, infused cookies and brownies involve some amount of sugar to make them sweet. Typically, though, edibles are made with infused butter, coconut oil, or a similar high-fat ingredient. That’s because phytocannabinoids are fat-soluble, and these foods offer plenty of fat to successfully carry the phytocannabinoid content.

That being said, canna-sugar is an edible that can be added to your food or beverages. Cannabis chefs create canna-sugar for stirring into coffee or tea, to sprinkle on a bowl of oatmeal, to make THC infused mocktails, and endless other creative possibilities.

Cannab-sugar is not a common item in most dispensaries, but it can be made at home with flower you purchase from the dispensary. To make sugar at home, start off by decarboxylating your cannabis in a low-temperature oven. Then, soak that flower in high-proof alcohol to extract the phytocannabinoid content. This extract is then mixed with sugar and placed back in the oven to dry out.

How to tell which sugar is which

There are two ways to tell if the product in question is sugar concentrate for inhaling or canna-sugar for eating. First is the package size: Sugar concentrate comes in a tiny container just like other types of concentrate like wax and shatter, while canna-sugar for eating will come in a larger bag, jar, or similar package type. The second is how it’s categorized on the menu: Sugar will be categorized under concentrates or under edibles, depending on the type of sugar it is.

Which “sugar” is right for you?

Canna-sugar and sugar concentrate are two very different products, and the one that’s right for you depends on the experience you want to have. Here are a few things to take into consideration while weighing your options:

  • Sugar concentrate is a good option if you have heightened tolerance for THC, as concentrates are much more potent by volume than other inhaled cannabis products. You also may opt for sugar concentrate if you want to experience fast relief; you can expect near-instant onset and an experience that lasts for approximately 2 to 3 hours.
  • Canna-sugar takes longer to have an effect on you than the similarly-named concentrate. Edibles make their way through your digestive system before entering your bloodstream, a process that takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. You’ll feel the effects of edibles longer than you will with inhalation. This edible is also a great alternative if you don’t want to inhale cannabis.

One a highly-potent inhaled product and the other an edible added to foods and drinks, sugar concentrate and canna-sugar share a name and not much else. Just be sure to double-check the product itself — and know your intentions — before heading to check out at the dispensary. And if you have any questions about the product you want to bring home, an Ethos associate or pharmacist is happy to help.

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