Top Shelf: Understanding the Evolution of Cannabis Products


Category: Science and Technology

The sheer number of cannabis products available on the market these days is nothing short of impressive. For the better part of the 10,000 years that the plant and its derivatives have been consumed by humans for therapeutic reasons, the product offering – flowers and basic concentrates – has remained virtually static. In the last 20 years, however, there have been innovations and advancements of every shape and type, translating to one of the most creative and robust consumer markets on the planet.

As categories under the cannabis banner continue to grow by the year, there is a somewhat specific set of products, which consumers tend to gravitate to. These span from the traditional, including traditional flowers, solvent-less concentrates and edibles, and the contemporary: solvent-based extracts, topicals and edible oils. More advanced, still, are the products like oral sprays and sublinguals that have been patented since the legalization of adult-use cannabis.

Traditional Products:

Despite how far cannabis has travelled from its humble and misunderstood roots, the plant continues to be frequently consumed in traditional form. In one sense, this means smoking or vaping raw flowers from female cannabis plants. While many people perceive smoking cannabis as an unbridled recreational pastime, the fact is many patients still medicate in this fashion, for both its simplicity and efficacy.

Produced in India for thousands of years, solvent-less rub hash is another popular traditional product. The oldest form of cannabis concentrate, known in the Himalayas as charas, rub hash involves collecting the resinous trichomes from cannabis flowers by rubbing them on the hands and fingers. The residue, hashish, can also be made using a few other solvent-less extraction methods like bubble hash, which continues to find resonance with consumers.1

Edibles and cannabis-infused food and drink are consumed nearly as often as flowers by both recreational consumers and medical patients. In Colorado alone in 2014, 1.96 million units of edibles and 2.85 million units of cannabis-infused products were sold, accounting for roughly 45 percent of all sales in the state that year. In other words, as extraction techniques have become more advanced, so too have edibles been made easier to conceive and consume.2

Contemporary Products:

Easily the fastest growing category of cannabis product, solvent-based concentrates, like shatterand distillate, are produced using sophisticated technology that allows terpenes and cannabinoids to be extracted in a variety of forms. These products, which include oils that can be placed in popular pre-loaded vape cartridges, are high in THC and CBD, and are both efficient and tasty, because of the remaining terpenes.3

Topicals are a relatively new entrant to the space and one of the most promising products to come along in a many years. In addition to being incredibly versatile in terms of treating everything from chronic to acute ailments, topical cannabis products are unobtrusive and unassuming. For these reasons, they provide a unique entry point for many medical patients, who wouldn’t dare smoke or vape flowers.4

Another product that is quickly gaining in popularity for a number of reasons – particularly because it can easily be microdosed throughout the day – edible oils can be ingested whole or taken in soft and hard capsules. CBD oil can be taken in this form, making is it a very popular option among medical cannabis patients and recreational consumers looking for help with a variety of issues from insomnia to recovery from workouts.

Advanced Products:

Some of the most advanced cannabis products introduced in recent years are oral sprays and sublinguals. While tinctures have long been used for therapeutic purposes, new-age sublingual products make dosing and medicating with the exact volume every time an easy prospect. In addition to taking the guesswork out of dosing, these products are also discreet, efficient and come in a variety of concentrations. For these reasons, oral sprays and sublingual oils are one ofthe most significant innovations to greet the cannabis space in recent years.5


  1. Exploring charas.
  2. Tasty THC: Promises and challenges of cannabis edibles.
  3. What are cannabis concentrates: A guide to extraction techniques.
  4. Why topical CBD is a promising option for arthritis, inflammation & joint pain.
  5. Direct sublingual THC dosing – the new frontier of cannabis administration.







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