]One Woman’s Work in the Use of Hashish in a Medical Context
There are definite benefits to using hashish rather than marijuana, especially in a medical context. If one looks at a marijuana flower under a microscope (20X) the bulk of what you see is the plant material with several thin pedestals on the surface. Atop of each pedestal is a tiny clear resin gland. This resin gland is the part of the flower that contains approximately 90% of the active canabaloid ingredients1 THC, CBD, CBN, etc. To concentrate these tiny resin glands into what is traditionally called hashish is a logical step when looking for a medically sound way to use marijuana. The levels of chemical potency will be higher, levels of active ingredients will be consistent throughout all of the collected material, therefore making it easier to distribute accurately in concise dosages.
Hashish was traditionally made in many eastern countries and I was lucky enough to be in Morocco in 1965, in Turkey, Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan, India and Nepal in 1968-69. In all these areas the techniques for making hash were different and we used to make our own, either sifting or hand rubbing the buds. There were government hashish shops and temples where you smoked the normal goolies (balls) of hand rubbed hash with the baba’s and saddhus (holy men, wondering ascetics on life long pilgrimages, smoking hashish, devoting their lives to Shiva – the Hindu God of destruction of ignorance). Here hashish is a holy sacrament. There are rituals, mantras, mudras, meditations and visualisations connected with the smoking of a chillum. Hashish is an age-old medicine, which is also used by many cultures as a means of social and spiritual development.
Eventually I settled in Northern India with my four children for a number of years. Coming to live in Amsterdam in 1988 I found that most cannabis users smoked marijuana and there was very little good hashish available, so we set about trying to make some of our own. We would store all the dried leaf material until the coldest nights in winter, the extreme cold being ideal for extracting the resin glands, making them easier to work with. The leaf material would then be gently tossed over a silk screen to knock off the resin glands where they would be collected on a smooth surface beneath. This process, taken from the method as done in Afghanistan for thousands of years, was time consuming and laborious. It took until 1993, when inspired by my clothes drier, I invented the Pollinator machine.
The Pollinator® machine is a dry method of resin gland separation. It contains a removable drum which can be opened for leaf material to be inserted. Inside the rim of the drum are several horizontal rods which further aid the tumbling of the leaf martial. The drum is then closed and placed back inside the Pollinator® where it is turned by an electric motor. Low temperature and low humidity are crucial when using the Pollinator machine as both these two factors will greatly increase the yield and the quality of the collected product. Quality of any hashish or other cannabis based product is primarily genetically determined. The chemical make up, yield and other such traits are all genetically influenced. Our main concern though is how to extract these resin glands from the plants as cleanly and efficiently as possible. By placing the leaf material in an airtight container, which is then placed in a freezer for two hours, you can get close to the low temperature necessary but the humidity will not be low. We discovered that when the outside temperature was –10C/20F the Pollinator gave the best quality of product in the shortest period of time. Extreme low humidity and the literal freezing of the resin glands give a very clean removal from the brittle pedestal. In an environment with a warmer working temperature there will be a significant decrease in the quality collected in the same time period of time. The loss of quality is a result of a greater level of pedestals and other small piece of plant material being present in the collected material.
The resin glands on the leaf material fall through the precise fine screen around the drum onto the bottom of the Pollinator® container where it can be collected later. The size of screen that we use for the Pollinator is 147mc so as to allow the largest resin glands to fall freely through the screen. The quality of the Hashish is dependant on the length of time the drum is allowed to turn.
A turning of three to five minutes produces top quality hashish (containing only resin glands and not any plant material, dirt or other impurities); longer turning results in a lower quality as the plant material is broken down and falls through the screen, mixing with the separated resin glands. The five minute turning of the Pollinator® produced hashish that traditionally would have taken hours of labour intensive work. This meant that Dutch growers of cannabis were easily able to make a small amount of excellent hashish from material that previously was seen as waste.
The Pollinator® machine was the first ever machine to be designed for the production of hashish. The hashish industry had gone unchanged for thousands of years due to the fact that silk screens used for sieving had not been improved until the creation of modern screens. The first Pollinator machines where sold from home. After a couple of years I opened a shop as there was a clear demand by many growers of marijuana who had earlier marvelled at the first public demonstration of the Pollinator machine by Robert C Clarke at C.I.A Amsterdam, during the 1994 High Times Cannabis Cup. This gave us more time and space to work on the development of methods to improve the making of pure hashish as previously all the testing was done around the kitchen table. It was in this shop where I made my second breakthrough – the creation of the “Ice-O-Lator”, a water and ice method of making hashish.
In 1997 we were practicing at home with jugs of water, but nothing came out of it really. The big water revelation didn’t come till the Extractor came into our lives. Designed in the USA, manufactured in Yugoslavia they broke down a lot. Each one we sold broke down within 8 months. They were very heavy and expensive. So for 9 months I stared at this machine and thought, and thought. All over the world people could by buckets and mixing machines. And so, in the summer of 98 I sewed up my first Ice-O-Lator bags.
This method of extracting the resin glands from the leaf material involved the use of water and ice. Leaf material is placed in cold water (4°C-38F) where it is agitated causing the resin glands to be knocked from the plant material. Temperature is again of great importance. As the pieces of leaf material slide along side each other in the cold water the hardened resin glands are dislodged more cleanly. Gravity then plays its part as the oil filled resin glands sink and the plant material is left floating on the surface. With the aid of two precise screens (one for the leaf material and the other for the resin) the desirable mature glands and the leaf material are separated. One factor which can influence the resin glands are ideal growing conditions. Resin glands from plants grown indoors are slightly larger than those grown outdoors as the plants have a lot of light, nutrients and water. For growers of outdoor marijuana (or older marijuana where the resin glands have shrivelled as they have dry out) I advise an 187mc screen as a top screen. This will allow the resin glands to pass through the screen while containing the rest of plant material. A pore sized screen of 62mc as a lower screen will trap the extracted resin glands. For growers of indoor plants with larger sized glands I recommend a top screen of 210mc and a 77mc screen for the lower bag.
The Ice-O-Lator process is very simple, quick and efficient. To do this simple process firstly hang both Ice-O-Lator bags (making sure the bag with the larger pore sized screen is on the top of the fine screened bag) in a bucket and then add the plant material, ice blocks and enough cold water to 3/4 fill the bucket. A temperature of between 2-4C/34-38F is set before starting to agitate the plant material and ice which is floating in the water. After twenty minutes of agitation the water is left to settle for twenty minutes. In this period the resin glands will sink and any plant material will rise to the surface. The top bag can then be gently raised out of the bucket allowing the water and resin glands to drain through. Lifting the lower bag out of the bucket will reveal the collected resin glands once the water has been drained away. The inside of the bag can then be rinsed with water to collect all the resin glands from the top of the screen. The outside of the bag is the wrapped in kitchen paper and pressed to remove some of the water. The resin glands are now dry enough to easily remove them from the Ice-O-Lator bag.
From the bag we place the resin glands into a metal kitchen sieve where it is sieved on to paper below. The resin glands are now ready to be fully dried as moisture can quickly lead to a deteeriation of quality. Once the resin glands are fully dried they can be stored either pressed or left in its granular form.
This has proved to be the most efficient method of separation when taking into consideration factors such as time, purity and quantity. In the Coffee shops of Amsterdam Hashish made by this process is highly sought after, as its potency and purity have become legendry. (All over the world Ice-O-Lator bags have been sold which allow users to separate and collect their own resin glands).
The Dutch Government awarded a research subsidy to the Pollinator ® Company in 2001. This research subsidy was for the sole purpose of investigating resin separation methods for use in Medical Marijuana. As a medical property, Cannabis has been found to aid a wideranging number of symptoms and demand for it in a medical context is growing. This subsidy has enabled Mila to expand her small research area and conduct tests on a daily basis. Some such tests include sonic separation and various wet and dry methods of sieving. Variety of Cannabis strains and growing methods are also factors to take into consideration. Cannabis strains vary considerably. Yields and potency of the resin glands can be greatly different. Indoor Cannabis garden (using high powered light) will produce glands of a slightly larger size to those grown outdoors. All these factors must be taken into consideration when assessing the collection of resin glands. Microscopes, laboratory tests, chromatography and several other methods of examination should always be taken into consideration when assessing the true condition of hashish.
Hashish as a substance is considerably easier to accurately distribute then marijuana. Storage, longevity, and consistency are all extremely important factors for those who would have to administer it in precise quantities. Marijuana has little consistency of active ingredients. As it is just cropped buds of the cannabis plant there is varying amount of stalks, leaves and other plant material that have no beneficial chemical properties. Moreover as the resin glands coat the buds, heavy handling or pruning can knock off the active resin glands, diminishing potency – hashish is pressed and therefore small and easy to store while also being simpler to divide into measurable doses. As many patients using “medical marijuana” would be taking long-term treatments where slight increases or decreases in dosage would be important, this would be considerably more practical.
For a number of years now both my Ice-O-Lator & Pollinator products have been used to create very pure and potent hashish. Recently I have been working on using hemp strains of cannabis, which have very low levels of THC and very high levels of CBD. This product is very useful to laboratories that are involved in the synthesis of CBD into THC2. By using my products, pre-processing of plant material can easily be done ensuring that the laboratories have the best possible plant material to work with as they are using only the resin glands instead of the complete plants. As the work done in the laboratories is very expensive there are huge cost saving benefits in ensuring total efficiency in all aspects of the production. This is of great interest to me as I feel that hashish is a powerful medicine that has helped many people in cultures all over the world for hundreds of years and I am very happy to be somewhat involved in the production of medicines that can help many people. This application of our products is currently being tested.
At the Pollinator Company in spring 2002 there is much activity. After hashish made by our methods took first, a shared second and third place in the Hashish category of the 2001 Annual High Times Cannabis Cup, there has been a steady steam of customers to the shop, all interested in how they can easily make their own hashish. Moving to Nieuwe Herengracht 25, Amsterdam has enabled us to expand our shop space while also allowing the space to set up a dedicated research and development area. There is also room for a seminar area which we hope to open later in the year.
Issues concerning processing methods and medical issues will be discussed and addresses in our ongoing research of medicinal hashish production and its subsequent uses.
J Gould, THC PHARM, FRANKFURT, GERMANY