On July 1, 2016, Washington state officially closed hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries. What was once a more affordable, independent market for sincere medical consumers, became a recreational sub-market overnight, subject to recreational pricing and inventory. This transition understandably caused turmoil within the state’s medical cannabis community, which now must renew the struggle to get medical patients easy access to reasonably priced treatments.
One small positive for the larger cannabis community may be that there will now be broader education about medical cannabis. Recreational users will be more exposed to medical products and advancements. Likewise, sellers and producers should be more prepared to discuss the medical advantages and efficacy of their products. Knowledge is power, friends, and this power can open new frontiers.
During Washington’s transition, one cannabis product has seen notable crossover appeal on the heels of better production methods. RSO oil was heralded as a cancer cure and championed by marijuana and cancer activist Rick Simpson so it had an established medical following. But the alcohol-extracted cannabis oil didn’t find wider appeal until Washington’s medical demand forced recreational stores to put it on the shelves.
As RSO gained retail visibility, crossover demand grew quickly as consumers learned about RSO’s fuller spectrum of active cannabis compounds, promising more holistic therapeutic effects and a better overall experience. At the same time, as Northwest consumers discovered these synergistic benefits, a breakthrough in RSO’s alcohol extraction process, not to be confused with alcohol distillation, produced the first RSO oil that could be vaped and dabbed as well as ingested. The new RSO resembled other cannabis oils and was suddenly available in more recognizable forms inspiring organic demand.
RSO is the most complete cannabis oil in terms of delivering a chemical structure that is most similar to the natural cannabis plant. Ethanol (or grain) alcohol extraction draws the most active compounds from cannabis plant matter, including a broader scope of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids which work together for a more pleasant experience. Ethanol, which is safe for human consumption, is both a polar and non-polar extracting solvent, so it preserves a more complete spectrum of compounds than other common solvents. CO2 or butane, by comparison, are solely non-polar and only draw select compounds to their polarity. Even alcohol distillation, in which plant compounds are extracted and then separated or fractioned, can only provide select parts of what the plant has to offer. The bottom line is that ethanol-extracted RSO contains more compounds than any other oil.
Not all RSO is created equal though. RSO was long known as being a black, bad tasting, and un-smokable product. It was basically reserved for severe medical cases, patients who tolerated the aesthetic drawbacks because of RSO’s effectiveness. Because smoking was not an option, oral ingestion was the easiest method for consumption and people learned to tolerate or hide the taste in creative ways. The next generation of RSO oil promises a better experience and more convenient consumption methods for both medical and recreational consumers.
Why is RSO so medically effective?
You may have heard about “Whole Plant Medicine” or “The Entourage Effect.” These theories promote the use of all (or more of) the therapeutic compounds in cannabis, as opposed to chasing singular benefits like THC or CBD levels. The thought is that by focusing on individual elements, we miss out on the plant’s other notable qualities and, more importantly, the group effect of different compounds that makes cannabis such a miracle plant.
With the current lack of thorough scientific data, it’s not hard to believe that there is a world of undiscovered or overlooked properties in cannabis. In fact, there is a burgeoning scientific movement aimed at studying and understanding the vast array of terpenes, cannabinoids, even flavonoids in cannabis and how they react together and individually with the human body.
People acknowledge varying experiences from different cannabis strains, but we have yet to reach a scientific research-based consensus on how the complex elements of cannabis affect us in combination.
As High Times cultivation editor-at-large Nico Escondido described recently in the Letters section (HT, September 2016), “Independent research being conducted at universities and government agencies around the world is now providing us with evidence that the “entourage effect” is more fact than myth, meaning that THC (or even CBD) is no longer considered the key factor in how cannabis flowers effect users. Additionally, scientific research has discovered that a person’s individual chemotype is also a major factor… There’s a reason we call cannabis the ‘miracle plant’— because taken as a whole, she’s simply miraculous! But broken down into her individual components, she’s just like the rest of us— not the best that she could be.”
If you would like to read more about “The Entourage Effect” and potential cannabinoid synergy, we recommend Ethan Russo’s scientific paper “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects,” which was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.
So, will RSO oil take off in the larger cannabis market? At this time the only known version of this new complete oil is RSO+GO produced using Essential Innovations extractors. Essential Innovations, a Seattle company, claims that their cutting-edge system produces “an absolute clean and pure oil, extracted in a closed system that eliminates contaminates from the outside world while maintaining all of the precious unaltered compounds. It is virtually unrecognizable from the primitive, dirty RSO that people used to know.” This product appears to live up to this description and the company has made it their mission to spread the word about the potential of RSO oil for both established medical benefits and a more enjoyable recreational experience.
“Our RSO oil still maintains all of the compounds of the well-known medical RSO,” says Essential Innovations co-founder Casey Steele, “but we’ve taken it to a new level by treating it the same as any other product you would allow in your body. Free of contaminants from the outside world. We don’t think dirt and other human contamination that occurs during the growing process and material prep should enter into the concentrated oil you ingest. For the first time smokers can experience and enjoy the true flavor of the cannabis flower and its effects in the purest form as nature intended. Our bodies absorb differently through oral ingestion versus smoking, therefore creating a different experience.”
It’s been awhile since cannabis enthusiasts have seen a groundbreaking advancement that produces a truly superior new product. RSO’s growing popularity with recreational users in Washington state should provide an adequate test-group from which to draw strong opinions and analysis. Let the RSO discussion begin.