The Difference Between Flower and Concentrates

Liz Filmer
07 May 2024

Cannabis is now available in many more forms than it used to be. When most people think of cannabis, they imagine its classic dried form for smoking. For a long time, cannabis was not particularly strong either, the average THC concentration of cannabis seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1995 was 4%, and in 2021 this had risen to 15%.

Today however many types of cannabis concentrates including vaporisable oils, dab pens, waxes and even powders can have high levels of THC that range from 40% up to as much as 80% depending on the extraction method.

What Types of Concentrate are There?

Cannabis concentrates are made in a variety of ways that may require the use of dry ice, water or flammable solvents like butane. Concentrates include “budder,”  a yellowish paste-like frosting; “shatter” a thin, brittle and translucent form and “wax” or “crumble,” which is a powdery, grainy substance; as well as “kief,” which is a powdery substance derived from the most pollen of the cannabis plant. Keif can be used to make traditional hashish.

Many concentrates are vaporised and then inhaled. Vaporising differs from smoking. Vaporising heats the concentrate until it transforms into a vapour which is then inhaled. Smoking however involves burning the compound to produce a gas for inhaling. vaporising concentrates is called “dabbing.”  and refers to the dab of concentrate to heat, vaporise and inhale.

Another way to vaporise cannabis concentrates is by using a vape pen. One of the reasons why vaping products are so popular is that vaping or dabbing makes it easier to conceal cannabis use as vaping does not create the familiar smell associated with cannabis..

A 2021 periodic review found that cannabis vaping almost doubled from 2017 to 2020 in adolescents, increasing from 7.2% to 13.2%. A more contemporary study in five U.S. states found that 12.8% of young people had vaped cannabis in the past 30 days, a narrower time frame which indicates potential increases in use. Additionally, a 2020 study found that one-third of teens who vape, vape cannabis concentrates.

Cannabis use by adolescents is more risky as it has been shown to alter the way their brains develop. Research has shown that the brains of young people who use cannabis regularly are less primed to change in reaction to new ventures, which is a key part of our development as adolescents. The risks increase with concentrate use because of the high levels of THC. This is true not only for adolescents but adults as well.  

The best analogy on the difference between cannabis flower and concentrate can be made with alcohol. Most people know that beer is much less powerful than vodka. Cannabis that is smoked would be closer to drinking a beer, while the concentrate is more similar to drinking vodka. Neither is particularly safe for young people but one does carry more risks. For this reason, it's always advisable to approach concentrate use with caution, even if you are a seasoned smoker.

More From Soft Secrets:

What is Live Resin?

The Rise of Dabbing

Vaping and Smoking, What's the Difference?



Liz Filmer