Live Resins: Part of a Balanced Cannabis Menu
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Live Resins: Part of a Balanced Cannabis Menu

Made from fresh-frozen cannabis flower, these high-terpene products saw an increase in popularity that was mainly supply driven in 2021.

December 17, 2021

Live resins separate themselves from other concentrated cannabis products by their higher terpene contents. These products offer consumers an experience closer to smoking flower compared to distillates, which have been stripped of most of their natural terpenes and aromatic compounds during the drying, curing, and/or extraction process—although they often are reinfused with flavor to improve user experience.

Live resins are produced by flash-freezing cannabis flower before the drying and curing stage—this preserves the volatile terpenes and other essential oils found in the biomass. Extractors then process that frozen material, ensuring they capture any and all terpenes during the decarboxylation stage, and reintroduce the original terpenes into the extracted cannabinoid mix. These products can then be filled into vape cartridges and other vaporizers, or “dabbed” on glass water pipes.

These high-terpene products are hitting all-time highs in sales and are growing at a faster rate than other concentrate categories, according to data from Headset.

“Live Resin” total sales in California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington from January through November grew by 29% from $255 million in 2020 to $329 million in 2021. This was more than double the growth rate of the total “Concentrate” category, which increased in sales by 14% over the same time frame. “Live Resin” also makes up the plurality of “Concentrate” sales, increasing in category share from 29% in 2020 to 33% in 2021. In comparison, its closest rival is “Wax” with 24% of Concentrate sales. 

At Revolution Global, an Illinois-based cultivator and processor that recently won a 2021 High Times’ Illinois Cannabis Cup in the “Best Concentrate” category for its Blueberry Clementine live resin this year, live resins make up 5%-7% of total monthly sales, according to Dusty Shroyer, the company’s president and COO. While live resin products are especially popular with the connoisseur crowd, he says the increasing number of products in the category is mostly supply, not demand, driven.

Especially in markets like California, “there's an abundance of greenhouse cannabis that's getting frozen straight off the stem,” Shroyer explained, noting this “has allowed extractors there to have a lot of live resin material.”

Butane hash oil, more commonly referred to as BHO, is a solvent-extracted product that also has higher terpene content than some other concentrates. While BHO traditionally has represented 15%-20% of the marketplace, per Shroyer, “live resin is kind of pushing what the market perceives as a lower-grade product off the shelf and replacing it with more live resin.

That live resins are making their way into vape cartridges only increases consumer familiarity with the product type, Shroyer said, as many are more comfortable with electronic vapes than with dabbing.

Another factor that is likely to continue driving this trend is government regulation. Since the outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses in the fall of 2019, state regulators in the U.S. and the Canadian federal government have taken a closer look at the ingredients being put into cannabis extracts.

Recent proposals and rule adoptions in Washington, Oregon, and Ottawa mandate the exclusive use of cannabis-derived terpenes in cannabis products, and other markets are looking into cannabis product additives. Mandating the use of cannabis-derived terpenes likely would be a boon for full-spectrum products like live resins.

Shroyer welcomes further regulation of what goes into cannabis concentrates, highlighting the lack of research on consumer safety when it comes to cannabis terpenes and other additives.

“The industry needs guidance on how to create these products,” Shroyer said. Among other concerns he mentioned is the actual terpene content within concentrates and vape cartridges. When it comes to
isolated botanical terpenes (aka cannabis-derived terpenes), “at what percentage is it safe to add that back into a cartridge? That information’s not known. It’s really the Wild West out there.”

As Revolution Global does its extraction in-house, the company is able to recapture the cannabis terpenes and forgo using non-cannabis flavoring. “I think without that guidance, it's better to take the slow approach to it, which would be to sell consumers what they actually want to buy, which is cannabis. Nobody walks into a store to buy terpenes for oranges or other plants. They come to buy cannabis.”

Even as competition in the category is only expected to increase, Shroyer added that Revolution Global intends to remain a player in the space. “For us, it allows us to give people products that are the highest quality across all the different product types that you can get in cannabis and helps us make consumers happy. And I think that that reflects well on the brand, ultimately, when you're focused on making people happy and making products at the quality at a quality level that meets or exceeds their expectations.”