If you’re not the type to grind up your stems with your bud, you’ve either got a garbage bag full of them or an impressive collection. If you’re in the former group, we’ve got some information that might make you reconsider. If you’re in the latter, though, today just might be your lucky day.
You see, those stems are a lot more than scraps to throw out when grinding your cannabis flower. In fact, if you store up enough, you can get plenty lifted off those alone. And, if you don’t want to get high, you can even give them a second life as arts and crafts items, or even mulch! How? We’ll cover the details as we go along.
The simplest solution, although it’s the least recommended, is to grind your stems up and smoke them. This is always a harsh experience, and the smoke contains many unwanted compounds from the cellulose in the stems. The cellulose also makes stems burn extremely hot—more than enough to burn your throat and lungs. Again, it is not recommended, so please be careful. Very few people do this, but for some reason, some decide to light them up.
Hash doesn’t get much more hands-on than this. To obtain charas, start by rubbing your stems between your hands. After that, rub your hands together over a container to get a whisker of hash. It won’t be much in that moment. However, work through 100 grams of stems with average THC content, and you may be impressed at what you’ve managed to gather. The end result is a multi-flavoured pile of hash that’s as old-school as it gets.
If you want to get this process started, just take your stems, break them down, and throw them into a resealable plastic bag. Place this bag in your freezer, and let it sit until you’ve got more to add. When you add to the collection, give the bag a healthy shake. Each time you shake, the now-frozen resin crystals will begin to detach from the stem fragments. Slowly but surely, you’ll build up an impressive pile at the bottom of the bag. Once you sift out the stems, you’ll have a whole bunch of kief ready to smoke!
Similarly, if you want some quality bubble hash, the first step is freezing the stems. Rather than shaking, though, you’ll be throwing these in a blender. Use the blender method recipe from our full guide to making hash—just replace “flowers” with “stems”. If you follow all the right instructions, repeating the process about 4–5 times, quality bubble hash will be in your future.
DON’T FORGET DECARBOXYLATION
Before anything, if you want to make use of the THC content of your stems, decarboxylation is key. It might seem like a confusing process based off the name, but it really just means you’re heating them up to a certain point. This process creates the easily absorbable and immediately psychoactive THC from its precursor chemical, THCA. This, in turn, makes the stems perfect for tinctures, hash, extracts, and edibles.
To get started, you’ll need a healthy handful of stems that have not been rubbed for hash. Start off by putting 450ml of water and a tablespoon of coconut oil into a small saucepan. Chop and add your stems and slowly bring to a gentle, but not rolling, boil, stirring continuously. Let them boil like this for 7 or 8 minutes, as the fluid needs to reduce. Strain out your stems, let the mixture cool for a bit, and enjoy!
Plain cannabis tea can taste a bit rough, though, so you might consider adding herbs and sweeteners to your beverage. For tea, mints, lemon, honey, sugar, or any flavoured tea bag can mask the taste. If you’re making chai, adding cardamom pods, pepper, and ginger for that traditional zing makes it a tasty and tingly delight.
Whiskeys, vodkas, or tequilas that are 40% alcohol or more can all dissolve the resin of cannabis. We’ve got a great recipe for cannabis-infused vodka here, but it’s quite a simple process overall.
Decant your chosen alcohol into a mason jar to allow for easier access. Let the stems sit in there for a week or so at a time. By the time you’ve got another handful of stems ready to add, the old ones will have released their treasures into the mix.
For potency to build, this little project may take a few months and a few handfuls of stems. By the end of the process, though, you’ll have a strong cross-fade in one convenient, potent drink.
If you have enough broken-down stems to fill up half a saucepan, then THC-infused butter is on the menu! Replacing stems for buds in this cannabutter recipe will produce a similar product, but with a much milder effect. Where the recipe suggests “28g of flowers”, replace with “as many chopped stems as possible”. Using your butter in culinary creations will add a nice buzz to any course.
Perhaps one of the most unconventional ways to enjoy cannabis are weed-infused topicals, which have become quite popular over the past couple of years. Along with moisturising your skin, cannabis-infused lotions and creams can help care for your muscles in a new way. They’re also a wonder for supple joints, along with tackling sensitive, red skin especially well. Thankfully, we’ve already got a recipe for cannabis lotion! Note, however, that you’ll be replacing “15–30g of flowers” with 2–3x the amount of stems, or the closest you can get.
You might not think about it often, but there’s a good bit more you can do with cannabis outside of enjoying its effects. It’s a natural plant material like any other, and that means it can see a lot of use in arts and crafts!
It might sound unconventional at first, but remember that hemp is one of the main alternatives to wood-based paper. Considering that, stem-based paper is far from odd, albeit a bit coarse.
The most challenging part of making paper is first making a vat. This can be pantyhose stretched over a wire armature, or old fly-wire screen stapled to a wooden frame. The idea is to have a flat, permeable surface that will let the water in the pulp drain away.
Then, in a blender, combine an equal amount of stems and regular paper. Add enough water for the mixture to move and blend freely. When the mix is a slurry with minimal bits left intact, pour it out evenly onto the vat. Gently shake the vat until the pulp is evenly spread. If you’re making a larger piece of paper, you’ll need a squeegee to get things even. Leave this to drain and dry. After 24 hours, gently peel your paper away and hang it out to dry. Trim to your needs, and enjoy!
Even on the small scale, stems and small stalks can be stripped of their outer fibre. This process, called decorticating, involves one of the most sophisticated tools out there: your hands. Held together by a cellulose matrix, these fibres need to be rubbed between the fingers to be separated into individual strands. These individual lengths of fibres can be twisted into tough lengths of raw twine. If you save up enough, you’ve got tons of creative possibilities! Might we suggest a tasteful homemade bracelet?
The possibilities get even wider, though, if you’re a home grower with even more stems lying around. When you strip trunks and main branches of their much longer fibres, you can start making decorations, baskets, and even yarn if you work at it long enough!
Capping things off, you can even use your stems to grow yourself some more cannabis! Specifically, you can use a wood chipper (or another processing method) to turn the stems into a reliable mulch. This will protect the soil under it, making sure plants keep as much of their rainwater as possible. There’s a lot more information to cover when it comes to properly applying mulch in the growing process, but we hope to have sparked your interest in the idea!
See? There’s no need to get mad at the humble stem! There’s a world of use to be found if you’ve got the right supplies, and you can even get high on them if you play your cards right! We hope this has helped you appreciate just how versatile the cannabis plant can be!