Trimming cannabis is essential for ensuring healthy plants and excellent yields, but for many home and professional cultivators, it raises the question: What do you do with your cannabis trim?
What Is Cannabis Trim?
When we talk about the trim, we’re referring to the leaves that are intentionally pruned from the plant during a harvest. It shouldn’t be confused with shake, which includes the loose leaves and stems that fall off naturally.
Shake is high in THC and other cannabinoids, while trim tends to have much lower cannabinoid content. For this reason, many growers simply discard their trim assuming that it has no value. However, when you realize all the things that can be done with those discarded leaves, you may think twice about tossing them aside.
Sugar Leaves vs Fan Leaves
Cannabis trim actually refers to two different types of leaves: sugar leaves and fan leaves.
Sugar leaves are the small leaves that grow out of the buds.
Fan leaves are the larger leaves that protrude from the branches.
If you’re hoping to turn your trim into a psychoactive product, fan leaves are virtually worthless. There are fewer trichomes and therefore fewer cannabinoids and terpenes. When making concentrates and other preparations, you want to focus on the smaller sugar leaves. These contain heavily concentrated trichomes, so they’re much better for various extractions.
What Can You Do With Cannabis Trim?
There are numerous things you can do with your weed trim. For instance:
- Make concentrates and extracts
- Enhance your meals and beverages
- Make cannabutter and other edibles
- Create homemade salves
- Compost it
Let’s break down these options one by one.
Turn Your Cannabis Trim Into Concentrates & Extracts
The most versatile way to recycle your cannabis trim is to extract the kief and make concentrates. There are three simple ways to collect the kief:
- You can invest in a bud trimmer that automatically collects the kief as you harvest. This is the least time-consuming method for smaller operations.
- You can use a silkscreen. Just rub the trim across the screen as though you’re grating cheese; the kief will automatically separate from the leaf and accumulate beneath the screen.
- You can use a dry sift tumbler. If you want to collect large amounts of kief quickly for a commercial operation, this is the way to go.
Once you collect your kief, the sky’s the limit. Press it into dry sift hash, or use a rosin press or T-shirt press to heat and pressurize your concentrate into rosin, an extremely potent solventless extract. A rosin press with really strong heating plates can even produce the extract from the trim itself (eliminating the need for you to manually collect the kief beforehand).
Add Marijuana Trimmings to Foods and Drinks
You can add cannabis trimmings to just about anything you eat or drink, but regardless of which foods you decide to enhance, the first step is to decarboxylate.
How to Decarboxylate Your Cannabis Trim
Decarboxylation is the heating process that activates the cannabinoids—the heat converts non-psychoactive THC-A into psychoactive THC. So if you eat uncooked leaves, you’re not going to enjoy much of a buzz.
Thankfully, decarboxylation is a simple process. Just spread your leaves over a baking sheet and place them in the oven at a temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit (or 115 degrees Celsius) for 1 hours. That’s all there is to it.
How to Enhance Your Meals With Cannabis Trim
Sugar leaves and fan leaves both make excellent food and drink additives, even if you aren’t adept at making edibles. For instance:
- You can place the leaves in your tea for added flavor and a touch of psychoactive potency
- You can grind them down and mix them into your salads, oatmeal, or just about anything else.
- You can toss them in a juicer or blender with other nutritious ingredients and make a highly potent canna-juice.
Some people are also fond of cannabis milk, which is easy to create with cannabis trim:
- Just heat some milk in a pan until it simmers, and then add a few leaves to the mix.
- Stir constantly for at least half an hour until the milk reaches a yellowish consistency.
- Then strain the milk to remove the plant material and let it cool.
The easiest way to strain is by placing cheesecloth over a colander and straining the milk into a bowl beneath. The result is delicious and refreshing.
Make Cannabutter With Your Weed Trim
Cannabutter is such a versatile ingredient that it warrants its own section. After all, it’s the basis of some of the most popular edibles on the market.
If you’re interested in making your own baked goods or other elaborate edibles, just set aside your sugar leaves as a basis for cannabutter. You’ll need the following:
- 2 cups of butter (about 450g)
- 4 cups of water
- ¼ cup of decarboxylated sugar leaves
The process is as follows:
- Decarboxylate your sugar leaves (see previous section for details).
- Add your butter, water, and decarboxylated leaves to a pan and simmer on low heat for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Let the mixture cool.
- Line a colander with cheesecloth, and place it into a large bowl.
- Pour the mixture into the colander and allow it to strain through the cheesecloth and into the bowl.
- Use a spatula to push the leaves firmly into the colander, squeezing the excess butter through the grates.
- Once you’ve collected as much cannabutter as possible, place the bowl in a refrigerator for at least 3 hours or until the butter becomes firm. Remove the cannabutter from the bowl and store it in an airtight container.
Turn Your Cannabis Trim Into Salves
If cannabutter isn’t your thing (or if you’re just looking for more uses), you can use the same basic process to make your own cannabis-based skincare products.
Whereas cannabutter requires sugar leaves for best results, salves actually work well with fan leaves—as fan leaves tend to be higher in CBD. You’ll need:
- 2 cups of coconut oil
- ½ cup of beeswax
- ⅛ cup of decarboxylated sugar leaves or fan leaves
The process is as follows:
- Decarboxylate your leaves.
- Mix your decarboxylated leaves with the coconut oil in a pan, and let everything simmer at a low temperature for about 25 minutes.
- Strain the mixture just as you would your cannabutter, using a colander, bowl, and cheesecloth. Set it aside.
- Place your beeswax in the pan and let it melt at a low temperature.
- Slowly pour your cannabis mixture back into the pan and stir it all together.
- Let it cool, and then place it in an airtight container.
Store your salves in a cool location.
Dispose of Your Cannabis Trim Responsibly
Although you may want to explore some creative ways to use your marijuana trimmings, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use all of it, especially if you’re growing commercially. And maybe you’re not interested in making edibles or extracts.
At any rate, you need to be mindful of how you discard your trimmings. Because they’re part of the cannabis plant and have the potential to be psychoactive, you need to treat them as you would treat any other cannabis waste.
The laws for handling cannabis waste vary from one jurisdiction to the next, so you’ll need to refer to any regulatory authorities and licensing agencies where you live.
In California, for example, cultivators are exempt from the law that requires most cannabis businesses to render their waste unusable and unrecognizable, but there are still a number of specific regulations that must be followed.
For instance, any business that generates two or more cubic yards of waste per week must recycle all organic waste. The waste may be composted on-site, self-hauled to an organic waste recycling facility, or hauled away by a waste disposal provider that recycles organic waste.
If you’re a small-scale home grower, your best bet is probably to compost your trimmings or haul them yourself to an approved facility. If you run a commercial operation, you should always work with a licensed cannabis waste management services provider. The laws regarding cannabis waste are myriad and complex, and failure to comply can jeopardize your licensure or subject you to massive fines. Always go with the professionals.
Other Things You Can Do With Cannabis Trim
Because cannabis trimmings contain the same cannabinoids as the buds (just in much lower concentrations), you can use your trim in most of the ways you’d use marijuana. Pack it into a dry herb vaporizer, mix it with your regular weed in a bowl or joint, or transform it into other cannabis-based preparations.
Your leaves won’t give you as much of a buzz, but sometimes that’s a good thing. If you’re looking to microdose your cannabis, or if you want the effects of the CBD more than the THC, those fan leaves and sugar leaves can provide the perfect balance. You get the experience and benefits of consuming cannabis, but without getting baked.
And sometimes that’s all you need.