This ain't Amsterdam, Vince. And unlike Amsterdam, if you're trying to score some old-school hash around these parts, you're in for a rough time. That's because the Portland area seems to be experiencing a sustained hash shortage.
By hash we mean hashish—the classic version, concentrated trichomes, often made from the resin glands that fall off the flower as it's trimmed and packaged. Hash has literally been around for millennia, and mixed in with your baby boomer parents' stories of separating bud from seed was probably a story about scoring some hash, doing knife hits, and getting extremely high in the process—much higher than could be achieved with the everyday brick weed of that era.
Since legalization in Oregon, hash has turned into a rather scarce commodity.
Hash is a byproduct of flower, but it's also a superior product. It's more portable, lacks a pungent smell that announces itself to people long before it's within sight, and when smoking hash, you get a smoother hit because you inhale less burnt plant matter but more terpenes.
So I called around to dispensaries in the area, asking if they had any hash in stock. After calling eight different shops, the answer was always a variation of "no." Only one shop, RKO in Westmoreland, had anything on hand—it had kief, a form of hash that's like the stuff that collects on the screen in your grinder.
In the past, you could accuse cannabis industry folks of keeping all the good stuff for themselves, since hash is often a byproduct of growing and processing.
But that doesn't seem to be the case. It appears this hash shortage is more than a localized phenomenon—it's a side effect of legalization.
Three quick calls to Denver pot shops also came up dry. Three calls north to Seattle were more promising, with one shop having kief, and the other two having hash. However, you better have deep pockets, because this Seattle hash cost up to $45 a gram, roughly double what you'd pay on the street.
On the other hand, California shops all had hash—I called shops in Fresno, San Francisco and Sacramento, which all had hash ready for the next customer. The person on the line in Fresno even tried hard-selling—which gave me the sense that not too many people call about hash and that the store was eager to send some out the door.
The common denominator for Colorado, Washington and Oregon seems to be their recreational weed markets, whereas California is still months or years away from honoring the will of voters.
Why has hash has gone the way of the buffalo? It seems the legal industry has found other, more-profitable uses for its shake.
First is the meteoric rise of dabs. Because of their potency and the fact that they can be vaporized with tiny handheld devices, dabs are a true advent in the marijuana world, where many smokers want a one-hit-and-quit experience. The trim and low quality buds from grow operations are now being converted into dabbable resin and oil using CO2 and butane.
Related: How To Make Your Own Dab Rig
"You can take some low-quality trim and buds and make decent hash oil," says Portland Extracts budtender Trey Hanson.
That's not the case with hash. If you take low-quality cannabis and try to make hash, it "tends to bring out the planty side of it—the stuff you really don't want," he says.
Portland Extracts hasn't had any hash since June, but Hanson notes that the bubble hash from June "sold really well."
And then there are edibles. Hanson says there's a "huge" recreational market for edible cannabis and that cannabutter is using up much of the material that would otherwise become hash.
If you don't feel like searching high and low for hash, you can simply make it yourself, and you don't even need a license from the state of Oregon, because hash is technically considered a concentrate, not an extract—a critical legal difference.
Just get all the trim you can find, or some buds, or both, and search YouTube for instructional videos. With a little bit of work, you too can feel like you're back in Amsterdam.