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The essential oil of cannabis, which is a concentrate of all the active pharmaceutical ingredients in the marijuana plant, is a dynamic substance that can be transformed into numerous forms for user consumption. As a starting point, extracts can be converted with a bit of basic chemistry know-how into products such as tinctures, transdermal patches, effervescent tablets, drink powders, suppositories and oral tablets, not to mention the standard vaporizing and dabbing oils. This column explores supercritical carbon dioxide extraction SCCO 2 , including its functionality, laboratory requirements and what features should be considered during extractor selection.
A logical place to begin a conversation about carbon dioxide extraction or any type of extraction, for that matter is a quick overview of the medicinally valuable solutes to be extracted from the cannabis plant.
Two classes of cannabis substances receive the most attention in this growing industry: At least cannabinoids have been isolated, and these molecules range in weight from to amu atomic mass units. Their physical form can be liquid or solid depending on identity , contain a variety of functional groups and are non-volatile.
Terpenes are a large and diverse group of compounds produced by plants and some animals. This group of molecules is classified by the number of base isoprene units. Isoprenes are common organic compounds produced by plants. Furthermore, terpenes and their associated mixtures are responsible for the pleasant-or unpleasant-aromas given off by plants. Terpenes vary widely in mass based on the number of carbon atoms or isoprene units , can include a variety of functional groups and are physically liquid or oil.
Flavonoids and carotenoids are also present in cannabis. While they are not frequently recognized as valuable in the cannabis industry, they are well-known bio-botanical compounds in the nutritional and medical industries. Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that give plant extracts their golden and brown colors. There are more than 5, known flavonoids that vary in molecular weight and numbers of functional groups. They are usually solid in their pure form.
Carotenoids are a group of pharmaceutically important molecules with more than known constituents. They tend to be of very high molecular weight, contain a variety of functional groups and are orange to red in color.
Finally, numerous fatty acids and chlorophylls can be extracted from plant material. Though they are not generally thought of as medicinally valuable in the cannabis industry, some evidence exists for bioactivity in the nutraceutical industry. Fatty acids are commonly 16 to 20 carbons long, but can be much larger; they tend to solidify at room temperature, and the level of saturation i.
Chlorophylls range between and amu and give plant extracts their green to black coloration. Black coloring occurs when chlorophyll is oxidized.
Before diving in, a quick review of some relevant physical properties of carbon dioxide can be helpful. Carbon dioxide is a gas at standard temperatures and pressure. It forms a liquid at pressures above 5bar i.
So, what features of supercritical carbon dioxide SCCO 2 make it an efficacious solvent in the extraction of cannabis? Supercritical carbon dioxide-and all supercritical fluids-have the density of a liquid, diffusivity of a gas and a low viscosity thickness. In simpler terms, this means that SCCO 2 has: Additionally, its polarity and density can be manipulated. Polar manipulation can be achieved with the addition of co-solvents, such as ethanol.
Density manipulation is the true power of supercritical carbon dioxide as a solvent. While other solvents such as hydrocarbons and ethanol are more efficient at stripping plant material of their cannabinoids and terpenes, SCCO 2 has the unique ability to target specific fractions in the parent plant material or separate solutes.
Those processes are possible because SCCO 2 density is dependent on pressure and temperature parameters. Solute-carbon dioxide interactions are solute-specific.
Each solute in a mixture i. This is called the crossover phenomenon. Because the crossover point is solute-specific-if the critical density is known for target solutes, they can be individually removed by using temperature and pressure gradients. We can also view this crossover phenomenon from a different perspective: Imagine using temperature and pressure settings that result in the extraction of all solutes from your feed material, then reducing density downstream of the extraction location.
Essentially, this process starts with SCCO 2 at a very high density, followed by sequential depressurizations that result in consistent reductions in SCCO 2 density throughout that process. As this process is occurring, certain solutes are no longer soluble and are collected at specific locations i. That ability to target or separate solutes from a mixture is the most valuable feature of SCCO 2 extraction.
Other beneficial features of carbon dioxide extractions include the fact that it is generally regarded as safe i. So, what are the important features of a supercritical carbon dioxide extraction system? As previously mentioned, density, which is determined by pressure and heat, is one physical property of SCCO 2 that dictates extraction efficiency and separation.
Therefore, three variables are of the utmost importance:. Those features are important because it is necessary to obtain high pressures, deliver the heat in an efficient manner and have a real-time knowledge of carbon dioxide temperatures to tailor the density appropriately.
Additionally, that pump should have the ability to deliver high flow rates to the parent material in the extraction vessel. This is because an important calculated variable to optimizing a supercritical carbon dioxide extractor is the ratio of carbon dioxide mass used during extraction to the mass of the parent material-a ratio of 50 or more is usually necessary to reach percent to percent extraction completeness.
Finally, separation vessels with high maximum-pressure ratings are extremely important because they give the technician the ability to use a variety of pressures in the development of separation i. A shortcoming of SCCO 2 extraction is that numerous waxes and fatty acids are also soluble in supercritical carbon dioxide. From a manufacturing perspective, this is an important point because those materials need to be removed during the refinement process before product development.
This is achieved through a process called winterization , which takes advantage of the differing solubility of waxes and cannabinoids in a solvent at low temperatures i. The winterization process frequently represents the slowest part of the refinement process if the infrastructure does not match the extractor production rate.
The standard protocol uses a funnel and filter paper in concert with a vacuum. Depending on volume, this process can take between four and eight hours. Furthermore, it must be repeated multiple times to account for the dissolution of waxes back into ethanol during the protracted filtering process. However, the redundancy and length of this process can be circumvented through the use of low-pressure cartridge filter techniques that can process large volumes of winterized material in an expeditious manner while controlling temperature.
The next consideration is the solvent recovery that follows the winterization process. Most commonly, rotary evaporation systems are used to recover your winterizing solvent. It is also important to scale this system to match your pre-solvent recovery step production and extraction rates. To put these notes in perspective, here is an example of a production system followed by an identification of the bottleneck. With those assumptions, the output per run is grams per day and 3, grams a week.
Therefore, the total volume of material to be filtered would be 36 liters with a That material can be filtered in 34 minutes with a positive-pressure filtration system capable of an aqueous flow of liters per hour and an equal volume of solvent to wash the waxes.
The final volume for solvent recovery is 72 liters, which can be recovered in four and a half hours with a rotary evaporator capable of processing 16 liters per hour.
Therefore, your extraction parameters or the extractor are the bottleneck in the described production system. While this analysis oversimplifies the process in some ways, it does exemplify the importance of planning your total production system to meet the output at each stage because capital might be better leveraged to obtain a system with a higher overall output.
Imbalanced systems can cause manufacturing equipment to lay idle for periods of time, which is not an optimal use of capital, labor or equipment. Pesticide regulations matter a great deal to any agricultural market. This is great news. Even better is the fact that effective pest management programs can be built from this small list of pesticides, and cannabis producers in The Golden State have no excuse for ever testing positive for illegal pesticide residuals.
California cultivators attempting to become pesticide compliant may feel as if they are straight-jacketed at times. More on this later. California law allows for a property operator to make his or her own decisions about pesticide use.
If the operator is comfortable and successful in managing pests, there is no need to call in additional help. Therefore, it benefits the grower to learn everything he or she can about pesticides and the local rules that apply to them.
If more support is needed, growers should engage pesticide experts. Here are two educational resources of which all growers should be aware. The more people know about pesticides, the better. Calling a PCA for any pesticide concerns will ensure that everyone is compliant with the law and that you get the best advice money can buy. In California, be careful what information you buy from whom, and never try to sneak something past the regulators. The following tips can help guide California growers as they think about their pest-management plans.
The pesticides California allows on cannabis are botanical, microbiological or naturally sourced products. The list is dominated by botanical oils and plus ingredients that growers can choose from. Growers are not permitted to use any product that contains active ingredients not contained on the list. There are two key aspects to pesticide labels: Labels are the first and last word on what pests the product addresses, and the conditions and application rates at which the product is most effective.
All growers also should carefully read product labels to ensure they are aware of all pests a product can target. In terms of safety, labels define usage levels and practices that are safe for applicators, workers, consumers, wildlife and the environment. Embrace and develop a culture of compliance practices that reinforce proper handling, and it will perpetuate itself. The alternative is found in the experiences of every grower in legalized states who has failed pesticide testing. Compliance almost always involves documentation.
With pesticides, that includes logging which plants are sprayed when, by whom and with what pesticides. Qualified applicators and pesticide logs may or may not be required by the state, but county agriculture commissioners may ask for that information.
Perform your due diligence and determine what rules you need to follow and what reporting is required. Daily scouting for and spot treatment of powdery mildew may be labor intensive, but it can determine whether a crop goes into the flower, extract or proverbial waste bucket. California has many growing climates, some in locations where botrytis is found.
This motivates growers in these locales to keep a sharp eye out for signs of bud-destroying botrytis and to set harvest as soon as possible after any signs of botrytis are discovered. If the definition of a pesticide is something that prevents losses, labor is a very effective pesticide. In some ways, this disconnect between common vernacular and scientific discovery is understandable.
Cannabis is uniquely complex. Yet the task of resetting the language of cannabis is vital. Learning to analyze, interpret and intelligently discuss this botanical powerhouse will help ensure better experiences for longtime users and newcomers alike.
Farma , a dispensary in Portland, Ore. Grounded in the work of the renowned neurologist and cannabis research pioneer Dr. Ethan Russo, Farma is one dispensary paving the way to cannabis curation according to chemical composition rather than plant morphology.
By aggregating and analyzing reliable lab data-that is, by focusing on chemotypes rather than folklore and strain names-dispensaries can help guide patients and consumers through a spectrum of effects that more effectively target specific needs and desired experiences.
The process of analysis begins with ensuring safe access. In Oregon, this means partnering with independent, state-accredited labs capable of testing for more than potency and primary cannabinoid content, but the full spectrum of active compounds.
Other states, such as California, are in the process of developing their own testing protocols. Without solid lab data from the start, we cannot hope to generate reliable resources and experiential predictions that help folks form a lasting, positive relationship with the plant.
Not everyone coming through the doors of a dispensary will have had a pleasant experience with cannabis. It gets them every time. For example, if you were to make bubble hash using bubble bags, ice, and water, the process would be mechanical and thus bubble hash would be a concentrate. Another example of a concentrate would be Rosin. Rosin is a fairly new technique developed within the last couple of years as an alternative to hydrocarbon based extracts.
The process uses two steel plates which are heated up and a pressure to squeeze the fresh or dried flowers between the heated plates. This causes the essential oils and cannabinoids to separate from the plant without using a hydrocarbon.
Since this process uses only mechanics and no hydro-carbons or C02, Rosin would be classified as a concentrate. Extracts on the other hand are made using hydrocarbon based solvents. Some cannabis consumers prefer Extracts over Concentrates for multiple reasons. What your left with is a vaporizable oil that matches the profile of the flower you started with.
Butane Hash Oil is one of the more popular dabbable smoked off a hot nail oils being made in Oregon right now. This is mainly driven by the fact that butane is one of the more cost-effective hydrocarbons to work with while still maintaining a quality taste, flavor, and price consistency. This form of extract is made by passing liquid C02 through the cannabis plant material using a super critical C02 machine. This breaks down the trichomes and resins of the plant and allows them to pass off the plant materials with the C After this process, the extractor will use a combination of heat and pressure to separate and recycle the C02 from the final product.
The final product is generally loaded into any one of the many E—Cig pen tips, which allows the consumer to smoke discreetly and without any sticky oil mess. Even though this process uses mechanics the C02 machine it is considered an extract because it utilizes C02 with heat and pressure. Some of the C02 companies will put their final product through an extra fractional distillation process to further refine the oil into specific mixes containing higher concentrations of specific cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, CBG.
The easiest way to determine which product you are getting is by looking at how it was made.
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What is the difference between a Cannabis Extract and Concentrate? through the cannabis plant material using a super critical C02 machine. EXTRACTION EQUIPMENT Costing half of comparable CO2 systems, with 9 times more efficient thc and cbd oil extraction systems. Understanding the principles of carbon dioxide extraction and its output capabilities can help you evaluate equipment and anticipate potential production bottlenecks. Cannabis extracts are an important part of the rapidly growing marijuana .. Maybe this is their first time; maybe they're gun-shy after an.