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In the world of manufacturing, things move quickly. The manufacturer’s goal is to manufacture their product with the target quality in the proper quantity with as little waste possible. Many manufacturing outlets will do their quality control before a process starts and after the process ends, but what about while something is being created?

Welcome to The ABCs of cannabinoid manufacturing

Part 5: Extraction Methods

The separation of the wide array of compounds in Cannabis sativa is becoming more important as regulations on cannabinoid containing products become more stringent. There are a few common methodologies used for extraction in the cannabis industry.

Depending on the intended final product, incoming processing can include separation of the flower portions with the highest concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes. Then the extraction of the terpenes and the cannabinoids can begin. Though mechanical separation methods exist, this article will focus on the most common solvent-based extractions: hydrocarbon, ethanol and super-critical CO2 . Solvent extraction methodologies have been around for millennia since the ancient Egyptians made tinctures by soaking herbs in ethanol. Tinctures are created by putting the herbs into a liquid, usually alcohol, to extract the flavors, healing components, etc.

Cannabis Manufacturing

Basic Solvent Extraction

The basic solvent extraction is based on historical methods, although we have made technological advances to help us control the processes over the centuries. Today, common organic solvents include ethanol [1], butane, and propane. [2] Water extraction will not be covered in this article due to its low yields of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Alcohol extraction uses ethanol and is one of the most common and efficient methods of extracting the cannabinoids. The initial step is to soak the raw material in Ethanol to remove the trichomes. The polar end (-OH group) of the molecule helps dissolve the hydrophilic compounds, such as chlorophyll. The non-polar end (C2¬H5) helps to dissolve the hydrophobic compounds such as the plant waxes, oils, cannabinoids, and terpenes.

The process can be done in either warm or cold ethanol. In warm or room temperature ethanol, the cannabinoids dissolve quickly leading to a high yield of cannabinoids. However, the warm ethanol extraction process also dissolves plant lipids including the chlorophyll, which causes a strong bitter taste. By dropping the temperature of the ethanol to less than -30˚C (-22˚F), you decrease the solubility of all the compounds leading to a much slower dissolution of the products into the ethanol. However, it is also below the freezing point of many plant waxes which means that many of the compounds will be solids. The impurities separate from the cannabinoids and can be easily removed.

Hydrocarbon extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction generally uses either propane or butane. Propane and butane are small hydrocarbons, made only of carbon and hydrogen atoms, that are non-polar with low boiling points, (-44˚F and 32˚F, respectively) [3]. The initial extraction washes the raw material with the cold hydrocarbon.

The non-polarity of the molecules helps easily dissolve the cannabinoids, waxes, fats and lipids. Unlike ethanol, there is no polar end to help with the dissolution of certain undesired compounds such as chlorophyll. The terpenes are also easily dissolved in the hydrocarbons, though the flavonoids have limited solubility. The hydrocarbons with the products of interest can be separated by flowing the mixture into a separate area and raising the temperature. [4] With low boiling points, the hydrocarbons evaporate at -44˚F (Propane) and 32˚F (Butane) leaving behind the waxes, fats, lipids, cannabinoids, and terpenes.

Cannabis Manufacturing for the 21st Century

Final extraction method

After the separation of the hydrocarbons from the extract, the propane or butane can be recirculated though the biomass creating a closed-looped system. The result is an extract that is relatively free of inactive plant matter such as chlorophyll. Hydrocarbon extraction is losing popularity primarily due to regulations for handling propane/butane and stigma attached to a using a hazardous chemical for the extraction.

The final extraction method uses super-critical CO2 . Outside the cannabinoid industry, supercritical extraction methods are used for the production of high-quality hempseed oil, extracting caffeine from coffee, removing pesticides from agriproducts, etc. [5].

At standard temperatures and pressures (room temperature and sea-level atmospheric pressure), all molecules are in their natural state of matter: solid, liquid, gas, or plasma. One can change the state of matter by changing the temperature or the pressure or both. A good example of this would be creating ice cubes in your freezer. Without changing the pressure, you can turn the water into ice by lowering the temperature.

When modulating the temperature and pressure of a system, liquids and gases can hit a critical point where they exhibit characteristics of both liquid and gas. They take up the entire space (more compressible) like gases and have liquid-like densities. This is called a supercritical fluid. [7]. Figure 2 shows the phase diagram of Carbon Dioxide (CO2 ). Using CO2 has several advantages, it is nonflammable, non-toxic, relatively inert, abundant and inexpensive [8, 9].

Experimental phase diagram of CO2

The other main advantage is that at a temperature of 31˚C, you can maintain the supercritical liquid at 74 bar [6, 7]. The various components of cannabis have different solubilities at different temperatures and pressures, thus allowing a clean extraction of the target compounds. However, one study has shown that the concentrations of different products can be extracted at different rates, so the extract should be analyzed [2, 8, 10].

MISSED PART FOUR?

Expanded versions of previous article installments are available upon request.

Hellma USA, Inc has been serving the U.S. markets in spectroscopic accessories for over 50 years. They specialize in quartz manufacturing for the lab and probes for the process. Dr. Carrier earned her Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin – Madison in Physical Chemistry specializing in Spectroscopic techniques to monitor chemical reactions

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Cannabinoid Industry

When we discuss the challenges and hurdles facing the cannabinoid industry, we’re often discussing obstacles that are unique to the space given its ongoing state of infancy. While concerns like client acquisition and sustainable scaling are matters that even mature industries brush up against, there’s one problem in particular that exclusively exists as a thorn in the cannabinoid industry’s side: banking.

Despite being legal, cannabis businesses are unable to use the services provided by secure banking institutions. The denial of such basic assistance has created unnecessary difficulties, ones that have proved detrimental to those looking to grow with the space as it expands.

Exclusions like these only perpetuate the negative stigma surrounding the plant, and since lobbyists recognize that such ostracism from financial institutions will continue to hinder the industry’s progress, they have been campaigning to pass the SAFE Banking Act.

[T]he federal

agency would

“prefer” for state-legal

cannabis firms to be

able to pay taxes

electronically, as the

current cash-based

system under

prohibition is onerous

and presents risks

to workers.

Cresco Labs

CEO of Cresco Labs, Charlie Bachtell, put it best when he spoke with CNBC’s team over at Fast Money, claiming that “access to capital has been so difficult in this industry. And again, this is an industry that is the fastest growing industry in America. [It] increased to 320,000+ full-time employees in the industry last year – that’s up 32%, so this is an incredibly fast-moving, dynamic industry that we have, you know, a hand tied behind our back without access to traditional banking.

What is the SAFE Banking Act?

You may ask. The SAFE Banking Act is a piece of proposed legislation that would allow financial institutions to take on clients within the cannabis sector without the risk of facing federal penalties or a DEA raid.

If this doesn’t sound like a monumental game changer, consider that the head of the IRS, Commissioner Charles Rettig, told Congress that “the federal agency would “prefer” for state-legal cannabis firms to be able to pay taxes electronically, as the current cash-based system under prohibition is onerous and presents risks to workers.”3 Forced to operate as cash-based businesses, the most well-known and successful MSOs have had to pay taxes with duffel bags of cash. This ridiculous mental visual only highlights the absurdity of excluding multi-million dollar companies from the accessibility of banking.

With such obvious reasons demonstrating why financial institutions should start allowing cannabinoid businesses to work with them, you may be wondering what’s been holding them back. The main issue comes in the form of compliance risk. Though many states have fully legalized cannabis, the plant is still illegal at the federal level, meaning the issue of sanctions is a very real and very serious threat that hangs over the heads of banks and credit unions thinking about expanding into the cannabis industry. Unfortunately, their fear of facing the potential ramifications of working within the space further endangers the ones operating in it, placing cannabinoid workers at a higher risk for targeted robberies.

While not the massive reform that many people hoped to see, the SAFE Banking Act is a critical piece of legislation and a crucial step towards creating a compliant industry that’s adding thousands of jobs, bringing in millions of dollars in tax revenue, and ensuring that Uncle Sam continues to get his piece of the pie.

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The change of the seasons brings warm weather, but lately, this isn’t the only change we’ve been seeing. As we slough through rainy April with the hopes of soon seeing the sun, we also watch regulators shift their stance on cannabis and push for legislative change, and New York has been at the head of this charge. The CBD industry, on the other hand, is patiently waiting for their momentum to pick up, but good news could be on the way.

With the current USDA study analyzing whether hemp can be used as an alternative for cattle feed underway, and the potential for CBD to become a nutraceutical this year, you have a potent combination that could send prices soaring.

The future is exciting, and we look forward to being there with you every step of the way.

Kellan Finney

Balancing the speed of the cannabinoid industry’s growth with slow-changing regulations can be hard. On one side, the overwhelming desire for product and the ability to grow, process, produce, and sell has never been in higher demand. With more and more states coming online, the need to quickly scale or pivot is only compounding these supply chain stressors.

On the flip side, policy makers, still hesitant to fully embrace the cannabinoid industry, continue to debate the finishing touches on game-changing legislation. It’s important to remind yourself that, though this period may be frustrating for all those who want to start solidifying the space, every step forward is progress toward a new era. Try to remember that forward is forward, no matter how small of a step

Bryan Fields

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CBD industry

Note:
Figure 1. 2021 retail cannabis sales data by product category from
New Frontiers and Headset data.

Table 1. Consumer Survey data displaying preferences of CBD sorted
by use case and product type.

CBD industry

Flower continues to dominate as the leading category of products, making up over 50% of all products sold at dispensaries. According to New Frontier data, Maui Wowie, OG Kush, and Gorilla Glue are among the top three strains. Vape pens are a close second, and topicals and tinctures come in last, making up 3% of the market share for THC products. Topicals and tinctures only hold 3% of the market share for THC products.

This is in stark contrast to the CBD industry where the top product for all consumers is tinctures. We believe the difference in consumer preference is tied to the demographic of individuals consuming THC vs CBD. CBD does not have any psychoactive effects and is currently viewed as a supplement / vitamin / wellness alternative.

Due to this divergence, we advise our clients to understand which industry they want to focus on when launching a brand If your company’s goal is to own a brand which can acquire market share in both the THC and CBD industry, then we recommend launching an edible brand. Edible products show great promise and have a significant market share across both THC and CBD industries.

Launching a Brand

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Cannbinoid Monthly Update -August 2021

The cannabinoid industry continues to gain steam as Schumer rolled out his plan which would end cannabis prohibition and regulate the industry similar to tobacco. Pair this news with several other states legalizing adult use cannabis and the industry is on the precipice of extraordinary growth. The hemp CBD industry continues to consolidate as wholesale prices drop for most product categories including smokable flower. Lack of legislation surrounding the safety and legality of the molecule CBD has created obstacles that have challenged investors looking for short term gains. Given the rescheduling of CBD and classification as a nutraceutical, the industry is poised for considerable growth over the next decade. However, we must be patient, and that’s what we are here for. We look forward to being there with you every step of the way.

Kellan Finney

The draft of Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act has been released and with it comes a multitude of potential insights for the future. While the details are likely to change, the major framework is clear for the future of the industry. Use the draft as an opportunity to alter future roadmaps and to be ahead of these changes.

Bryan Fields

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