From Humble Beginnings to Cutting-Edge Methods
To predict the future of the cannabis extraction industry, we must first understand it’s past. From humble beginnings filled with hand pumps and mason jars (and certain questionable practices), today, extractors use established scientific methods to produce products. These have been adopted from organic chemistry, as well as the fragrance and food & beverage industries. The results are highly concentrated, uniform products made with laboratory grade equipment, able to pass strict health and safety standards.
While all legal cannabis sales are growing rapidly, no segment has grown as quickly as the extract sector. Second only to cannabis flower, sales of extracts in 2016 in Colorado, Washington State, and Oregon added up to $498 million. In those three states in that same year, sales of extracts and concentrates grow 83.9%. Vaping captured 30% of the Colorado market in the first quarter of 2017, while Washington State showed similar numbers. All this has extractors giddy as the trend is expected to continue, both in the short and long-term.
Why is this? Inhaling the byproduct of burning plant material isn’t exactly considered healthy. While the federal classification in many ways limits a more in-depth look at the health effects of smoking, physicians agree that vaping and edibles are more healthful ways to ingest. As a result of this extraction explosion and the industry growing up, a number of different methods are currently being used, including BHO, supercritical CO2, live resin, and more. This has some questioning, will one method come to dominate the industry?
Will one type of extraction come to dominate?
Experts suggest that just like with the alcohol industry, where we have a variety of products from hard liquor to beer and wine, we’ll likely see just as much variety in the cannabis extracts sector, each suited to a particular consumer’s needs. Distillate or “the clear” is one such product thought to grow in popularity. One of the most potent products on the market, this is created through a method known as molecular distillation. One issue is that this creates an odorless, tasteless product, although it is usually infused with terpenes so that the end user can enjoy the flavor they desire.
Supercritical CO2 oil is the premiere method used in many other industries, including fragrance. As such, some movers and shakers are considering this to be a method that’ll overtake the others. Although ethanol seems to be the solvent of choice these days and the purging process makes the final product safe, consumers are turned off by the idea of traces of solvent remaining in their final product. While this method initially separates out the terpenes, these can be reintroduced. Old schoolers however, may not like the idea of terpene reintroduction, preferring it to remain in the product naturally.
Lastly, today there’s growing interest in full spectrum extracts. This includes High Cannabinoid Full Spectrum Extract (HCFSE). With HCFSE, the plant material is fresh and uncured. A solvent is used to extract the live resin. This allows for the full spectrum of biochemicals present in cannabis to remain and interact naturally, including terpenes, giving the product–known as live resin “sauce,” a potent flavor. Terpenes are an important part of the potency of the product, since they work together with cannabinoids, something known as the entourage effect.
For those in the industry or considering entering it, have a look at Ai Vacuum’s exceptional line of botanical refinement equipment. Our short path distillation kit is durable, customizable, and turns out perfect, high-quality, uniform product every time. Those in the industry regard this as the perfect method for preserving terpenes. For purging, our award-winning line of vacuum ovens, including our AccuTemp line, is the top choice. As for solvent reclamation, consider our line of rotary evaporators, known industry-wide for their durability, longevity, and ease of use.