Table of Contents:
- Introduction: What is Cannabis Oil Extraction?
- A Short History of Cannabis and Hemp Extraction
- What are Cannabinoids? (THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, THCV, etc.)
- Biomass: Starting with the Right Stuff
- Extraction Process Overview (Derivatives and their Processes)
- Strategic End Product Market Opportunities
- Common Extraction Methods and Technology
- Extraction Equipment and Systems
- The Practical Science Behind Extraction
- Types of Viable Business Models
- Top 10 Questions (and Answers) from the Experts
- Cannabis Extraction Glossary of Terms
- Industry Resources and Links
Cannabis and Hemp End-Products
Strategic Cannabis and Hemp End-Product Overview
In this chapter of The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Extraction, we’ll explore all the wonderful cannabis and hemp end-products that are popular with consumers on the market today. We’ll provide an overview of all the best sellers and, more importantly, we’ll take a look into emerging consumer trends on the up-and-coming products that are showing increasing consumer demand.
What follows is an overview of the most popular end-products that are derived from this complex plant and from each stage of the cannabinoid derivative journey; from ‘raw’ barely-processed products such as flower, through to the primary stages of extraction and into further stages of refinement and increased potency.
Note, the following overview is by no means exhaustive but will provide you with a comprehensive summary of popular end-products; including their colloquial names by which they’re most well-known to consumers.
But of course each day new products are innovated, so really the story of cannabis and hemp as a mass market consumable good is just beginning. As more states are legalized and laws around the consumption of cannabis and hemp derivatives are relaxed, this industry is set to continue to grow and expand.
- Market Research Insights: Which Cannabis and Hemp Products Should You Be Making in 2021?
- ‘Raw’ Cannabis and Hemp Products
- Flower (Buds, Nugs)
- Stage 1. Primary Derivative End-Products
- Crude Oil
- Resin and Live Resin
- Rosin and Live Rosin
- Hash/Kief/Dry Sift
- Stage 2. Secondary Derivative End-Products
- Refined Oil
- Dabbable Concentrates:
- Stage 3. Tertiary Derivative End-Products
- Recombined Derivatives
- Stage 4. Separated and Recombined Derivatives:
- Terpsolates (for vapes)
Market Research Insights: Which Cannabis and Hemp Products Should You Be Making in 2021?
Welcome to the messy patchwork of state-specific laws that is the US cannabis and hemp industry! Let’s be clear, at the beginning of 2021 cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug and illegal federally. However, as you may already know, each state has its own laws and some have only recently flipped to medicinal or full adult.
Currently, here is the current state of play post-election November 2020:
As prohibition of cannabis and hemp products is gradually erased from the US via decriminalization and legalization there is a growing consumer demand for more sophisticated administration methods and varying concentrations. This means that cannabis and hemp end-product producers need to stay on top of market trends and expand their end-product offerings.
Today’s cannabis consumer has a multitude of administration methods that are focused on health benefits. As consumers become more educated about the medicinal and wellness-focused benefits of CBD, and the recreational benefits THC, they’re demanding a wider scope of administration methods beyond simply smoking and vaping.
‘Raw’ Cannabis and Hemp Products
For decades the legal (and illegal) markets have favored cannabis in its most ‘raw’ or natural form. And still today, these products are the most popular on the market even though consumers are evolving and seeking out newer forms of consumption such as vaping, sublingual drops, edibles and more.
Once the cannabis or hemp plant has been harvested, dried, and sorted, the trichome-rich buds are separated out from the stems and stalks, and all excess leaves are trimmed by hand. The flower then is cured to allow any remaining moisture to equalize and terpene flavors develop. The most common and popular end-products that consumers and wholesalers seek are found in this “raw” stage:
Cannabis Flower (Buds, Nugs)
Still by far the most popular end-products are the simple pure cannabis flower AKA “bud” or “nug”. Flower is incredibly versatile because it can be smoked by grinding it and then rolling into a joint or “blunt”, through a water bong, dry herb vaporizer, or by the use of a simple pipe.
Common forms of flower end-product include “loose flower” which indicates that it is the flower on its own and typically sold in a glass jar or clear plastic packet because discerning flower lovers like to be able to see what they’re buying.
Pre-rolled joints AKA “prerolls” are also popular and practical. Prerolls may also come sprinkled with kief, added high-grade cannabis “wax”, or dipped in cannabis oil.
Trim is composed of tiny leaves that are cut off (“trimmed”) from the cannabis flower before curing. Coated in cannabinoid-rich trichomes these leaves are a valuable byproduct and valued by extractors and wholesalers alike as a more affordable source of cannabinoids and terpenes than flower buds.
So, although flower is the most prized part of the cannabis plant by consumers because of its trichome concentration, trim also contains a relatively high proportion of those cannabinoid-producing hairs but is not ideal for smoking because it can be harsh on the throat and lungs. Therefore, trim is ideal for oil extraction and further refinement and processing to produce crude oil and a whole plethora of other cannabinoid derivatives.
Stage 1. Primary Derivative End-Products
Cannabinoid concentration/potency: 10-60%
As consumers become more sophisticated so do their ways of consuming cannabinoids. Only a short decade ago flower ruled the market and smoking or “combusting” cannabis was the only way to imbibe for either recreational or medical purposes. However, in today’s cannabis and hemp market, there is a growing demand for more sophisticated administration methods as people are more focused on their health and wellbeing. This demand is fuelled by increased access to education, information from trusted sources, and peer-reviewed medical studies on the benefits of CBD, THC and other cannabinoids such as CBN and CBG.
What follows is a list of the end-products that are derived from the first stage of cannabis and hemp extraction:
Terpenes (a.k.a. “Terps“) are the magical compounds that give cannabis and hemp derivatives their distinctive aromas and contribute to the rich and varied strain-specific flavors. Terpenes exist in all plants and botanical matter in nature. The terpenes that are derived from hemp and cannabis are typically extracted so that they can be added to a wide variety of end-products including prerolls, dabbables, vape pen cartridges, tinctures, sublingual drops, edibles, beverages, and more.
In fact, recent studies are showing that it’s the different combinations of terpenes–along with the concentration of THC vs CBD and other full spectrum cannabinoids–are a contributing factor to the ‘type’ of high that consumers experience. So for example, a strain like Cherry Pie will bring on a euphoric and ‘social’ type of high in most people. Whereas other strains such as Afghani or Northern Lights are more ideal for reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation or “couch lock” while you enjoy watching your latest binge show on Netflix.
The “mother of all products” and a staple of the cannabis and hemp industry, cannabinoid-rich Crude Oil (a.k.a. “Crude“) is a dark, highly viscous substance similar in texture to very thick maple syrup. Crude oil is the major building block of the cannabis industry because most end-products start off as crude before being further refined and purified.
Resin and Live Resin
Resin AKA “sap” is the oil that you can see with the naked eye on the trichomes of the flowers and “sugar leaves” of the mature female cannabis plant. Raw, unprocessed resin is rich in terpenes, flavonoids, and high concentrations of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. However, it also contains undesirable elements like waxes and chlorophyll so it often needs further processing which may destroy the plant’s delicate terpenes so they may need to be added back into the mix later depending on your desired product. Resin is typically further processed into concentrates such as hash, butane hash oil (BHO), or CO2 oil.
The alternate version of Resin, known as “Live” Resin is becoming increasingly popular and is typically sold as an addition to boost vape pen cartridge potency, or used in dabbable concentrates such as shatter, budder, crumble, etc. Live Resin is produced by taking freshly harvested cannabis or hemp biomass and immediately freezing it to a subcritical temperature of below -292 degrees F (-180 C) just prior extraction. This process is known as “cryogenic freezing” and is popular because by skipping the traditional pre-processing drying and curing phases the fragile but flavor-rich “live” terpenes are protected and retained to produce “full spectrum” derivatives.
Rosin and Live Rosin
Rosin is a solventless extract obtained through the mechanical use of pressure and heat simultaneously directly on the cannabis flower via the use of a “rosin press”. The high pressure separates the trichomes from the plant matter without the use of a solvent, and results in a sticky cannabinoid-rich oil. Rosin is typically sold as a dabbable product or as a smokeable concentrate.
Live Rosin, similar to Live Resin (see above), is made from buds that were freshly frozen immediately after harvesting so that the terpenes, cannabinoids, and other compounds are kept at their most potent levels. Live rosin is a strong and flavorful pure concentrate and is typically used in the form of a dabbable or in a vape pen. Live rosin can also be added to hash, kief, or flower and smoked like other combustible products.
Hash is the true “OG” of all cannabis concentrates. And as one of the oldest cannabis derivatives known to humankind it’s not only a very popular way to consume cannabis but increasing in popularity due to new innovations in the ability to make hash at scale such as the VTS-50 ice water hash machine.
Hash concentrates are broken down into two main types: extracts such as hash oil, and non-extract concentrates such as bubble or ice water hash.
The list of hash end-products includes rosin oil and live resin (see above) and also kief, dry sift, simply “hash”, bubble (ice water) hash, moon rocks, BHO (Butane Hash Oil) and PHO (Propane Hash Oil).
Stage 2. Secondary Derivative End-Products
Cannabinoid concentration/potency: 40-75%
The second stage of cannabis processing further refines cannabinoid derivatives produced in the previous stage. Stage 2 processing increases product potency, eliminates undesirable compounds, and, adds value to the final end-product.
What follows is a list of the end-products that are derived from the Secondary stage of cannabis and hemp refinement:
Refined Oil is typically sold wholesale and is the result of winterization and polishing. It is ideal for use in end-products that are enriched by a “full spectrum” extract such as vape cartridges, tinctures, edibles, topicals, capsules, and sublingual products.
Dabbable concentrates are increasing in popularity in both the recreational/adult use and medical markets because of their purity and potency–up to 90% potency in some cases. Dabbable concentrates containing THC, CBD–or a combination of both–as well as full-spectrum of minor cannabinoids and terpenes are typically smoked or vaporised using glass “dab” rigs. Dabbable cannabis or hemp derivatives typically deliver a more potent high, including the terpene-rich flavors and aromas, rather than old fashioned smoking or “combusting” as a method of administration.
“Weed wax” goes by several names, including Butane Hash Oil (BHO), honey oil, and ‘710’ (which spells ‘oil’ when you turn the number upside down).
In general, there are two categories of dabbable cannabis and hemp concentrates:
- Uncrystallized Dabbables AKA ‘wax’, Butane Hash Oil [BHO], CO2 oil, Honey oil, and ‘710’
- Shatter or “pull-and-snap” is similar in appearance to rock candy or translucent glass with a color similar to honey or olive oil. Shatter is a hard and brittle derivative that is favored for dabbing either THC, CBD, or a combination of both, as well as the minor cannabinoids and of course, terpenes to deliver strain-specific flavors. For wellness-focused consumers who are seeking the medicinal benefits of cannabis or hemp without the intoxicating ‘high’ of THC, hemp-derived CBD shatter is ideal.
- Budder/Badder: is the result of agitating or whipping terpene-rich shatter into a more creamy consistency under low temperatures to include air molecules. Budder/badder has an oilier and softer texture similar to butter or cake batter with a yellow to bright orange color. The butter-like consistency allows it to be easily dabbed in a dab rig or spread onto joints.
- Crumble/Honeycomb: Similar to budder or badder crumble or honeycomb has a more crumbly-like consistency and a color is matt or opaque yellow. a Essentially, crumble is a whipped version of shatter that has been purged in a vacuum oven to “dry” the concentrate.
- Crystallized Dabbables: Crystallized dabbables are transparent cannabis and hemp derivatives that may resemble quartz crystals, sugar or salt.
- “Sugar”: In colors ranging from amber to bright yellow, sugar is a similar in consistency to wet, sappy sugar. Again, this dabbable is vaporized in a dab rig.
- Diamonds/Crystalline: Crystalline, or as it’s more commonly known, “diamonds” is a single, crystallized cannabinoid derivative such as THCa or CBD. They appear as white crystals that vary in density and size from tiny ‘rocks’ to powder suspended in residual cannabinoid-rich ‘sauce’ (see below). Whether sold as a saucy, high-terpene extract, or packaged as isolated THCA, diamonds are always crystalline structures of pure THCA.
- Sauce: Thicker and more viscous, sauce is deep amber to bright mustard in color. Sauce is similar to ‘sugar’ (see above) in both consistency and color with a sticky, liquid consistency. Sauce is a popular derivative high levels of flavor-rich terpenes. Some sauce has separated consistencies like large diamonds floating in translucent golden syrup. Sauce is essentially a deconstructed shatter, in which the terpenes and cannabinoids have naturally separated.
Stage 3. Tertiary Derivative End-Products
Cannabinoid concentration/potency: 70-95%
The third stage produces distillates which are used in most highly concentrated end-products such as vape cartridges, tinctures, sublingual drops and more. Third stage derivatives may also be refined into cannabinoid isolates such as CBD and THC in the fourth and final stage.
The end-products produced at this third stage include:
Recombined Derivatives are combinations of refined derivatives that add value and potency to the final end product. The re-addition of terpenes back into distillates and winterized oil is a good example of a recombined derivative. Often terpenes are separated out earlier on in the extraction process because they are fragile and would otherwise be destroyed during further processing but are added back into the final product to enhance flavor and the type of high produced.
- Terpenes + Winterized/Polished Oil
- Terpenes + Distillates to produce full-spectrum extracts for vapes
Distillate oils are typically used in the manufacturing of most cannabis- and hemp-related end-products: vape cartridges, edibles and beverages, tinctures, topicals, capsules, and sublingual drops. A pure, clean distillate oil is the extractor’s main goal and one of the most valuable refined cannabinoid derivatives on the market today.
Stage 4. Separated and Recombined End-Products
Cannabinoid concentration/potency: 95-99%
The end-products produced at the fourth and final stage of the cannabis extraction and refinement journey have the highest concentration of cannabinoids and potency. It’s here where specific cannabinoids such as THCa, CBN, CBG, CBC, etc. are isolated and/or recombined to produce isolates and recombined derivatives.
The end-products of this final stage include:
The isolated cannabinoid is another staple of the cannabis and hemp industry. It can be sold retail or wholesale for addition into a huge variety of end-products including edibles, beverages, topicals, bath bombs, etc. Isolates are near-pure 99.9% chemically isolated compounds derived from the oils produced in previous stages. The isolation TCHa, THC, CBD, CBC, CBG, CBN, etc. enables end-product producers to have precise control over the active ingredients in their products.
Recombined derivatives are products created by recombining terpenes and cannabinoid isolates like THC and CBD. These products are also known as ‘terpsolates’ and typically used in vape cartridges.
Want to learn more about how to make cannabis and hemp end products?
In the next chapter, you’ll learn all about the most commonly used cannabis and hemp extraction methods. We’ll explain the differences between solvent-based and non-solvent based methods and help you decide which extraction and refinement method you’ll need to produce your desired end-product. Jump to Chapter 7: Common Extraction Methods and Technology.