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
Glossary of Terms: Cannabis and Hemp Extraction
The term “adult-use” is more all-encompassing than “recreational use” because it implies that not all cannabis consumers are consuming cannabis solely for recreational purposes. Cannabis is utilized for many reasons that go beyond the recreational/medicinal cannabis binary.
Broad Spectrum Extracts
Also known as full-spectrum extracts, broad-spectrum extracts contain multiple cannabinoids like the full spectrum oil except for THC. Broad Spectrum extracts also produce an “entourage effect” since it contains the full range of cannabinoids (CBG, CBD, CBN, and so on) and terpenes.
Bud is the trichome-covered flower of the female cannabis plant. It is the smokable or consumable part of the cannabis plant. Aroma, color and density of trichomes help determine the quality of bud.
Budder is a type of THC-rich dabbable cannabis concentrate. Budder is amber/yellowish in color and closely resembles regular butter in texture. It has over 80% THC in concentration and is also extremely flavorful because it contains significant amounts of terpenes.
Butane is a flammable hydrocarbon gas that is a constituent of petroleum and is used in bottled form as a fuel. It is a flammable hydrocarbon gas that is a constituent of petroleum and is used in bottled form as a fuel. It is a member of the alkane series.
In the cannabis and hemp industry biomass typically refers to the plant material left over for processing after the highly-prized flower (AKA colas or buds) of the plant has been removed.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds present in cannabis sativa plant. There are at least 144 different cannabinoids isolated from cannabis, exhibiting varied effects. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are most popular cannabinoid.
Cannabis, AKA “marijuana” (Spanish pronunciation: [maɾiˈhwana]) among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used primarily for medical or recreational purposes. The main psychoactive component of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is one of the 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 120~ other cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD (cannabidiol), the second most popular cannabinoid after THC. CBD is a non-intoxicating counterpart to THC, known for its medicinal properties and has shown effectiveness in treating childhood epilepsy syndromes like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS).
CBDV (cannabidivarin) is a non-psychoactive minor cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp. It is a homolog of cannabidiol. Plants with relatively high levels of CBDV have been reported in feral populations of Indica from northwest India and Nepal.
CBC (cannabichromene) is a non-psychoactive minor cannabinoid. CBC has the same origins as both THC and CBD do in that they all stem from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA).
CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid)
CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) the inactive cannabinoid and precursor to CBD. CBDA can be converted to CBD through decarboxylation.
CBG (cannabigerol) is the non-acidic form of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the foundational compound or precursor from which all other cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.) are naturally derived. Often known as the “mother cannabinoid”.
CBN (cannabinol) is a cannabinoid typically found in aged or oxidized cannabis or hemp because it is the product of degraded tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). Unlike most other cannabinoids CBN isn’t a cannabinoid that is formed from the “mother cannabinoid” CBG, but rather is a byproduct of the aging process.
Chromatography is a process of isolating individual cannabinoids from a refined oil or distillate to 99% purity. Some types of chromatography include high-performance liquid chromatography, centrifugal liquid chromatography.
The central flower cluster that is located on the upper portion of the main stems and large branches in a mature female cannabis or hemp plant. Colas are composed of tightly woven teardrop-shaped “buds” that can grow upwards of 26 inches.
Supercritical CO2 extraction uses pressurized carbon dioxide to extract desirable cannabinoids from a cannabis or hemp plant. It involves extracting out the plant’s essential cannabinoids, waxes, and terpenes.
Cold Pressed Extraction
Cold pressed extraction of cannabis or hemp is a form of non-solvent extraction that involves crushing the plant material under pressure to literally “squeeze” the oil out of the plant.
In general, compliance means conforming to a rule, such as a specification, policy, standard or law. In the cannabis industry, compliance typically refers to adhering to the laws and regulations of your local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction).
Crude oil refers to the first form of oil when extraction takes place which is dark brown to black in color containing CBD, CBC, CBN, CBG, and several other cannabinoids present in the plant. Crude Oil is the closest one can get to the plant’s chemical makeup.
A crumble is a type of THC-rich Dabbable cannabis concentrate. Crumble is identified by its malleable texture that falls apart, or crumbles, when handled. It has over 80% THC in concentration and is also extremely flavorful because it contains significant amounts of terpenes.
Crystallization is a process of purifying the active material compounds, concentrating it and increasing its stability, thus achieving an extremely high purity level. The driving force behind the Cannabinoids crystallization process is supersaturation, a physical state where Cannabinoids molecules are suspended in a solvent, and is then precipitated out of the solvent to decrease its energy state.
Curing is a process of preserving the product while retaining vital flavors, nutrients and cannabinoids. Curing cannabis forces the plant to use up those sugars, starches and excessive nutrients before they’ve had the chance to dry out and get stuck inside the plant.
Dabbable concentrate is a type of derivative produced through hydrocarbon based extraction. It is known for the full range of cannabinoids and terpenes it contains. Some of its types include shatter, budder, wax, crumble, etc. which could be categorized as crystallized and non-crystallized based on their extraction process and appearance.
Dabbing is the method of consuming concentrated cannabis oil using bongs, special pipes, and other vaporizer attachments. Dabbing offers a potent high and flavor packed experience for recreational cannabis users.
Decarboxylation is the heating process that converts inactive cannabinoids such as CBDA, THCA into their active versions by removing the extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to their chain.
Also popularly known as extracts and concentrates, derivatives emerge from extraction and refinement of the cannabis plant. This can typically segmented as primary derivatives (Terpenes, crude oil); secondary derivatives (refined oil, Dabbable concentrates); tertiary derivatives (distillate or recombined derivatives); and separated and recombined derivatives (Isolate, recombined derivatives).
Destemming is the process of removing stems from the cannabis buds once the plant is dry. This is typically done using trimming scissors.
Diamonds are crystalline structures that are created by extracting the live resin from cannabis plant and applying pressure to that oil with the help of a machine.
Distillate is considered one of the purest and most potent forms of this cannabinoid. Pure distillate is tasteless as it does not contain terpenes. Distillates have the most varied application across end products such as topicals, edibles, beverages, etc.
Distillation is a process of applying heat and pressure to a cannabis plant, forcing out any impurities and residual traces of extraction solvent.
Dry sift is a non-solvent based extracted derivative. It is typically manufactured by sifting or sieving cannabis through screens. Dry sift is also known as “Kief”, and can be consumed on its own, with tobacco or mixed with cannabis bud for higher potency.
Cannabis plants undergo drying to remove excess moisture from the plant after harvesting and before extraction. It is done by hanging the branches from a string or wire.
Entourage effects is when different compounds that are found in cannabis work together to produce a combined greater effect as compared with working separately to give separate effects.
Ethanol extraction involves soaking the cannabis plant in the solvent to pull the trichomes into the ethanol. This technology has gained popularity due to its benefits such as effectiveness, efficiency and scalability to name a few.
Extraction refers to the process of converting cannabis/hemp biomass into cannabinoid derivative using solvent or non-solvent based technologies such as CO2, Ethanol, etc. The crude generated at this stage is a amber/brown thick extract which contains the full spectrum of the plant including solvent used in the process.
Cannabinoid derivatives are also popularly known as extracts or concentrates which is produced with the help of a solvent and various mechanical process. Crumble, wax, shatter, distillate, Budder etc. are some of the common types of cannabis extracts available in the market.
Filtration is the process of removing the lipids which come to the surface of a solution like floating wax. This is done after the winterization process. Vacuums and pumps are mainly used in the process of filtration, however paper filters may also be used.
Flavonoids are phenolic compounds that are formed inside cannabis trichomes and help develop aroma, flavor and color palette of cannabis cultivar. Flavonoids are known to have anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-mutagenic properties. Well known flavonoids include vitexin & isovitexin, kaempferol, apigenin, beta-sitosterol, among others.
Flower is smokable part of a female cannabis plant. Flower is the most popular form of cannabis due to its versatility. Flower can be smoked using a joint, pipe or a bong.
Full Spectrum Extract
Full Spectrum is a type of cannabis concentrate that maintains the full profile of the cannabis plant i.e. it preserves the full cannabinoid and terpene content. It also captures all of the therapeutic compounds of the cannabis plant and is known for providing the entourage effect.
Hash / Hashish
Hash is a concentrate derived from trichomes, which are ripe gland heads that line the surface of the cannabis plants. Hash is of various types such as dry sift hash and ice water hash.
Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. Hemp fibers can be used to make items including paper, clothing, furnishing fabric, rope, and building materials. In the US, hemp is also defined by the 2018 Farm Bill as having less than 0.3% THC content.
Hydrocarbon extraction is a popular solvent based extraction technology favored for its non-polarity, which allows the extractor to capture the desired cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis without co-extracting undesirables including chlorophyll and plant metabolites. Butane’s low boiling point also makes it easy to purge from the concentrate at the end of the extraction process, leaving a relatively pure by-product behind.
Ice Water Hash
Ice Hash refers to a solventless cannabis concentrate formed when trichomes of the cannabis plant are sieved in the presence of ice water. Ice water hash is typically dabbed, but can also be used to add potency to flower. Sometimes known as “bubble hash”.
Cannabis indica is a plant in the family Cannabaceae. It is a putative species of the genus Cannabis. Whether Indica and Sativa are truly separate species is a matter of debate.
Isolate is a multipurpose crystalline solid or powder that contains pure isolated cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, CBG, etc. When one produces isolates, only the pure elements of the plant are extracted.
Isolation/separation is the process of creating isolated cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, etc. through the process of separation.
Live resin is a cannabis concentrate, made from plant material that has not been dried or cured. Live resins can be made through flash-freezing process which helps retain desirable compounds and flavors of the cannabis plant. Live resins are primarily consumed by dabbing.
Cannabis legalization refers to the movement to remove cannabis (marijuana) from its classification as a Schedule I drug and the criminal justice system and regulated like alcohol and tobacco. At time of writing 11 US states have full legalization.
Currently falling out of favor in the industry, the word marijuana is being replaced by the use of the word “cannabis” instead. Marijuana is an old Mexican slang word used for the plant in the early 1900s that has negative, prohibition-era connotations associated with racism and anti-cannabis propaganda.
Mechanical separation is typically used to describe non-solvent extraction methods which do not use a solvent but an agent, such as water or ice, to ‘mechanically’ separate out the resin from the plant.
Medical Marijuana (MMJ)
Medical cannabis, or medical marijuana, is cannabis and cannabinoids that are prescribed by physicians for their patients.
Particle Size Reduction
Dried and Cured cannabis plants are trimmed and milled to reduce the size of the plant in preparation for extraction or creating pre-rolls. This entire step in the preparation stage is commonly referred to as particle size reduction of flower to biomass.
A phytocannabinoid is a molecule synthesized by plants and produced in the trichomes of a cannabis or hemp plant. It also exists in other plants including Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Acmella oleracea, Helichrysum umbraculigerum, and Radula marginata.
Preparation refers to the initial processing of harvested flower into biomass which is ready for extraction of cannabinoids and derivatives. It includes steps such as sorting, trimming, milling, curing, etc. Post Preparation, the flower can also be sold directly for smoking.
Refined Oil or Polished Oil refers to the product which has been filtered after crude oil has been extracted. With refined oil one could find slightly higher levels of cannabinoids which could mean a more intense experience post consumption.
Refinement refers to the post-processing of the derivatives to remove elements such as fats, waxes, chlorophyll, lipids, or any other impurities. As the derivative undergoes refinement steps such as solvent evaporation, distillation, etc. the concentration of the cannabinoids increases.
Remediation is the process of removing THC from a cannabis distillate. Chromatography is the most common form of remediation. Remediation is a way cannabis processors ensure that products have little or no THC.
Resin is a term used to describe gooey trichomes, the ripe gland heads on the surface of cannabis plants, that appear on flowers of mature female cannabis plants. Resin is the source of all cannabinoids and terpenes. The aroma produced by terpenes produced by resin act as a deterrent to insects.
Rick Simpson Oil
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is concentrated cannabis which is primarily used for medicinal properties including treating cancer symptoms. Canadian Rick Simpson created an extract to cure cancer, hence the name RSO.
Rosin is a cannabis concentrate made through an extraction technique that manipulates fine hash using high pressure and temperature resulting in THC-rich resin. In rosin, the cannabinoid concentration is around 70 percent, and can even reach more than 80 percent.
Cannabis ruderalis, or C. sativa subsp. sativa var. spontanea, is a low-THC variety or subspecies of Cannabis which is native to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
Cannabis sativa is an annual herbaceous flowering plant indigenous to eastern Asia but now of cosmopolitan distribution due to widespread cultivation. Possibly the most popular form of adult use cannabis.
Sauce is a form of dabbable concentrate with a sticky, liquid consistency. Sauce extractions contain high levels of terpenes and are the most flavorful of extracts. Sauce can be considered deconstructed shatter in which the terpenes and cannabinoids have naturally separated.
Shatter is a type of dabbable concentrate with a brittle, glass-like structure named for its breakability. Shatter has a translucent appearance with a honeylike amber to a darker yellow shade. Shatter is preferred for its ease in handling while dabbing.
Solvent Evaporation is a method of removing the solvents from the cannabinoid derivatives using processes such as evaporation.
Sorting of flowers is an important preparation step which include segregation of flowers based on size, quality, etc.
Sublingual mean under the tongue. Various cannabinoid derivatives like tincture, CBD oil, among others are consumed sublingually. The advantage of this method is that it mostly bypasses the digestive system and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream making the CBD or THC bioavailable faster and stronger.
Sugar is type of dabbable concentrate that has a viscous and grainy texture. Sugar is usually desired for its high terpene profile.
Terpenes are aromatic oils that provide cannabis varieties distinctive flavors such as citrus, berry, mint, and pine. Terpenes play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains. Terpenes are used for various purposes- to provide relaxation and stress relief or to promote better focus and concentration. Common cannabis terpenes include alpha-pinene, beta-caryophyllene, limonene, linalol, and myrcene.
Terpenoids, sometimes called isoprenoids, are a large and diverse class of naturally occurring organic chemicals derived from the 5-carbon compound isoprene, and the isoprene polymers called terpenes. Although sometimes used interchangeably with “terpenes”, terpenoids contain additional functional groups.
Trichomes are the “factories” that exist in the flower of the cannabis and hemp plant that produce the hundreds of known cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Trichomes appear as shiny, sticky outgrowths that appear as the silvery “hair” on the buds of the flower.
THC stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the most popular cannabinoid which is used as a primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. When consumed, THC induces sensory and psychological effects in humans like mild reverie, euphoria, increased sensory awareness and therapeutic benefits.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is the inactive cannabinoid which is the precursor to THC. It is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, produced in trichomes of the cannabis plant. THCA converts into THC through the process of decarboxylation. THCA itself is known for having anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective qualities.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV, THV) is a homologue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) having a propyl (3-carbon) side chain instead of a pentyl (5-carbon) group on the molecule.It is a cannabis-derived cannabinoid with different phyiscal affects to THC.
Terpsolates are recombined cannabis or hemp derivatives. Made from two words “terpene” and “isolate” it is most commonly referred to the post-extraction addition, or recombination, of CBD isolates to terpenes. This is done enhance flavor and terpene-related effects.
Tincture is cannabis infused oil/liquid form product and contain a range of cannabinoids. Tinctures are generally packaged in small glass bottles with droppers for convenient dosing. Tincture can be consumed sublingually or can be mixed into food and drinks.
Trim refers to the excess leaves from buds of cannabis plants. Trim can be used to make extractions, tinctures, hash and edibles, and thus must be used by growers wisely.
Vape pen is a battery powered handheld device with a cartridge filled with cannabinoid derivatives. With a Vape pen, concentrate is heated to release vapor. Vape pens are preferred as they are convenient, discreet, less harmful and cleaner.
Being vertically integrated means that your business owns all the stages of your production process from cultivation to end-market sales, including extraction and refinement processes.
Water Based Extraction
Water based extraction is not technically “extraction” per se but use of the phrase is a popular one in the industry. This technology actually involves the separation of cannabinoid derivatives using water as a mechanical separating force. The method is gaining popularity as it does not involve use of solvents such as alcohol or hydrocarbon.
Winterization is the process of removing fats, waxes and lipids from a plant. Winterization is needed when oil has been extracted at a very high temperature or pressure. Winterization prevents the end products from being cloudy and dark.