The cannabis industry has been riding high for the past few years, earning billions of dollars as more states have chosen to legalize it for either medical or recreational use — even both. Despite cannabis becoming even more accessible, many consumers don’t stop to think about how much care is taken to ensure the products they see on the shelves are of top quality.
Anyone who deals with plant material early on in the supply chain will tell you moisture is enemy number one. With moisture comes mold and microbials, and when it comes to marijuana and hemp extracts, handling and storing the raw plant material improperly leaves it vulnerable to mold and microbials that can — and will — spoil the entire batch.
So how do extractors keep these two away during the extraction process? Well, for starters, they make sure raw plant material is properly tested and stored before the extraction process, and they work hard to keep moisture out during all extraction stages. Additionally, they can employ the solvent-based processes used during extraction to eliminate contaminants, and once extraction is complete, they store the finished products in air-tight containers.
According to Andras Gaspar, chief product officer at chromatography technology company RotaChrom Technologies, microbials will both degrade plant material and secrete toxins. The raw plant material will not only be earmarked for disposal, but it can also be deemed hazardous waste. To prevent this from happening, extractors use extraction processes that some have dubbed “kill steps” to get rid of contamination from the plants.
Irradiation will eliminate contaminants even before the plant is processed. It does not degrade CBD, THC or terpene content, says Quinn Shiskin, director of products and innovation at British Columbia-based cannabis product manufacturer the Valens Co. Depending on the solvent used during the extraction process, the plant material can be cleansed again, with solvents such as ethanol being great at removing microbials and mold.
Winterization, which sees the extracted solvent chilled to extremely low temperatures (-80 degrees Celsius) for up to 48 hours to get rid of impurities such as wax, is also a kill step. The crude oil is then superheated to create a distillate, providing another kill step that further cleanses it of contaminants. Craig Henderson, CEO of Boulder, Colorado-based CBD producer Extract Labs, says eliminating moisture is the best way to keep microbials and mold at bay.
His company uses hydrocarbon and CO2 for solvent extraction, then superheats the crude oil and employs alcohol during the winterization process to get rid of moisture and kill contaminants. A rotary evaporator is used to remove any remaining moisture. On top of that, his team cleans all work surfaces with isopropyl alcohol, keeping the packaging and labeling zones separate, and packs the finished products in sealed jars in dark, temperature-controlled environments.
Needless to say, the most reputable cannabis extraction companies, including BevCanna Enterprises Inc. (CSE: BEV) (OTCQB: BVNNF) (FSE: 7BC), go an extra mile of subjecting their products to stringent third-party tests so that product buyers can be sure that no contaminant is present in what they are going to consume.
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