Just a couple of years into America’s state-legal cannabis industry, extracts have eclipsed cannabis flower to become the most popular cannabis product. Last year, marijuana concentrate sales increased by 40% and accounted for a large percentage of marijuana sales. People are looking for safer, more discreet ways to consume cannabis, and consequently, smoking cannabis flower and vaping have been edged out by cannabis extracts. However, marijuana extracts are quite complex to produce, requiring precise, expert care from the time the cannabis plants are in the ground until they reach the factory.
In the early days of cannabis extraction, most cannabis extractors used whatever cannabis they could get their hands on to extract cannabinoids, regardless of the trim’s quality. However, cannabis plants absorb and store any material present in the soil, whether it is minerals and nutrients or toxic pesticides and herbicides. These impurities eventually show up in whatever product the cannabis biomass is used to make, significantly reducing their quality and making them unsafe to consume.
With that in mind, companies committed to producing high-quality cannabis extracts have to use organically grown, high-quality cannabis that has no impurities and was harvested, dried and cured properly.
Liad Chatow, the head of research and development at California-based terpene manufacturer Eybna Technologies, notes that the chances of obtaining a high-quality product depend on the richness of the raw ingredient. Less than stellar care can result in moldy cannabis, reduced potency and lost terpenes, he states, ultimately impacting the quality of the final product. Since nothing can be done to reverse this kind of damage to the raw material, extractors can save themselves significant time and money by ensuring they source organically grown cannabis that has received proper care before and after harvest.
California-based Papa & Barkley ensures the cannabis it purchases for extraction is in good shape by sending temp workers to cannabis cultivators to trim and prepare the raw cannabis to company specifications. It is the responsibility of companies to make sure that the cannabis they purchase was treated right at the farm as, unlike most industries, cannabis has no industry standards, says Papa & Barkley’s chief product officer Guy Rocourt.
On the other hand, Jason Muniz, founder and president of Texas-based hemp extractor and decorticator Texas Blue Diamond Solutions, says that proper harvesting, curing and storage before extraction is the farmers’ responsibility. His prediction is that at some point in the future, farmers will sell their hemp and cannabis at different price points depending on their quality, much like tobacco.
The highest-quality raw material would come at a premium while the lower-quality cannabis would be cheaper, he says. But before that happens, extractors who want a piece of the lucrative extracts market have to ensure the raw material they use is in good shape. This is precisely what leading companies such as The Alkaline Water Company Inc. (NASDAQ: WTER) (CSE: WTER) do in order to come up with products that customers learn to rely on.
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