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What is Cannabis Extract and How is it Made?

Updated: May 4

The cannabis industry is growing rapidly, and with it comes the term "cannabis extract" being used more often. However, many consumers and new investors still don't fully understand what these extracts are and how they're made. It's important to have a clear understanding of cannabis extracts because:


  1. For consumers: It allows you to choose products that are best suited to your needs.

  2. For investors: It helps you evaluate potential opportunities in this expanding market.



What Are Cannabis Extracts?

Cannabis extracts are highly concentrated forms of the plant's most desirable compounds, which include:

  • Cannabinoids: Chemical compounds like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) that have various effects on the body.

  • Terpenes: Aromatic oils that give each cannabis strain its unique scent and flavor.


These substances contain the therapeutic and recreational properties of cannabis in a much stronger form than regular marijuana buds.


There are several reasons why cannabis extracts have gained popularity among users:

  1. Potency: Extracts can have significantly higher levels of cannabinoids compared to dried flower, making them more potent.

  2. Precise Dosing: With extracts, it's easier to measure and control the amount of cannabinoids you consume, allowing for more accurate dosing.

  3. Versatility: Extracts can be used in various ways such as vaporizing, dabbing, or adding to edibles, providing options for different preferences and consumption methods.


Understanding how cannabis extracts are made is key to appreciating their value and potential applications. In the next section, we'll explore the extraction process in detail.


Types of Cannabis Extracts

In the world of cannabis, there is a wide variety of types of cannabis extracts. These extracts are grouped based on their characteristics and effects, helping consumers find the right products for their needs.


Major Types of Cannabis Extracts

Here are some of the main types of cannabis extracts, each with its own unique qualities:

  • Crumble: This extract has a crumbly texture and offers a good balance between potency and flavor.

  • Wax: With its soft, wax-like consistency, this type of extract is known for being easy to use.

  • Shatter: Aptly named for its glass-like transparency and brittleness, shatter is highly potent.

  • Budder: Similar to butter in texture, budder has a high terpene profile that enhances its flavor.

  • Live Resin: Made from freshly harvested plants, live resin captures a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes.

  • Distillate: Considered the purest form of cannabis extract, distillate doesn't contain any plant material.


Cannabis wax curled up on a yellow background

Understanding Cannabinoids and Terpenes

To fully grasp the differences between these extracts, it's important to understand two key components: cannabinoids and terpenes.


Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD play a significant role in determining the psychoactive effects and potential therapeutic benefits of each extract.


Terpenes, on the other hand, are volatile compounds that give the cannabis plant its distinct aroma. They also contribute to the overall flavor profile of an extract and may have their own therapeutic properties.


The interaction between cannabinoids and terpenes is often referred to as the 'entourage effect'. This suggests that these elements work together synergistically to enhance their individual effects.


By recognizing this complex world of cannabis extracts, we can better appreciate the potential of the plant and make more informed choices about which products are right for us.


The Production Process: From Plant to Extract

The production process involves a detailed procedure to turn raw cannabis plants into powerful and pure extracts. Here's how it works:


1. Selecting the Right Buds

It all starts with choosing mature buds that contain high levels of cannabinoids and terpenes – the beneficial compounds found in cannabis.


2. Extraction: Separating the Good Stuff

The most important step is extraction, where solvents come into play. Solvents are substances that can dissolve other substances, and they're used here to separate cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from the rest of the plant.

Common solvents like butane, propane, ethanol, and carbon dioxide are used because they can easily dissolve these compounds.


3. Purging: Removing Unwanted Residues

After extraction, there's a purging stage where any remaining solvents are removed from the solution. This is done by heating or reducing the solution under vacuum conditions, causing the solvents to evaporate.

The result is a concentrated extract that's free from harmful residues.


4. Refining and Enhancing

Once the extract is ready, additional processes may be done to further improve its quality:

  • Winterization: This technique removes fats and waxes from the extract, making it cleaner and smoother.

  • Decarboxylation: By heating the extract, inactive cannabinoids (such as THC-A) are converted into their active forms (such as THC), increasing their potency.


These techniques help ensure that the final product is as potent and pure as possible.


5. Understanding Solvent Choice

It's important to note that different solvents can have varying effects on the final product. Some solvents may extract more than just cannabinoids and terpenes – they could also pull out unwanted substances like chlorophyll, which can affect the quality of the extract.

That's why it's crucial for extraction operators to know the characteristics of each solvent and choose wisely.


Every Step Matters

From selecting the right plants to performing the extraction and refining processes, each stage in this production process plays a crucial role in determining the qualities of cannabis extracts.


Exploring Extraction Methods

In the world of cannabis extracts, there are many different techniques that have been created and improved over time. These methods can be divided into two main groups: solvent-based extraction methods and mechanical extraction methods.


Solvent-Based Extraction Methods

Among the solvent-based methods, Butane, Propane, Ethanol, and CO2 extraction techniques have gained substantial popularity.


  1. Butane Extraction: This is a high-pressure process that uses butane as a solvent to separate cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material. The end result is Butane Hash Oil (BHO), which can come in various forms like wax, shatter, or budder depending on how it's processed after extraction.

  2. Propane Extraction: Similar to butane extraction, this method uses propane under high pressure to extract desired compounds from the cannabis plant. Propane's lower boiling point often leads to a product with more preserved terpenes.

  3. Ethanol Extraction: In this method, ethanol is used as a solvent. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to extract both water-soluble and fat-soluble compounds due to its polarity.

  4. CO2 Extraction: This is a complex technique that involves using pressurized carbon dioxide to extract cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds from cannabis material. It is highly respected for its ability to produce clean, high-quality extracts.


Mechanical/Solventless Extraction Methods

On the other hand, mechanical methods rely on physical processes instead of chemical reactions.


  1. Pressing: This method requires applying heat and pressure to cannabis material in order to extract resinous sap. The resulting extract, known as rosin, retains many of the plant's original cannabinoids and terpenes.

  2. Rubbing Resin Out: A simple yet effective technique where trichomes are removed from the plant material by rubbing it between hands or against a fine screen.


These extraction methods, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, highlight the versatility of cannabis as a natural resource and its ability to meet various consumer preferences. The decision between solvent-based and mechanical methods often depends on the specific qualities desired in the final extract, whether it's purity, strength, or flavor profile.


Tray of cannabis vape pen cartridges

Ensuring Quality: Characteristics of High-Quality Cannabis Extracts

In the busy world of the cannabis industry, determining high-quality extracts depends on strict quality standards. There are three main factors that reveal the quality of a cannabis extract.


  1. Purity: The purity of an extract is shown by the absence of contaminants and leftover solvents. A high-quality extract does not contain pesticides, heavy metals, or mycotoxins, all of which can harm human health.

  2. Potency: Potency indicates the strength of an extract by measuring its cannabinoid concentration. High-quality extracts have high levels of THC or CBD, resulting in stronger effects.

  3. Terpene Profile: Terpenes are responsible for the smell and taste of cannabis and also contribute to its therapeutic properties. A superior quality extract often has a diverse range of terpenes.


These factors not only set apart a top-notch product but also ensure that it is safe for consumers to use. Knowing about these aspects can help individuals make informed choices when faced with various options in the market.

In the field of cannabis extraction, ensuring quality is extremely important. In the following sections, we will explore how thorough testing and certification further strengthen these standards.


The Importance of Testing and Certification in the Cannabis Industry

When it comes to producing top-notch cannabis extracts, it's crucial to prioritize two key elements: testing and certification. These practices are essential for ensuring that the extracts meet the high-quality standards expected by consumers and enforced by regulatory agencies.


The Significance of Lab Testing

Lab testing plays a fundamental role in the production of cannabis extracts. It involves conducting thorough analyses of the extracts in specialized laboratories to gather objective data about their composition and quality. Here's why lab testing is so important:


  1. Determining Potency: Lab tests can accurately measure the levels of cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) present in an extract, providing valuable information about its potency and effects.

  2. Identifying Impurities: Through lab testing, any potential impurities or contaminants in the extract can be detected. This includes substances like residual solvents from the extraction process, pesticides used during cultivation, or heavy metals present in the plant material.

  3. Ensuring Safety: By uncovering these impurities, lab testing helps to ensure that the final product is safe for consumption, minimizing potential health risks for consumers.


The Role of Certification

In addition to lab testing, certification serves as another crucial aspect of quality assurance for cannabis extracts. One key certification related to cannabis processing facilities is the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification. According to NSF.org, GMP certification or registration provides consumers and retailers with assurance that a product is manufactured utilizing industry best practices.


The benefits of GMP certification or registration include increased protection of your brand and minimized risks, and it also prepares your facility for regulatory inspections. Here's what you need to know about certification:


  • Industry Standards and Compliance: Certification indicates that a product has met specific standards set by the industry and regulatory bodies. This includes guidelines related to manufacturing processes, labeling requirements, packaging standards, and more.

  • Consumer Trust and Confidence: When consumers see a certified label on a cannabis extract, it gives them peace of mind knowing that the product has undergone rigorous testing and meets all necessary requirements. This builds trust between producers and consumers, fostering long-term relationships.

  • Differentiation in the Market: With an increasing number of cannabis products available, certification can help extracts stand out from the competition. It serves as a clear indicator of quality and reliability, making it easier for consumers to make informed choices.


The Interplay Between Testing and Certification

While lab testing and certification are distinct processes, they are interconnected in their purpose of ensuring product quality. Here's how they work together:

  1. Testing as a Prerequisite: Before a cannabis extract can be certified, it must first undergo comprehensive lab testing to assess its safety, potency, and purity.

  2. Certification as an Assurance: Once the extract has passed all necessary tests, it can be granted certification as proof of its quality and compliance with industry standards.


The Bottom Line

Lab testing and certification are not just bureaucratic requirements; they are essential tools for maintaining the integrity of the cannabis industry and protecting consumer interests. By investing in these practices, producers demonstrate their commitment to delivering safe, reliable, and high-quality extracts to the market. As a consumer, you can ask the dispensary you purchase from to show you the lab testing for the extracts you're interested in purchasing.


A grass background with the letters GMP standing for good manufacturing practices

Diverse Applications: Products Derived from Cannabis Extracts

Cannabis extracts are used to create a wide range of products that suit different ways of consuming. These extracts are incredibly versatile and can be found in:


  1. Edibles: Popular among those who don't want to smoke, edibles are food items like cookies or candies infused with specific amounts of cannabis extract.

  2. Vape Cartridges: Filled with concentrated cannabis extract, these cartridges are used with a compatible vaporizer device. They are convenient and discreet.

  3. Topicals: Lotions or balms infused with cannabis extract that are applied directly onto the skin for targeted relief.


The way cannabinoids (the compounds found in cannabis) are consumed affects how they work in the body, which in turn influences the user's experience. Here are four common methods:


  1. Dabbing: Heating a small amount of cannabis concentrate on a hot surface and then inhaling it. This method provides quick effects and is known for its potency.

  2. Vape Pens: Using a device that heats up cannabis extracts to create a vapor, which is then inhaled. This method allows for quick absorption and easy control over dosage.

  3. Oral Intake (Edibles): Ingesting cannabis extracts through food items or beverages. This method has longer-lasting effects compared to inhalation but takes more time to kick in.

  4. Sublingual Intake: Placing cannabis extracts under the tongue for absorption. Similar to oral intake, this method also offers long-lasting effects but is faster acting as it bypasses the digestive system.

These different consumption methods offer users flexibility in choosing the experience they desire. In addition to these traditional methods, cannabis extracts are also used in the production of topicals and even more diverse types of edibles and beverages. This diversity highlights the versatility of cannabis extracts and their potential for various applications in the wellness and recreational markets.


Meeting the Industry Standards: Equipment for Cannabis Extract Production

In the world of cannabis extract production, following industry standards is not just a formality but a must for safety, quality, and compliance. A licensed processing facility must have advanced machinery and tools that make the extraction processes efficient without compromising the quality of the product.


Essential Machinery and Tools for Efficient Extraction Processes in a Licensed Facility


  • Extraction Vessels: High-pressure containers designed specifically for solvent-based extractions, capable of withstanding extreme conditions.

  • Filtration Systems: Crucial for purifying extracts by removing unwanted plant materials and impurities, ensuring a clean end product.

  • Rotary Evaporators: Used to remove solvents from the extracted oil under vacuum, concentrating the cannabinoids and terpenes.

  • Decarboxylation Ovens: These ovens activate the cannabinoids through controlled heating, a vital step for making psychoactive extracts consumable.

  • Distillation Equipment: Used to further refine cannabis oil by separating compounds based on their boiling points.

To get a better understanding of these machinery and tools, you can refer to this extraction equipment guide which provides comprehensive information about various extraction equipment used in the industry.


Understanding the Purpose and Features of a C1D1 Compliant Room

A C1D1 (Class 1, Division 1) compliant room is crucial for any licensed extraction facility that handles flammable gases or solvents. This specialized room is designed to:


  • Prevent Accidents: It is built to reduce the risks associated with explosive chemicals through features like spark-proof fixtures and ventilation systems.

  • Ensure Compliance: The specifications of a C1D1 room align with national safety codes and regulations that are mandatory for operation.

  • Facilitate Monitoring: Equipped with continuous gas detection systems and emergency controls to quickly address any dangerous situations that may occur.


For more detailed guidelines on the construction of commercial extraction facilities, including C1D1 compliant rooms, you can refer to the Marijuana Building Code Guidelines for Commercial Extraction Facilities provided by Jackson County.


With these measures in place, operators can confidently carry out extractions knowing they are following industry regulations and best practices. It's also important to note that this roadmap to hemp processing could serve as a valuable reference for those looking to venture into cannabis extract production, as it covers various aspects of the process from equipment selection to compliance with safety standards.


a blue sky with clods behind a yellow warning sign that says be careful

Unlocking Opportunities in the Cannabis Extract Business

The cannabis extract industry is growing rapidly and attracting a lot of attention from consumers and investors. With changing preferences and advancements in extraction technologies, market analysts predict that this sector will continue to expand. However, it's important for investors to approach this market with caution in order to maximize their returns.


Thriving Landscape

The market for cannabis extracts is experiencing significant growth and diversification. Two key factors driving this growth are:


  1. Product innovation: Companies that can create unique and appealing products have a competitive advantage in attracting customers.

  2. Brand differentiation: Building a strong brand helps companies stand out from competitors and develop customer loyalty.


Investment Opportunities

There are several areas within the cannabis extract industry that offer potential for investors:

  1. State-of-the-art extraction facilities: Investing in modern extraction facilities can lead to higher production efficiency and lower costs, making it an attractive opportunity.

  2. Research and development (R&D): Companies that focus on R&D have the potential to discover new extraction methods or improve existing ones, giving them a competitive edge.

  3. Ancillary businesses: Supporting industries such as equipment manufacturing or lab testing services play a crucial role in the extract production process and can be lucrative investment options.


In addition to these investment opportunities, it's important for investors to stay informed about the latest trends shaping the cannabis extract industry. These top 7 cannabis trends to watch out for in 2024 provide valuable insights into potential areas of growth and innovation.


Considerations for Investors

Before making any investment decisions in the cannabis extract market, there are several important factors to consider:

  1. Regulatory compliance: Adhering to laws and regulations is essential for long-term success in this industry.

  2. Market saturation: As more companies enter the market, competition increases. It's crucial for investors to find ways to differentiate their ventures from others.

  3. Consumer trends: Understanding what consumers want and how their preferences are changing is key to developing successful products that meet demand.


By carefully evaluating the financial stability, management expertise, and technological capabilities of potential investment targets, stakeholders can make well-informed decisions. Thorough research and analysis are crucial in order to identify the best opportunities in this dynamic sector.


a peach colored background with a jar of cannabis extract in the middle perspective is birds eye

Embracing the Future: Innovations in Cannabis Extraction

The future of cannabis extraction is filled with exciting advancements and trends that will completely change the industry. New technologies are leading the way, completely transforming how extracts are made. These innovations promise to deliver extracts with higher purity and potency, while also preserving the natural benefits of cannabinoids and terpenes.


1. Enhanced Solvent Recovery Systems

These systems aim to increase efficiency and reduce waste by recapturing solvents used in the extraction process. They not only help the environment but also save a lot of money on operational costs.


2. Cryogenic Freezing Techniques

By using extremely cold temperatures, these methods make it possible to extract live resin. This technique captures a more intense terpene profile by preserving the plant's original flavor and aroma.


3. Ultrasonic Extraction

A new approach that uses ultrasonic waves to shake trichomes on the plant, resulting in more cannabinoids being released without affecting their quality.


4. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is now being integrated into cannabis extraction processes, bringing a whole new level of precision. It can extract specific compounds more accurately, predict the best time to harvest plants, and even create customized product formulas based on data-driven insights.


5. Sustainability-Driven Innovations

As environmental concerns grow, there is a rise in closed-loop systems and eco-friendly solvents that aim to minimize harm to nature while still producing high-quality extracts.

These groundbreaking innovations offer countless possibilities for creating new products and services in the cannabis industry. However, it remains to be seen how these technological advancements will align with existing regulations to ensure that this growing industry continues to thrive safely and sustainably.


Conclusion

Cannabis extracts come in many forms, each with its own unique qualities and uses. They are more than just a product; they represent a careful process of turning raw plants into concentrated substances.


This process involves advanced extraction techniques, rigorous quality testing, and adherence to industry standards. But it goes beyond knowledge – we should also value the power of these extracts.


Their strength makes them popular among users looking for intense effects or medicinal properties. And their versatility allows for various applications, such as edibles or topicals, making them appealing to a wide range of people.


The world of cannabis extracts is full of potential opportunities. With changing consumer needs and preferences, entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators are ready to enter this growing market.


We're on the verge of a new era with advancements in technology and extraction methods. This means we can expect improvements in efficiency and exciting new possibilities for cannabis extracts.


So let's not just learn about them – let's truly understand and appreciate the diverse nature of cannabis extracts. They have endless potential waiting to be explored.




Nate about frequently asked questions FAQ about cannabis extracts

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)


What is the importance of understanding cannabis extracts?

Understanding cannabis extracts is crucial as it allows consumers to make informed decisions about the products they use and helps industry professionals ensure the quality and safety of their offerings.


What are the major types of cannabis extracts?

The major types of cannabis extracts include Crumble, Wax, Shatter, Budder, Live Resin, and distillate. Each type has unique characteristics and uses.


What is the key role of solvents in facilitating extraction in the production process?

Solvents play a crucial role in facilitating the extraction process by effectively separating the desired compounds, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, from the plant material to create cannabis extracts.


What are the different categories of extraction methods used for cannabis?

There are two main categories of extraction methods used for cannabis: solvent-based methods (such as Butane, Propane, Ethanol, CO2) and mechanical/solventless methods (including Pressing and Rubbing Resin Out). Each method has its own advantages and considerations.


What are some indicators of high-quality cannabis extracts?

Purity, potency, and terpene profile serve as key indicators of high-quality cannabis extracts. These characteristics reflect the overall quality and effectiveness of the product.


Why is rigorous testing and certification important for maintaining quality standards for extracts?

Rigorous testing and certification are essential to ensure that cannabis extracts meet safety, quality, and regulatory standards. This process helps build trust with consumers and ensures compliance with industry regulations.


What are some diverse applications and consumption methods for products derived from cannabis extracts?

Products derived from cannabis extracts have diverse applications, including edibles, vape cartridges, and topicals. Consumption methods range from dabbing to oral/sublingual intake, offering various options for users.


What are some essential machinery and tools required for efficient extraction processes in a licensed facility?

In a licensed facility, essential machinery and tools for efficient extraction processes include equipment for extraction and a C1D1 compliant room. These resources play a critical role in ensuring safe and effective production.


What potential areas for investment exist in the cannabis extract business?

The thriving landscape of the cannabis extract business presents potential areas for investment, including production facilities, research and development initiatives, and innovative technologies. Investors should consider various factors when venturing into this market.


Emerging trends and technological advancements are driving innovation in cannabis extraction. These developments are expected to enhance efficiency, product diversity, and overall sustainability within the industry.

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