CO2 EXTRACTION PRIMER FOR GROWERS

BY RUBY MCCONNELL

Cultivation is about a lot more than just harvest yields and THC content. In this rapidly changing and regional marketplace, entourage effects, flavor, and aroma are major factors in building your reputation and loyal customer base. As your farm grows, offering a wide range of value-added products will appeal to a wider range of customers and preferences in style of consumption. You’ll also want those products to reflect and elevate the qualities that make your flower special.

ENTER: CO2 EXTRACTION.

First, what is an extract? Extracts, in the simplest terms, contain the active components of a plant in concentrated form. As a general rule, most extraction processes use a solvent such as water, alcohol, or hydrocarbons and the application of heat and pressure to dissolve the target active substances. Brewing coffee and tea are the most familiar forms of extraction in our day- to-day lives. On the commercial side of the cannabis industry, extraction refers to the concentration of major and minor cannabinoids (phyto-cannabinoids) and terpenes, usually as a vapable oil or dab, similar to essential oils derived from other plants, such as lavender.

In CO2 extraction, carbon dioxide gas is heated and pressurized until the gas becomes a supercritical fluid, allowing it to pass through solids like a gas while dissolving materials like a liquid. The supercritical CO2 fluid is passed through the ground plant matter, extracting the essential oils (THC, cannabinoids, and terpenes) which are dropped out of suspension as the CO2 moves out of the pressurized vessel and into a cooler, returning to its gaseous state. The CO2 is then typically recirculated through the process again, creating a closed-loop system. Most CO2 machines are able to recapture most of the CO2 used, meaning there are few, if any, emissions from the process.

CO2 extraction differs from other common cannabis extraction methods primarily in the nature of the solvent, which is a good thing. Other forms of cannabis extraction use flammable, toxic hydrocarbons such as propane or butane which can leave potentially harmful residues in the end product. Moreover, hydrocarbon facilities have been scrutinized for worker- and community-safety concerns, as these facilities use highly flammable substances under pressure, causing several high-profile explosions related to these processes. Unlike these hydrocarbon-based systems, CO2 is non-flammable and does not pose a human health risk. If you’ve worked hard to maintain high organic standards for your farm, CO2 extraction can ensure no toxic chemicals are added during processing.

While overall yield can be slightly lower than other extraction processes, CO2 extraction tends to preserve a larger quantity of the terpenes and phytocannabinoids that bring out the great smell and taste in your flower. A good CO2 extractor can produce THC,

phytocannabinoids, and terpene profiles very similar to what you see in your flower testing. CO2 processing is also gentler than other processes, leaving chlorophyll and other unwanted plant material that can cloud and discolor extracts in the spent material, but not your product.

That’s all great news. But, unlike other extraction or distilling processes, there’s no real small-scale, do- it-yourself path to CO2 extraction. These are serious machines that, like distilling alcohol, require real craft processors with years of experience to make a quality product. And the price tag? Figure a quarter-million buy-in for equipment before you even think about your lab-grade facility. So, what’s the solution? Many farms partner with CO2 brands, selling their product wholesale to companies that showcase and promote the farms they source their material from. Others use toll processors (processors for hire) to craft a product unique to them that they can sell under their farm’s own brand name.

If you have beautiful-tasting flower and are thinking about having your material processed by or selling to CO2 processors, there are some things to keep in mind when choosing and preparing flower. Everyone wants to maximize profit, so start by utilizing your waste streams. Trim, loose kief, and lower-grade buds are all great options for processing material, as are untrimmed buds, blends made from small or experimental batches, and potent, but not pretty, patches. Whatever you choose, be sure you remove large stems and water leaves. Stems contain a lot of waxes and not much else, so, if you’re paying a per-pound rate for processing or looking to impress a processing client with high yields, make sure that everything that goes into the process will result in yield out.

To maximize flavor and preserve your entourage effects, choose strains and material that show a broad range of cannabinoids and terpenes in testing and are free of pesticides and molds (which can feed on oils). Then, make sure your product is dried, not fresh frozen. Fresh frozen works for some processes, such as butane, but the high water content retained by the plant during freezing doesn’t work with CO2 extraction. After you’ve dried your product well, store it at room temperature in low light conditions to preserve the terpenes you’ve worked so hard to produce in your flower.

CONSIDERATIONS JUST BEFORE HARVEST

BY ADAM JACQUES

SO, You’ve done everything right: You’ve fussed and fretted to make sure your plants were always happy, keeping issues at bay and fighting the good fight throughout the entire growth cycle. Now, it’s time to give your plants their rite of passage, allowing them to transform into the amazing flower that you and your loved ones will consume for medical benefits and recreation. These final steps are arguably the most important part of your journey. A bad dry and cure can turn your months of hard work into a nightmare if not properly done. If you have ever had harsh smoking flower that tasted like hay and sadness, you know what I am talking about. So how do we make sure our finished flower is the best it can be? I will share some simple tricks and methods of insuring you have success and show your plants the respect they deserve.

There is a debated theory where leaving them in the dark 48 to 72 hours before harvest will force your plants to make a final push to create more trichomes and thereby more resin. Plants burn their food in the light and reload their flowers with sugars in the night cycle. The idea is that the plants react as if this is their absolute last chance to get pollinated. I have found that a dark cycle before harvesting versus cutting when lights turn on for the final day has the same results, but it is worth an experiment to try for your own benefit.

There is another debated theory about letting your plants fully dry out before harvest. I have tried this method, and personally feel it adds extra stress to your plant at its most fragile point. I water normally with flushing until ready to harvest. If your harvest day lines up with your watering day, there is no reason to water before the chop. To be clear, these are the methods I prefer for the best smoking herb, but your experience may vary.

During harvest, cut your branches from the main stem (there is no need to waste time drying the stick weight). If necessary, cut them off of the branching to lengths of 12 to 16 inches. I prefer to leave my fan leaves on during the dry as I have found they help protect the flowers and balance the moisture being sucked out of the buds. Fan leaves also minimize the amount of oxygen that reaches your buds, decreasing the likelihood of your THC degrading into CBN. I also feel like losing all of the moisture in the plant through just the flowers alters the final taste.

Hang your branches by a crotch in the branches on a drying line set up where you can control the light, temperature, and humidity. When hanging your branches, put in your best effort to avoid branch overlap or buds laying together. Give them their own space so air can freely move around the flowers. Keep the room dark at all times after you have hung your branches to dry. Running the temperature in the 60- to 70-degree Fahrenheit range with a humidity range of 45 to 55 percent will allow for a proper slow dry. Keep fans running low to circulate the air gently throughout your space. When the flowers begin to feel a little crispy and the branches snap rather than bend when you flex them, you are at an optimal dryness. The amount of time this takes depends on many factors, but in a perfect room, you can expect anything from five to 15 days.

At this time, you will want to remove your flowers from their branches and trim them. There is no right or wrong way to trim, it is absolutely based on preference. I know people who love untrimmed nugs, people who love it trimmed as tight as possible, and people who like it anywhere in between. I prefer to leave a little sugar leaf. If your cannabis is going to market, though, it’s important to keep in mind that most purchasers enjoy a nice tight trim.

So, we are harvested, we are dried, and we are trimmed. But slow down, don’t shove it in your pipe just yet. We still have to cure our flower. Be sure to follow Brook C’s guide to the perfect cure in this issue, so you don’t waste your efforts at this critical last stage of the game. By following these seemingly simple steps, you will end up with an end product to be proud of and one that people will love. Remember to love your plants all the way through your time with them and to thank them for their sacrifice to make our lives better.

Oh Canada! Please accept our apologies for what’s going on at the border right now. If you haven’t heard the news, Bloomberg and BBC have both recently published stories clarifying the U.S. customs border policy, announcing that Canadian Cannabis entrepreneurs will not be allowed entry into the States for any reason, specifying that our cannabis counterparts to the north would be treated like outlaws and banned for life!

A senior US border official told news site Politico that Canadians in the burgeoning sector could be deemed inadmissible to the US. 

There have been concerns within Canada’s growing cannabis industry for months that they may face trouble crossing the border. 

In July, a Vancouver businessman was questioned at the border and banned for life because he had investments in US based Cannabis companies.

Immigration attorneys have related similar stories from clients in the industry. 

There have also been concerns that more Canadians will find themselves denied entry into the US if they admit to using marijuana, or face increased searches or interrogation by US officials. 

Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, told Politico that border officials will question Canadians about their use of cannabis if they have cause to do so. 

US border officials can deny entry to people who admit to consuming cannabis or admit they plan to purchase or consume cannabis in the US, even in a state where it is legal. This is in stark contrast to Canadian customs officials who on my last two visits to Vancouver and Niagara Falls respectively, briefly questioned why I was visiting? When I explained both times that I was en route to a cannabis conference, ICBC and Grow Up conference respectively, they proceeded to politely inquire if I had any cannabis in the car. I made it clear both times that you don’t bring sand to the beach, and each time the agents laughed and confirmed the notion that there would be plenty of cannabis available to me on the streets.

Back in the US however, the CBP said that “working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in US states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect a foreign national’s admissibility to the United States”. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government officials have maintained that despite the change in law, there is no indication marijuana legalisation will shift the US approach in how it deals with Canadians crossing the boundary, and confirmed that involvement in the industry could result in denied entry. 

Jordan Sinclair, with Canopy Growth, a major medical marijuana supplier in Canada, told the BBC that while their employees have yet to face difficulties at the US-Canada border, the industry as a whole is seeking more clarity as to how cases will be consistently handled by border officials. He also confirmed the broader notion that many Canadians may be investors in cannabis stocks through major pension funds and mutual funds without being aware of it. 

“There’s absolutely no way you can say if you’ve invested in the industry you’re not going to be allowed into the United States,” Sinclair said. It should be noted that people who have received bans still have the possibility of applying for a waiver from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Despite all the border nonsense, I’d like to end on a quasi positive note by formally congratulating our allies to the north for their sea to sea leap into legal recreational cannabis. Of course, it seems to be immediately going the way of over regulation and corporate monopolies but at least the snowball of accessibility has started downhill and once it’s in motion… look out! And according to our very own congressman here in Oregon, we can expect a bill introducing federal legalization in the States by 2019 – so all this border bullshit will be a non-issue, and once again we will be able to watch hockey together in harmony. Go Canucks!  

By Todd Mccormick

We have all heard of the legends, clone-only cultivars that were from bag seed and cannot be reproduced because the parent plants were unknown or destroyed. Back in the 90’s, plants such as NYC Sour Diesel and Chem Dawg were literally legendary, you would see the cannabis being smoked on the lot at a Dead show, but to actually get the plant was next to impossible. You had to know somebody who knew somebody, who would actually sell or gift the cutting in the first place, which was all next to impossible when you added in the paranoia of prohibition.

I did not see things change until after 1996, when proposition 215 was passed by California voters and overnight changed the way we viewed our rights as cannabis users and growers. While 215 fell short and did not actually legalize anything, the perceived change was enough to cause growers to start to trust one another and start to share their genetics in a more open market, and it was after that when we started to see cuttings of some truly legendary cultivars being sold at cannabis dispensaries across the state. When this happened, it gave new breeders a chance to work with old classics, and unique plants that are clone-only, such as OG Kush, started to be used by breeders and became the parents of some fantastic new hybrids.

For cannabis cultivators, the change was a breath of fresh air, as being able to start with cuttings that were tried and true put new farmers at an advantage unlike never before. Gone were the days of having to source and start your own seeds, and then select your own female plants; by using a known clone, someone else had done all of that work for you, as each and every plant represents a long journey by whoever initially sourced, cultivated and bred together those genetics.

This open market of nurseries has existed in California for over ten years now and I think it’s fantastic. I think that the people who are sharing genetics are heroes to the culture, as these cultivars represent the fabrics of our cannabis culture in many respects. As somebody that has been repeatedly raided, and who has lost genetics over and over again, I can attest that if it were not for my friends who were caretakers of shared genetics, I would’ve lost more plants than I did over the course of dealing with prohibition.

So now that we are closer to full legalization than we have ever been, I am suggesting that conscious cultivators should form a type of ​Cannabis Preservation Society, ​with the goal of preserving and sharing these modern classics that are irreplaceable.

Each plant represents a different symphony of cannabinoids and terpenes that interact with our endocannabinoid system and, in turn, everything from our moods to medical conditions differently. Flavors of certain flowers invoke memories of long ago that I could romance on about as if writing a novel, and I think it would benefit us all if we had them around to enjoy.

 Which brings me to the inevitable effect of legalization which is the corporate control of cannabis, and their desire to have patented products that do not fall into the hands of their competitors, you know – other growers, people like you and me.

While I have no problem with people breeding together plants and putting out unique cultivars that they have full control over, I do see a lot of disingenuous companies taking credit for the work of others and putting into production cuttings that they got themselves from some friend or a cannabis club and calling it some new name, with no intention of ever sharing it again.

People laying claim to cultivars that I know they had nothing to do with saddens me, but I see it happen all the time. If many of these “new” cultivars were songs, they would clearly just be much like rap music, sampling Skunk #1 and calling it Zkittles, and that is cool and all, but wouldn’t it be nice if future breeders could play with the same original genetics and make their own mixes?

I have been on my own mission to collect the primary colors of cannabis for quite some time, and unique hybrids as well. Every day my vision is expanding to include more distant relatives of all aspects of the cannabis family because I see them all as useful. What was just hemp 15 years ago is now a great source of CBD, and we have not even started to investigate the many cultivars and their seeds essential fatty acid levels.

So I would like to start a conversation with like-minded cultivators who are interested in creating an informal and then formal, network of concerned citizens who want to see heirloom genetics preserved and shared. Now that states have legalized cannabis, the federal government has to rethink its position due to the 10th amendment and Section 903 of the Controlled Substances Act, we are bound to see change happen everywhere. We should start the conversation of collecting and protecting the genetics before corporations step in and separate us from known cultivars.

We should also be willing to share what we know works with other people so that they can benefit from our breeding and research. For me, nothing feels better than giving a plant to somebody who can use it to better their health and better their life. A cannabis plant is the ultimate gift and I have felt like conduit of nature’s healing energy through cannabis, by sharing my genetics since I started growing.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, a lot of the cultivators that I have met care about one another, the earth, and the greater good of what they’re doing. While cultivating cannabis can be profitable, the profits pale in comparison to the feeling of actually helping someone overcome a difficult medical condition or treatment. Different plants treat different conditions and recognizing that is a great start to building a collection, because more than just data, what we need is the ability to access the plants that work for us. We all deserve the ability to at least try to sort through what is already available in order to find a medicine that’s right for our particular condition.

Currently, I have over 100 varieties in my collection and I’m willing to share them with others, I would like to come up with some type of genetic bank where we could all share the caretaking of various varieties and make them available to one another at a reasonable compensation. Authenticated genetics shared by a group of conscious cultivators looking to give the monopolizing corporations some complications by sharing the love.

Anybody who is interested in continuing this discussion with me can communicate with me by joining my online community at: TalkingCANNABIS.live or follow my Instagram @growmedicine  

By Stephanie Bishop

It started as a family need, and evolved into a grassroots movement. When their infant son was diagnosed with Autism, Jinxproof, an experienced and awarded geneticist, and his wife, Miss Rose, who co-runs Jinxproof Genetics with him, searched for and found limited resources for children like their beloved boy. To address that need, the family started Northwest Families for Autism (NWFFA), a community foundation established to collect and allocate resources and donations to help low-income families in need with their compassion programs and philanthropic efforts.

Partnering with the Seattle Children’s Autism Center (SCAC) and the University of Washington (UW), they have helped countless families and raised more than $125,000 to serve those on the autism spectrum, veterans, and those who are homeless. 

When they first started working with SCAC and UW, Jinxproof and Miss Rose met with families who all had very diverse needs. Assessing these needs and starting to distribute resources helped Jinxproof and Miss Rose realize how much needed to be done and, specifically, how others could help. They began deploying volunteers to help build adaptive furniture for special needs classes and to collect donations like wood for other building projects and class materials.

“This is empowering to these individuals as it enables them to easily communicate with the world around them by giving them a means to express their thoughts, feelings, needs and desires,” Miss Rose says. “They gain a voice, something most of us take for granted. This brings us one step closer to inclusion!”

Combining philanthropy and acts of charity as a part of their mission, Jinxproof Genetics designed their compassion programs with a formal structure to better serve those in need. They continued to build their network, growing their team of volunteers and access to resources, as well as becoming a point of contact for families.

“Having a social media platform is an important tool to reach families in need as well as those willing to donate,” Miss Rose says. “This has enabled NWFFA to provide an effective communication system to so many individuals on the autism spectrum.” 

Recognizing the need for a more positive outlook on life to succeed as individuals, Jinxproof has also facilitated designing counseling programs centered around daily affirmation and one-on-one counseling as a way to improve the quality of life of those in need. The Young Ladies Positive Affirmation club helps build confidence and develop a healthy self esteem in participants through the practice of writing and sharing daily affirmations. Jinxproof posts daily “Be Positive” messages through social media, which encourage others to be positive in their own lives and to get involved in their community through service.

As their network grew, Jinxproof Genetics also began hosting in-person events and employing creative campaign strategies and programs to help as many families and individuals as possible. 

School of Dank, one such endeavor, is an educational seminar series serving medical cannabis patients who want to grow their own medicine. Vendors are able to provide one-on-one consultations in smaller settings, so patients with very little to no experience are successful. The first two School of Dank events raised more than $45,000 combined to support those with autism and their families. The next event is projected for February, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.

Partnering with other event producers, Jinxproof has successfully collected donations through sponsorships of other charitable events in and outside of their community. Frenchie’s Holiday Party in San Francisco, Good Vibes in San Diego, and 22Many (which serves veterans in need) in Lacey, Washington, collectively raised more than $15,000 through collection box revenue and donor-directed gifts auctioned at the events.

Through creative fundraising campaigns and philanthropic endeavors, NWFFA has contributed more than $125,000 to families in need.  

By Sophia Ruiz

I met Jinxproof’s “9 Pound Hammer” a couple of years ago at Twenty After Four dispensary in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood. These 9 Pound Hammer flowers were recommended by Michael, a friend in the neighborhood who was lurking in the lobby at the time, and had tried all 30 strains on the menu, insisting the hammer was above all-and he was right. The place sold out quickly and sadly the next batch hit more like a 2 pound hammer. Subsequent batches weighed in at 5 and 7 on a scale of 1 to 9–a testament to just how different genetically identical finished flowers can be. Michael and I have used the 1-9 scale to judge the quality of finished 9 Pound Hammer flowers ever since and he’s sure to stop by the office and share every time he stumbles across a perfect 9. As a consumer, NPH is easily on my top ten list and so naturally I have grown very familiar with the cultivar as a smoker and now as a grower having cultivated it for just over a year. I can’t say that I have produced a perfect 9 myself, yet, but Jinx got a kick out of me and Michael’s rating system and our enthusiasm for the genes when we reconnected recently. He joined in the fun, expressing his sadness to see the 2 and 5 pound representations of his baby out and about, especially since it’s relatively easy to grow.

Many of us are already familiar with Jinx the family man, grower, breeder, glassblower and entrepreneurial philanthropist from Instagram. His contagious positive vibes and affirmational posts are inspirational to many of us, me included, and so it was nice to get to know him better with this writing assignment. I started out with the standard who, what, when, where, why questions and quickly discovered that we’ve lived cosmically parallel lifestyles, on opposite coasts, under the radar, finding solace in the cannabis garden.

Jinx moves to Seattle from Sac town in the 3rd grade. As a teenager he started smoking on that Seattle skunk bud and before he was 20, he quit school and moved into his first apartment and began construction on his first basement grow, circa 1987. He moved in and out of different rentals/grows in the Greater Seattle area for the next several years building and tearing down grows at various homes as rental agreements ran their course. He joked, “I recall not really caring so much about my next potential rental space as a youngster looking for places, so much as I cared that the prospect house had a basement.”

He spent the next twenty years honing his craft in the garden, pioneering techniques and collaborating with some legendary breeders. Ten years ago, breeding just felt like the next logical progression in his life’s journey in the cannabis garden, so he started tinkering and this has lead to the development of the High Times Cannabis Cup winning 9 Pound Hammer cultivar, among others notable strains offered by jinxproof genetics dank bank. He’s organized his collection of unique genetics for purchase on his site www.jinxproofsdankbank.com. Other notable genetics include Mother Tongue, Shangrila and Go Time, which yielded in excess of 30% according to some extractors/BHO blowers. Shangrila and Go Time are currently sold out, but Jinx promises that they will return soon. Also returning soon at a location to be determined, is his “School of Dank,” a hands on course where you can work in the garden with some of the world’s best growers and breeders, gleaning what you will from this priceless retreat. Historically these sessions have featured Odie Diesel, Pat Pooler, Subcool and Jinx himself, not to mention live glass with Bob Snodgrass. Stay tuned to his web and social for more info on this upcoming and ongoing series. 

Also, seed hoarders should be on the look out for more limited edition crosses from Jinxproof. Sure many seed banks have done random, one-off crosses with the promise that we, the public would never see them go there again, but Jinx delivers on his promises. He will sporadically offer experimental, one-time crosses and guarantees never to repeat or re-breed those same genetics. Jinx is a man of his word and a stand-up, loving family man with positive vibes he just can’t hide. The cannabis community and the human population is certainly a better for his contributions in the garden and at large in the community. He has blessed so many veterans, homeless and less fortunate people in his journey with food, finances, herb, love and his constant reminder to be positive (B+). Read on to learn more about some of the ways Jinxproof and Miss Rose have dedicated themselves financially and otherwise to genuinely help others and find out how you can help them continue on that righteous path.  

By Jason Dubose

As today’s cannabis and hemp markets legalize and expand, local and state governments are struggling to keep up with this evolving industry, especially when it comes to the development and approval of extraction or processing facilities. 

From an engineering perspective, extraction systems, the means of post-processing and methods have changed quicker than any other industry in the U.S. and Canada. What was standard five years ago is no longer standard today. This presents a unique challenge to building officials whose industry is traditionally based on static rules. This is not an attack on building officials. They are some of the finest public servants encouraging and supporting our industry and have dedicated their careers to creating safe communities. Perhaps it’s better to state that building codes – a set of safety rules and regulations – have not seen any radical change in over 50 years, so any new industry that emerges may be inappropriately classed and/or will automatically face resistance in the form of overly stringent code enforcement. To complicate matters further, in many cases an extraction facility will be handling or managing hazardous materials. Unless you establish an extraction business near a hub of high-tech or manufacturing facilities, the chances are high that your local building department has limited experience with reviewing these types of processes or facilities.

The purpose of this discussion is to not focus on extraction systems and types, but to provide guidance from lessons learned and perspectives on how to deploy an extraction facility quickly and efficiently in a rapidly expanding market. This article is by no means a comprehensive guide and you need to employ a qualified design professional to help you navigate the complexity of building code, which leads me to my first point:

Hire a qualified professional engineer or architect with experience in this industry. This may be a given as many municipalities require a design professional’s stamp for drawings.  But there is a chance these professionals can provide more than a stamp, helping you identify and add efficiencies to your building or system.  To borrow a phrase from Jack Black in Nacho Libre “They don’t think I know a butt load of crap about the gospel, but I do. Okay?” If the building code is the gospel, then you need to find the best resident expert that knows the code inside and out. There will be constant challenges to your design from building departments over-applying code in the name of public safety. A design professional with experience in developing hazardous or high-tech facilities will not come cheap, but will be worth every penny in terms of time to market and reducing overall facility risk. For example, did you know that only a small area of a butane extraction room has to be Class 1 Div 1 explosion proof, with the remaining as Class 1 Div 2 or lower? Building officials are there to oversee the implementation of safe practices, but they can be negotiated with and actual codes contested if approached appropriately.

Your extraction process dictates what kind of facility you need. Building code is broken down into different books, with the primary enforcement of extraction facilities falling into three: Fire Code, Mechanical Code and Structural Code. Specifically, in the ‘Maximum Allowable Quantities for Hazardous Materials’ section, a closed loop butane extraction system (BHO) is typically limited to about 150 pounds of gas. A closed loop ethanol system is limited to 120 gallons and there is no limit on liquid CO2 storage. There are a lot of variables which can provide for increases to these limits within your facility. A qualified engineer can help you navigate these limits. For example, if you have fire sprinklers in your facility, then chances are very high that you can double the amount of chemical you can store in your building. If you are dealing with ethanol or BHO systems, then the building department will be very focused on your exhaust systems and making sure spark- or explosion-proof fans are in use. In terms of building design versus extraction process, BHO systems tend to be the most expensive to construct followed by ethanol and then supercritical CO2. Nine times out of ten, the building inspector has no idea what your process is or how it works. Realistically, they don’t have to know. But they do know that butane and ethanol can combust, and a leaky CO2 system can be a silent killer. Their oversight of the appropriate safety measures is their core focus in service of you, your neighbors and community.

Do your homework before you sign the lease. Unless you are fortunate enough to have enough investment to construct a new facility from the ground up, you’re likely going to establish your extraction facility in an existing building. The number one mistake we’ve seen people make is setting up in a building or tenant space that is not rated or designated by the local municipality as a building suitable for extraction processing. Every commercial building in the U.S. and Canada has a “occupancy type” that is assigned by the municipality at the time of construction. Some buildings are simply office buildings or schools or warehouses and that’s all that you can do in them. For extraction facilities, in most jurisdictions, the building department will want to see a facility that is designated as a ‘F-1’, or ‘factory’ rating. Simply put, you can’t just move into any building, you have to move into a building that is approved for your purpose. It’s not hard to change the purpose of a building, but it’s a significant application process and can require extensive and costly upgrades to the building. It’s a very exciting (and stressful) process to pick out your new digs, but a little preparation and homework will save a lot of time, money and heartache.

Be kind and be humble with your local building officials. There is no need to remind them that your tax dollars pay for their services to our communities. I always encourage our clients, before they even sign a lease for a facility, to have a sit-down meeting with the city or county building officials and explain what they’re attempting to do. Ask for their advice regarding the best steps to comply with local regulations. Developing a positive relationship with the building officials makes them part of your team and is an access point to their wealth of knowledge. It can also help your applications move through the process smoothly and with the most efficient application of code. Educating building officials on your process, how it works and why you need it can go a really long way as a relationship enhancing exercise, while also keeping the building officials up to speed on the current best practices in your area of production. 

In conclusion, as you embark on the establishment of your new extraction facility, it is important to build a qualified team to assist you. By considering your local building officials as part of your team, you ensure safety in your processes. Retaining a design professional can enhance that relationship, helping you arrive more quickly to serving your consumers with quality product.  

By Robert Pardee

Everything decays. In cannabis, this eventuality causes the enzyme THCa (the non-psycoactive tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) to oxidize and chemically transform in a short period of time, rendering lab THCa potency tests moot. As THCa is being poked and prodded by scientists seeking new medical discoveries, even under the ugly umbrella of a Schedule I drug, today’s cannabis farmer must press pause on decay by slowing down oxidation to preserve the valuable cannabinoid.

Oxidized cannabis will lead to mislabeled products on retail shelves, which can pose a significant problem for consumers. For example, imagine someone seeking the neuroprotective antioxidants that high-yielding THC provides, but instead, receives a dose of CBN–the result of oxidized THCa. The consumer will still get high because CBN is psychoactive, but will not receive the THCa efficacy as printed on that label.

Oxidation is the chemical reaction of an atom or compound, losing one or more electrons. This electron loss leads to hydrogen loss. THCa has 30 hydrogen atoms. When it loses four from oxidizing, it becomes CBNa; a psychoactive sedative when activated. That’s all it takes–just four hydrogen atoms!

There are three major contributors to cannabinoid decomposition: oxygen, UV light and heat. Oxygen (O2) is 21 percent of our livable atmosphere. It also poses the biggest threat to the cannabis preservation process. The invisible gas is always present and, unless removed, will cause not only the loss of THCa, but also a reduction in flavor and color after the cure process.

Exposure to oxygen also encourages aerobic bacteria and other complex organisms to thrive. Their interactions in the air and on the surface of the cannabis flower transform once marketable, aromatic terpenes into the rancid smell of wet hay.

Ultraviolet light (UV light) deteriorates cannabinoids through photo-degradation. The exposure of harvested cannabis to either sunlight or artificial light can lead to rapid photo-degradation of trichomes, caused by absorption of photons. When the photon is absorbed, it transfers energy to the electron and causes unstable molecules to eventually oxidize or hydrolyze. Pigments, proteins, and fats found in cannabis become discolored, have an off-flavor, and accelerate the conversion of THCa to CBNa. 

In addition, UV light generated from Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) can negatively impact enzymes from performing their duty of converting THCa to THC. As many researchers know, THCa is an enzyme found inside the plant and is responsible for the chemical reaction creating the euphoric feelings of THC. Most enzymes are highly sensitive to UV light in all of its ranges, and their important functions can irreversibly drop even after a short exposure to LEDs.

Lastly, a rise in temperature increases the rate of oxidation. Harvested cannabis exposed to temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit will speed up oxidation because molecules are colliding more often. These microscopic collisions increase the opportunity to create oxidized cannabis. Heat, which can be generated by light, also increases moisture loss, resulting in a brittle, overly dry flower.

Solutions 

Poorly stored cannabis greatly diminishes the shelf life of THCa. Although growers may get better at growing superior cannabinoids every harvest, many are not improving their packaging, storing, or transport methods to protect their cannabinoids from oxidation. Here are some simple recommendations to consider that will help keep your terpenes fresh this harvest: 

Trimmed to order

Keep dried, bucked, and cured flower away from the trimmer until the last possible moment. Trimming is violent and destroys trichomes. Trichomes are the sparkly crystals that manufacture the highest concentration of cannabinoids on the plant. By trimming cannabis too soon before it’s sold, a cultivator loses the immediate terpene profile and expedites oxidation of THCa. 

Remove oxygen from your container post-cure

O2 is required in the curing process. Slow down post-cure oxidation by removing air from glass jars or cans via 100-percent vacuum. However, copolymers and biopolymers (plastics) collapse when vacuumed and require a machine to replace the atmosphere with an inert gas, without crushing the valuable trichomes in the process. By displacing the oxygen and replacing it with an inert gas, O2 is removed and the trichome isn’t bruised (nearly 80 percent of perishable commodities in the grocery store are packaged this way–cannabis will be next).

Oxidation will also occur in the freezer. O2 should be removed and replaced with inert gas when packaging “fresh-frozen.”

Store in Low-Permeable Containers 

Permeability is the state, or quality, of a material or membrane that causes it to allow air to pass through it. Glass and tin have low permeable walls that slow down air from naturally coming and going, but may not be economically viable for a larger operation. Plastic, when used in combination with high-barrier films, provides low-permeable transition rates equal to that of glass, slowing down oxidation.

Not all plastics are the same. Ask your plastic salesperson for a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). If they can’t provide one, then don’t use their products. Licensed farms should keep packaging MSDS on the property for compliance.

Plastics that lack high-barrier properties invite air in through microscopic pores at fast rates, speeding up oxidation and should be avoided.

Keep everything in the dark, with temperatures ranging between 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Photochemical reactions can be minimized by keeping harvested cannabis away from natural and artificial light at all times during post-production, only using it briefly when inspecting, bucking, trimming, or packaging. Keep cannabis stored in the dark and not under LED lights (even less than ten nanometer outputs will cause enzymes to misbehave). If you use a transparent container like glass or plastic, keep it stored in a lightproof container and bring it out only to show the buyer. Dispensaries will reduce oxidation by protecting all their cannabis products from the light, bringing out only samples.

No matter how it’s grown, THCa is a valuable, volatile cannabinoid that has the opportunity to improve a person’s life, and should, at all costs, be protected from oxidizing.  

By Brook C.

Through inspiration, bravery, and many potential pit falls, you’ve reached the point where you’ve grown your cannabis to where it can be harvested. First off, congratulations! You are a part of a limited group of people who have had the chance to watch this fascinating and beautiful plant grow. Whatever your reasons for growing, good job.

Now that it’s time to harvest, your goals have shifted: retain as much of the plants’ smell, flavor, and other chemical structures as possible via a quality dry and cure. 

First, you’ll want to set up your space in a clean, dry room, with the ability to hold a set temperature. Bedrooms, closets, and temperature-controllable garages all work very nicely. For equipment, you’ll need a heater, air movement fan, rope line or closet pole to hang branches on, and, potentially, a dehumidifier. From the time the plants are cut and hung, until they go into a jar or bag, you are always looking to control temperature, subtle air movement, and humidity. These factors along with time, are the big players in terms of how aromatic the finished flower will be. 

In a home environment, I like to maintain about 70-degress Fahrenheit (plus or minus five degrees) and hold the humidity between 55 and 65 percent. The more stable the environment, the more stable the terpenes will be in the finished flower. Your last piece of set up is to figure out a way to string up rope or some kind of line to hang branches. Now you’re ready to harvest and hang plants.

Harvest time starts when the buds are fully ripe, their trichomes gleaming in the sun–or when the weather has turned sour. Either way, it’s time to process your plants. I like to strip all the larger shade leaves off of the plant, leaving small to mid-sized leaves and all sugar leaves on the flower, before cutting the branches down to a hangable length.

After de-leafing, cut the branches to a size that makes sense for your space.  I generally like a branch that is two feet or more. Try to cut each stick to create a hanging hook for the line and pack the branches in closely to ensure slower drying. When hanging branches close together, check constantly for powdery mildew. If mold or mildew is present, leave more airspace between the branches and lower the humidity for the first 24 to 48 hours. Always remember to label your plants/hangers if there is more than one variety; it can get confusing later on.

Once the plants are hanging, it’s time to start your airflow systems. Air movement should always be indirect with diffused air moving through the moist flowers. In a space the size of a small bedroom, I use one fan set on its lowest setting, usually blowing into a corner and up a wall. On the other side of the room, I have a dehumidifier (also in low mode) blowing away from the flowers. When the plants are fresh cut, I set the humidity to 55 percent for the first day or two; after that, it’s set to 60 to 65 percent. 

Slowly dry the bud over a seven to ten day period and, as the flowers get drier, raise the setting on the dehumidifier to 65 to 70 percent to slow down moisture loss. If the temperature gets too warm (more than around 75 degrees), vent the room or add cooling. Sometimes just opening a door can release excess humidity and heat into the larger space of a house or the rest of your building. This can also be a good way to manage the drying and curing process without a dehumidifier. If the temperature is too cold (60 to 65 degrees), I’ll turn on the heat. As a rule of thumb, start with warmer, drier room environments at the beginning of the process, moving to lower, stabilized room temperatures as the plants get drier. This brings you to the grand finish in the curing process, and alerts you when your flowers are ready.

I’m convinced the secret to determining when a flower is ready for its final processing is akin to a highly-skilled connoisseur of fine food or wine picking the perfect pairing. It’s so important to nail your timing at this point in the process. The goal is to finish trimming the bud while there is just enough moisture for it to feel dry to the touch, but not so dry as to crumble. This last remaining moisture is a huge source of your terpenes and they are best retained when sealed in a jar, where it loses that last moisture slowly. 

A good test as to whether or not your harvest is ready for the final cure is to bend the small and medium branches. If they break or crack, that’s your signal to trim and drop them into a jar or turkey bag. If the branches, especially smaller ones, bend like a green stick, the flower still has a lot of moisture and needs more time.

Another test is to pinch a bud. If the flower stays flattened (squished), it still has a lot of moisture on the inside. If the bud raises back up after being pressed and the flower is more rigid than soft, then it is likely ready to be sealed up and stored.

Store your harvest in an air-tight sealed container, in a cool, dark, temperature-stable area. Every two or three days for the first couple weeks, open your jars or bags to “burp” for several minutes and let moisture leave and fresh air come in. If the flower is damp when you open the container, leave it open for a couple of hours in a dry area before resealing.

This will get you started off on the right foot with your drying and curing experience. Curing is an art unto itself and takes a lot of time to fully master. Just remember to control temperature, subtle air movement, and humidity. Slow and attentive wins the cure game.

Happy gardening to you all. Enjoy! Peace! 

BrookC is Medical and legal Recreational Grower, Industry Consultant and Patient Activist. 

By Jeff Lowenfels

I can’t think of any other subject that creates more debate amongst growers than the “flush vs. no-flush” argument. For many of you, just reading that last sentence sends a chill down your spine and triggers flashbacks of the Kennedy-Nixon debate or, depending on your age, the Lincoln-Douglas.

In any case, for as long as this old geezer can remember, hydroponics growers have been switching to pure water, or in modern times, “flushing or clearing solutions,” a couple of weeks before harvest. According to this theory, plants are forced to use up stored nutrients in order to maximize smokability and taste after curing.

Somewhere along the line, many soil growers adopted the practice; perhaps when bulletin boards began noting that tobacco was flushed before it was cured ostensibly to, again, improve taste. Flushing was said to clear the soil around the roots of nutrients, starving the plant into using up excess nutrients.

Claims of better taste are always the predicate here, along with ash color. The idea is that a harvest of plants that has undergone a flush results in plants that not only taste better, but also produce a white ash when smoked. Unflushed weed is said to taste of the chemicals used to fertilize and adjust pH. Moreover, the resultant ash is said to be black.

I really don’t need to frame the arguments any further. Sure, there are variations, which result in familiar, similar side debates.

So, where is the beef when it comes to flushing? There are only 17 nutrients a plant needs. The rest are filler, but we can go into that at a later time.

Each of these nutrients moves in to and out of plant cells though special channels comprised of proteins that are embedded in the plasmalemma, a barrier membrane that prevents things from moving through plant cells in either direction. Amazingly, each nutrient has its own, specific tunnels and can only move through those.

So, already, flushing is limited by the presence of these tunnels. They don’t just open and shut because clean water or some flush-it solution is running by roots. Embedded proteins in the plasmalemma control what goes in and out of a plant cell.

Next, only sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, boron, copper, and manganese are immobile in the first place. Once a plant synthesizes these molecules, they are not going anywhere, no matter how firmly you believe in flushing. Adding carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen to the list of unflushables leaves only seven of the plant’s nutrients that even could be flushed out.

  So which are mobile nutrients? These are nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, chlorine, molybdenum, and nickel. Once they are incorporated into the plant, they can be relocated if an area of much greater demand for it develops. But this remobilization is not that easy of a process. It requires enzymes, built with nitrogen, and takes energy, which requires phosphorous (ATP). So, if you flush, how do you get things to move out without using nitrogen and phosphorous?

Can you have it both ways? Not generally.

Are you beginning to see the picture? A plant doesn’t simply dump out excess nutrients just because there is water running by its roots. Sure, that is how it works when you are talking about osmosis in a science classroom. There, the barrier is magically permeable to everything, with no embedded proteins to build, operate, and travel through. When textbooks talk about osmosis, things move in both directions constantly as the material transported through the membrane reaches equilibrium on both sides of it. It just doesn’t work that way in and out of plant cells.

Don’t get upset. Read my book or check out other resources. In addition to new thoughts about flushing your plants, you’ll start to understand what depriving them of nutrients for a week of their life does to your final product. And, don’t get me going on those subjective ash color tests.

Jeff Lowenfels is a national lecturer, former president of the Garden Writers of America, and the author of Teaming With Microbes and Teaming With Nutrients, which describe the soil food web and how plants absorb and utilize nutrients.