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The Science Cannabis Extractors Are Keeping in Mind

by Arundati Dandapani
Published: Feb 26, 2020   
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In a hypercompetitive market, it can be easy for cannabis companies to forget some of the science that underpins the plant’s effects. But for the extraction companies that process this unique crop, any scientific oversight can be costly. So how can those involved in extraction keep up to date on the latest cannabis science?

When asked just that, Pete Patterson, founder of the Canadian CO2 extraction equipment manufacturer Vitalis Extraction Technology, said that his company will “continue being students of the science of this plant.”

Having kept a keen eye on international research, Patterson notes that “Israel has been playing a pioneering role. But a strain in Israel versus one in California – the differences in bud size and potency are huge. Through consistent cross-breeding over time, some of these have 32 percent THC and more.”

“The Drug Enforcement Agency in the US is allowing more research these days, but there are always going to be genetic freaks. More hybrids cause greater potency. As global borders drop, we can look to sharing more genetics and research. An average tree used to be four-to-five percent THC, and now this has grown remarkably.”

According to Patterson, creativity is at an all-time high in the extraction industries, with more of it witnessed in the US where groups are using ice cold water to make bubble hash. High-performance liquid chromatography software allows more detailed high-pressure liquid chromatography defining standards to measure potency. Testing consistency remains a big challenge in the US, along with procuring biomass. But often the results vary and improve over time.

The extraction process of cannabis is critical because it helps a manufacturer obtain the highest concentration of THC and CBD with a mostly clear and viscous fluid. Extraction time, flow rate, temperature and pressure along with crossover pressure combine to determine the factors influencing the quality of extract.

“We uphold the best practices for extraction equipment companies,” Patterson says. “Pharmaceutical companies are coming in and asking about standards. How does our equipment help our customers be GMP (good manufacturing practice) compliant? Do we have the critical measurement? We need to provide the right information and guidelines.”

Of his own extraction company, Patterson is proud that “[Vitalis is] a big organization. We have long surpassed 100 employees, we do our own manufacturing, and can hence change quickly.” Indeed, Vitalis plans to expand into Europe and the Americas, followed by the field of botanicals, and eventually utilization of its tech in non-botanical sectors to lead globally in equipment. Like Vitalis, companies are actively investing (or considering investing) in the ancillary industries to be sustainable.

While there are more legal cannabis products and types in US dispensaries, it’s Canada that has a full national market to provide the capital and liquidity. Many US companies have gone public on the Canadian Securities Exchange, for instance, and it’s estimated or anticipated that within two-to-three years, the US Congress will de-schedule cannabis. But how will it roll out federalization?

“The US is also a sleeping giant of a market,” says Patterson. “When it gets recreational federalization, lots of capital will flood into the industry which will change how we view different facets of the industry.”

Beyond the US borders, Patterson says cannabis can only be strengthened by working towards clarity on regulations, safety, and standards across markets. “In the cannabis/extraction business, we need a voice that helps the government adopt safe regulations and helps them see clear direction on next steps, because it can be a very fragmented voice,” he adds.

With international markets, a joint venture group offers the right mix of expertise but not always the cultural values unique to its regions of operation. An interested party can sell directly into market and develop local expertise, or can hire staff locally, Patterson advises.

Arundati Dandapani is the founder and CEO of Generation1.ca, a cross-sectoral resource and outlet that taps into the outlook and experience of Canada’s newest residents.


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