DISTILLATES IN THE CANNABIS MARKET
A scientist peers deeply into the eyes of a cannabis connoisseur and whispers, “This is not for beginners.” Pupils dilate and adrenaline rushes. What is this magical potion? Interest piques at an all-time high, because distillates—pure cannabinoid concentrates—are being discussed. For the familiar friend of the plant, the next move is clear. The keyword, of course, being “clear”.
The distillate reputation precedes itself. The distilled total cannabinoid potency can go above 99%. Most hydrocarbon or CO2-extracted concentrates range between 65% and 80%. Additionally, the scent and flavors of extracts can be undesirable in many products because of excess lipids, plant matter, and impurities that need further purification. Molecular distillation is the future.
“The applications for distillates in the cannabis and hemp markets are literally endless,” said Nenad Yashruti, co-founder of Root Sciences. “From the medical patient to the recreational consumer, concentrates of this purity, potency, and consistency will be the cornerstone of future cannabis consumption.”
The term that describes its production is “short path distillation.” “Root Sciences is the exclusive North American distributor for VTA in the cannabis industry,” added Hamilton Foro, a principal at Root Sciences.
VTA, a German company, is the leading global manufacturer of distillation equipment. They contracted Root Sciences because of their vast knowledge with molecular separation, specifically with cannabis.
Very few companies have that type of expertise due to the global restrictions in processing THC. Until now, few have bridged the gap between cannabis and distillation.
“Extraction, which is a primary process done to convert the plant matter into a concentrated mixture, has been performed for two decades,” said Cory Balma, principal at Root Sciences and a processing engineer for Bare Concentrates, a distillate-based brand and processor in Washington. “However, the purity of extraction is far inferior and has limited uses compared to a pure distillate.”
By having access to licensed legal processors in the state of Washington, VTA and Root Sciences are able to provide their clients with valuable product capabilities using distillate.
“From edibles to vape cartridges and dab oils, the endless uses provide for massive business opportunities for anyone that jumps on this technology,” Yashruti said.
“Gone will be the days of making shatter or sugar concentrates that have to be individually weighed, packaged, and processed. With distillate being in a liquid form, automation in the concentrate and edible market will be the clear winner. As more competitors pile into this industry, the lack of automation will be terminal.”
THE MANUFACTURING PROCESS
The molecular distillation process occurs solely through specific, proprietary technology. The process uses a very high force vacuum to be able to distill cannabis oil or any other product at a much lower temperature.
In the case of cannabis, there is a very high boiling point for cannabinoids. This is where utilizing the correct technology and process allows the manufacturer to distill the cannabinoids at a much lower temperature.
By using the wiped film short path distillation process that Root Sciences is making available to the market, one can distill the cannabinoids at temperatures well below their atmospheric boiling point. Due to VTA’s equipment, “residence time” (the amount of time the substance is exposed to heat as it travels through the evaporator) is reduced to a minimum. The more powerful the vacuum, the lower the temperature that is required to cause the substance to vaporize.
“Due to a short residence time, thermal degradation is greatly limited, leaving a shelf-stable product,” said Foro. “There are several lesser complex ways of doing distillation that look great initially but change color. Our method of distillation doesn’t have this problem.”
Few manufacturing systems are able achieve this process. Certain companies market themselves as “short path distillation,” yet they are unable to achieve high levels of vacuum and their heat systems are not designed to process a substance as unique as cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids’ high boiling point results in a very high viscosity, or thickness. The system must be designed to cope with a very viscous substance (honey, for example), or cannabinoids in their purest form. In their purest forms, CBD is crystallized, but THC is a very thick substance. It must be handled and processed with care and skill to refine efficiently. VTA is Root Sciences’ company of choice: a uniquely qualified manufacturing system that can refine cannabis oil properly.
As the cannabis and hemp markets mature, this technology could become the standard process for all CBD and THC concentrates.
Bare Concentrates achieved 94.5% THC and over 99% total cannabinoids tested by Steep Hill Labs in Washington. As an I-502 processor, Bare Concentrates is developing all of its product lines using distillates produced by VTA’s short path units.
“When you make infused cookies, you want them to taste like cookies, not like marijuana,” said Balma. “Our vape cartridges and dab oils are already some of the purest and best tasting products on the market. We are just scratching the surface of the thousands of product lines that can be made with distillates.”