INSIGHTS ON THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY FROM REGULATORY BARRISTER MATTHEW (MATT) LAWSON
Matthew (Matt) Lawson, a UK Regulatory Barrister has penned a series of discussion pieces under the rubric “Insights on the Cannabis Industry”.
In the infancy of the legal cannabis industry, the hot area was cultivation, with the key topics being improving yields and maintaining consistency. As the industry matures, the key area will be extraction – improving the science and ensuring innovation. Part 1 of barrister Matthew (Matt) Lawson’s insight into the industry looked at the Stages of Extraction, in this Part 2 he looks at Methods of Extraction. Each extraction technology has its own pros and cons and which method and equipment chosen are influenced by differing elements.
One of the more popular methods used due to its capacity as a solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes and its recognized safety for human consumption by most regulatory authorities. One of its main advantages is related to sustainability because the ethanol can be used for several extraction cycles and consumes less energy than other methods, therefore making it more environmentally friendly, as well as more cost effective.
This uses butane and propane as solvents, but one of the main challenges with using hydrocarbon solvents comes with their high volatility and highly flammable. Another challenge is that some solvents can remain at the end of the extraction process.
Supercritical CO2 Extraction
Carbon dioxide is a popular method already used in other extraction food industries, resulting in clean and pure extracts, leaving little traces behind. It is considered a safe and a non-flammable method. However, when using supercritical extraction, a further processing stage is necessary in order to remove unwanted plant materials such as fats, lipids and wax.
Hydrodynamic (water) Extraction
Also known as hydrodynamic cavitation (HC) utilises the use of hydrodynamic force and ultrasonication to transform the plant into a nano-emulsion by breaking down the cell walls. The plant is frozen before being subject to the ultrasonication and hydrodynamic processes, followed by molecular separation through centrifugation and then a final stage of “cold press”. The use of water also significantly reduces the operational hazards.
Centrifugal Partition Chromatography
This technology deploys the interaction between silica and cannabis compounds – THC and CBD react differently to silica when compared to other cannabinoids and move at different speeds, which then facilitates the separation process.
This solventless method uses pressure and high temperatures to squeeze cannabinoids and terpenes out of the plant. Its relative ease of manipulation and affordability make this technology a popular choice for small scale producers.
Ultrasound Assisted Extraction (UAE)
This uses the power of ultrasonication to increase the efficiency of alcohol-based extraction through the creation of microbubbles in the solvent mixture, which utilizes the sound energy created – the force of the collision among the microbubbles creates hotspots with incredibly high temperatures, breaking the cell walls and releasing the plant’s cannabinoids. The method improves other extraction methods, increasing their performance and quality.
Enzyme Assisted Extraction (EAE)
Enzyme Assisted Extraction has been patented for the extraction of cannabis by an Italian company and licence the technology to market participants. In EAE cannabinoids and plant compounds are extracted with the use of enzymes to hydrolyse and disrupt cell walls, thereby “freeing” cannabinoids and terpenes which solubilise in the carrier oil. The resulting mixture is then separated by centrifugation into full-spectrum extract. This first-stage output can be deployed as a finished product or utilised as an input for additional processing steps.
Matthew (Matt) Lawson is a UK Barrister who has advised Governments and Corporations for over 25 years in respect of human impactors – Food & Ingestibles, Medicines, Medical Devices and inhalation mediums. He provides worldwide Cannabis advice to clients who stem from Governments, to some of the largest multinational CPG corporations, to pharmaceutical giants, through to niche pre-IPO Start-Ups in the CPG and medical fields.