Over the past century, hash has been considered a treat for most. It was coveted for its artisanal small batches and highly secretive manufacturing processes. Due to the rapidly changing political climate, extract innovations continue to grow exponentially. In the past five years, concentrates have evolved further than traditional cannabis. One such innovation, distilled cannabis oil, has created a new revolution within the cannabis industry.
In order to refine cannabis oil, concentrate companies usually start with low-grade, dark, and sometimes older cannabis extract, also known as crude oil. Although more cost effective, this crude oil is still generally tainted with contaminants, adulterants, and other harmful chemicals.
To clarify and purify the crude oil, an array of scientific equipment, heat, and physical conditions allow for the extracted cannabinoids to separate rapidly from heavier molecules. Any residual solvents still present evaporate during refinement, and any remaining impurities are left behind in the waste. This waste, also known as the dregs, contains all the leftover tars, chlorophyll, plant matter, and decomposed carbons.
The lighter, evaporated cannabinoids are simultaneously amassed into a separate flask. The results? Raw, unadulterated, distilled cannabis oil. Now stripped of all dark pigments, refined THC and CBD products have a color range of “highlighter yellow” to crystal-clear water. Most refined cannabis oil tests at an average of 75 percent total active cannabinoids; however, Sol Selects products average more than 90 percent total active cannabinoids. All Sol Selects products are purified without the use of harsh chemicals or volatile processing conditions.
Scientifically, this process is called short path distillation. “Short path is a simple term that describes the amount of distance molecules have to travel before they re-condense,” explained Drew, chief technology officer for Sol Selects. “So really, short path distillation is just a process that limits the time molecules spend as vapor by allowing a shorter distance in which they travel before again becoming a liquid.
“During distillation, molecules evaporate in order of their boiling points,” he added. “Molecules with very similar boiling points (cannabinoids, for example) distill in groups. These groups, or fractions, are very difficult to separate from each other. You can really maximize yields as well as preserve the most beneficial cannabinoids when they’re kept together, in addition to some terpenes that have yet to degrade or foul.”
Fully decarboxylated and requiring no additional heat to be properly absorbed within the body’s endocannabinoid system, refined cannabis is the perfect base for vaporization, ingestion, or topical applications. It’s a good base ingredient to homogenize with all-natural terpenes, certain forms of poly-ethers (like polypropylene glycol) for vaporizing products, and alcohols or fats for items like confections, tinctures, and topical products.
“Without the control of important processing equipment and conditions, such as degassing temperatures, desiccation systems, starting materials and terpene ratios, acidic THC (THC-A) extracts usually possess a consistency from shatter-like to crumbly, explained Sol Selects Chief Executive Clay. “Comparatively, distilled cannabis should have a clear, honey-like consistency at room temperature.”
Refined cannabis oil provides an easier blending process and is more soluble than BHO, hash, or CO2 oil. Kyle, chief terpene engineer for Sol Selects, explained, “When doing per-batch analytics, the dosing math becomes very straightforward when adjusting the cannabinoid milligram-per-volume ratios. This guarantees that what is labeled on the packaging is actually what the end user is ingesting.”
Distilling cannabis oil in California is considered a secondary or post-extraction process to the initial extraction of cannabis. Zero volatile solvents or dangerous physical processes are used in the purification procedure, eliminating potential risk to processors. California state law mandates safety processes for the distillation of cannabis oil much as it does for rosin, a hash extraction manufactured using heat and pressure.
Other recreational and medical states regulate the production of distilled cannabis in much the same way. Eric Shevin of the Shevin Law Group, which has specialized in representing cannabis producers and has fought marijuana prohibition for more than twenty years, pointed out, “Distilling cannabis is lawful in Colorado and Washington with the appropriate licensing. For processes involving previously extracted oil, a specific solvent-based extraction license would not be necessary to the extent such a specific license exists in those states.”
Challenges facing cannabis distillers occur mainly within the commodity supply chain. In order to provide the purest, safest, and most dependable products, adopting a farm-to-table approach is critical. Responsibly choosing consistent crude oil is important when providing distilled cannabinoids.
“Responsibly sourced means you tested the product, verified that the cultivator didn’t put any cultivating agents on there, and hopefully have a contract with the farmer to say ‘I would like to keep getting this crude oil at this amount and at this product purity,’” said Dr. Jeff Raber, founder of The Werc Shop.
Working with a compliant, reliable cannabis manufacturer or extractor is the next crucial step. Any cultivating agents such as pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides found prior to biomass extraction will become concentrated and present in the finished extracted product. “Pesticides and most of the cultivating agents used today are the similar boiling point, similar polarity, and similar molecular weight,” Raber said. “They’re very similar to what you are chasing in cannabinoids, and you will concentrate those, too”.
Depending on the method used, extracting crude oil also can add impurities. Moisture, heavy metals, and residual solvents are the most common impurities found in poorly extracted crude oil. Regardless the starting material (hash, CO2 oil, or hydrocarbon-extracted concentrates), refined cannabis oil can ensure every drop of finished product is within a consistent potency range and free of all harmful contaminants and adulterants.
Once cannabis has been fully purified, most major terpenes also will have been separated from the final raw product, removing all taste and smell from the purified oil and creating a perfect base ingredient or standardized consumable product. After reviewing the analysis for each batch of raw oil, the ideal ratios of natural terpenes can be reintroduced into the distilled cannabis for maximum bioavailability. Locally sourced and naturally derived in-house, Sol Selects’s terpene formulations are profiled to offer full-spectrum endocannabinoid benefits.
Terpenes derived from cannabis provide minimal yields and are inconsistent between strains; even batches of the same strain. Additionally, it’s hard to separate the good terpenes from any that have decomposed or fouled. Sol Selects’s terpene blends, which are naturally derived from fruits, spices, and various botanical sources, solve most problems.
“At ultra-high product purities, a molecule is a molecule,” explained Raber. “Just because they say terpenes are derived from cannabis doesn’t necessarily mean [the process is] good. It doesn’t make [the results] repeatable or consistent for people to rely upon, which is the ultimate goal.”
Gordon said, “Sol Selects’s terpenes can be safely shipped anywhere in the world because they are not made specifically from cannabis. Our alpha-Pinene comes from locally sourced sugar pine from Oregon. Our myrcene comes from local hops hand-picked in California.” For more than three years, Sol Selects has provided a vital part of the medicinal cannabis patient supply chain within California.
Sol Selects strives to perfect the art and science behind molecular isolation and terpene formulation. The team of scientists and engineers continue to evaluate the medicinal benefits of all therapeutic cannabis strains in order to make all products as healthy and pure as possible. By pairing hand-selected cannabinoids paired with symptom-specific terpenes, the company seeks the next generation in cannabis experiences.
The innovative minds at Sol Selects constantly work toward the future. The company is helping shape the vast frontier of the booming industry. Per milligram, distilled cannabis is the healthiest, most versatile, and most cost-effective cannabis to date. However, as Sol Selects’s Drew forecast, “If you think distillation is the industry standard now, just wait” for the next generation.
By Matthew Rosen