How are THC/CBD products such as vape cartridges, dabs and edibles created?
It all starts with “the grow”. Most cannabis grows are done in a controlled room. Light, water, temperature and other environmental factors are carefully regulated to maximize cannabinoid production. Cannabis plant genetics are also selected to produce the desired cannabinoid profile and concentration. Harvesting is timed with the peak cannabinoid production. The primary product is the “bud” or flower which contains the most cannabinoids and terpenes. Leaves are trimmed from the bud. These trimmings contain less cannabinoids than the bud. After harvest and trimming, the bud and trim are allowed to dry.
The next step is to extract the cannabinoids. The three main types of extraction are hydrocarbon, ethanol, and CO2. The extraction process produces crude extract containing terpenes, cannabinoids, and fats/waxes. If the solvent was a hydrocarbon, the crude extract normally needs to be purged to remove the residual solvent. If the solvent was ethanol, it is convenient to immediately move into the winterization step.
Winterization is the cold filtering of crude extract to remove the fats and waxes. Fats and waxes cause “off” flavors and add viscosity. Typically a product will be dissolved in ethanol and then winterized several times, each time using a progressively smaller pore size filter. Filtering also removes residual plant material from the extraction step.
The winterized oil is then distilled to remove terpenes, volatiles, and residual oils. The three main types of distillation are spinning band distillation, short path and wiped film. Spinning band is a fractional distillation capable of producing high purity THC/CBD distillate in a single pass. Short path is an “introductory” methods that can make acceptable distillate but requires at least 2 passes. Wiped film can also make acceptable distillate in 2 to 3 passes.
For edibles, the distillate must be free of terpenes. Nobody wants their THC brownie to smell or taste like weed!
If the distillate is transparent and light in color, it is a good candidate for vape cartridges or dabbing. Add a few percent of high quality terpenes back into the oil and fill your cartridges.