Like Honey To Bees: Cannabis Extraction from Flower to Jar

Words by Anna Glavash | Photo by Sierra Pedro

If you’ve ever dabbed or vaped cannabis oil, you’ve probably wondered, “How did the cannabis flower become this golden substance?”

Cannabis extracts have come a long way since the dangerous days of open blasting and black-market butane hash oil (BHO). Today’s extraction process is done by highly trained experts in lab coats with state-of-the-art equipment, and the product is put through rigorous tests before going onto dispensary shelves. With so many quality extracts now on the market, it can be tough to choose. Here’s a look at how two innovative local extractors produce premium cannabis oil.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

Willamette Valley Alchemy (WVA) makes a range of top-shelf cannabis products including edibles and solventless concentrates, but specializes in hydrocarbon extracts, which is cannabis oil that’s been separated from dried plant material using a hydrocarbon solvent blend.

The process usually begins with trim or flower that didn’t make it to market for one reason or another, such as small batch or small bud size. WVA mostly works with farms that are Clean-Green certified, which is the cannabis industry’s version of the organic standard. All their products are co-branded, so you know which farm and flower it was made from.

WVA sources locally-manufactured lab equipment from Cascade Botanicals and Sweet Leaf Extractors. They use a passive closed-loop system which allows them to recapture almost all of the solvent for reuse. They clean the equipment obsessively to minimize any contamination, and double-distill their solvents to ensure they’re ultra-clean. Because the flower they source is top-shelf, they only use the highest quality gas and equipment they can get to honor the plant. “We treat everything like gold,” says WVA Head of Production Adam Chase.

Picture yourself in Walter White’s lab from Breaking Bad—and not the one in the Winnebago. Chase may not be a chemistry teacher, but he’s no less meticulous. Here’s what happens in the spark-proof room where the oil is extracted:

The dry plant material is packed into a column through which a liquid gas is pumped. They use a proprietary blend of solvents including butane and propane to separate the cannabinoids from the plant. The gas is chilled to -100 degrees using dry ice.

Once it’s been run through, the solvent is distilled out using warm water and what’s left is the oil. Once filtered, this oil is poured off and put into a vacuum oven for several days to cure. The negative pressure lowers the boiling point of the residual solvent, which slowly bubbles out. The low temperature allows the oil to retain maximum cannabinoids and terpenes for the most similar user experience to smoking the actual flower.

When all the solvent is gone, the product is sent off to be independently tested, and when confirmed that it’s free of solvents and pesticides, it’s packaged onsite. Test results, including THC percentage, are printed on the label.

The extract might be packaged in a resealable plastic pouch or weighed out into tiny glass jars, depending on its consistency. Though the process is the same, different flowers produce different results. Chase likens it to a unique personality: “The lifeforce of one plant is going to be different from that of another plant, even it’s the same strain grown in the same region.” This can range from a very stable “shatter” to a “sauce” or somewhere in between: “budder” or “wax.” Higher terpene content produces a more flavorful but also more volatile, less stable oil. All of these products are best refrigerated.

Chase and co-owner Brice Sherman built WVA to produce exactly what they wanted to smoke and share it with the community. His favorite part of the job? “It helps people who have medical conditions, and it makes people happy. If somebody had a shit day at work and they got home and they had their partner yelling at them, and their dog bit them when they walked in the door but they have their WVA dab ready, and they take that dab and they’re good, that is the most satisfying part. ”

CO2 Extraction

Critical Source (CS) is focused on full-spectrum CO2 oil formulas, but take a very different approach from other vape pen producers. Cartridges are popular for their convenience, but the flavor or effects can be compromised by a quick and dirty extraction process. The goal of CS’s full-spectrum extracts is to replicate the experience of smoking the real flower, but in cartridge form. Not only should the experience feel more authentic, “the effects can last substantially longer than distillate products,” says founding partner Kenan Hester.

CS’s CO2 extraction process is focused on retaining dimensionality and bioactive compounds of the flower through terpene profile preservation and cannabinoid profile retention that’s true to the cultivar—capturing the plant’s unique essence, if you will.

Initially created for the medical market, their extracts are made using CO2 in place of a hydrocarbon solvent. Although more expensive and time-consuming, CO2 is considered among the safest ways to produce and consume extracts. Hester says, “Great extracts that target therapeutic value should capture everything that you want from the plant and strip away everything that you don’t want.” The good stuff is those bio-active terpenes and cannabinoids. In post-processing, they aim to exclude plant compounds like waxes and lipids that can cause irritation in the lungs.

The process goes like this: The flower is put into the extraction chamber and saturated with low-temperature, low-pressure “subcritical” CO2. First, the terpenes are isolated in a liquid form and put aside. Then temperature and pressure is ramped up to “supercritical” levels, and the CO2 extracts the cannabinoids in a process similar to steeping tea.

The system’s patented back-pressure regulator gradually drops levels back down as the solution travels to the collection point, where CO2 and raw extract are separated. The CO2 vapor rises and is recycled back into the system. The raw extract left behind still contains those unwanted plant waxes and lipids, so it’s then homogenized with ethanol and put through a process called winterization to remove them.

Many CO2 extractors aren’t able to isolate the terpenes at the first stage, so they get winterized too, which can destroy them and create a generic flavor and character. Others may spend 2-4 days winterizing, but CS lets theirs go for 10-12 days until absolutely nothing else can be removed, giving their cartridge a very smooth hit.

Finally, the terpenes are reblended with the cannabinoids to achieve the finished product. CS never uses food-grade or bulk-cannabis derived terpenes, so you can be sure everything in the cartridge came from the same source and vaporizing it will mimic the experience of smoking the flower itself.

Hester likens this process to wine blending and says a little goes a long way. “You can have a Cabernet and Merlot blend that has only 1% Merlot, but as soon as you add that in, it can completely change the entire experience.” Similarly, using just a tiny bit of the original terpenes has a huge effect on the character of the extract.

When Hester founded the company in 2014, the market had a lot of great hydrocarbon extracts, but CS saw a need for more connoisseur-grade CO2 extractions. Though the barrier to entry in this method is much higher, CS wanted to advance the quality and availability of options for patients. It maintains these standards of quality in its recreational products and has just launched a premium line of co-branded vape cartridges called Kalapooya Fire. This brand seeks to honor the history of the Kalapuya people, from whom the culture of eco-stewardship in the Willamette Valley originated hundreds of years before the modern cannabis industry. Kalapooya Fire seeks to source from farms that emulate the sustainable practices of the Kalapuya people. To honor this legacy, they’re also launching a scholarship which supports Oregon Native American students who study chemistry & horticulture at the University level.

The Greener Side: Eugene’s Longest Running Dispensary

words by Delaney Rea | photo by Trevor Meyer

When Joe Hopkins moved to Eugene in 2012, Tracktown USA wasn’t his first choice. His family was more drawn to the city of Bend – the snow offered in that part of the state was particularly enticing. However, what ultimately made Eugene the place to go was a different kind of market – the marijuana dispensary market.

Hopkins and his wife, Chelsea, saw a need in the city for a quality provider of cannabis products. That’s why they started The Greener Side, the dispensary that they continue to own and operate. When they started their business, the state legislation hadn’t yet legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. Because of this, The Greener Side started out as a strictly medical dispensary. With this license to sell, the dispensary was welcomed by the cannabis-friendly communities of the city. It’s been on the strength of that community that the business has continued to thrive, making it the longest-running dispensary in Eugene.

However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Eugene’s senior cannabis supplier. On May 23, 2013, only months after opening, The Greener Side was subject to a government raid. Although they were authorized to sell marijuana to medical patients by state law, federal law had the jurisdiction to intervene. What began as just another day in the cannabis industry saw the arrival of police, who arrested the entire staff. According to Hopkins, his personal home was also raided, private phones were confiscated and the bank accounts of the business were promptly closed. Hopkins’ wife was released that day, and they reopened their business within the next 24 hours. Though the business itself fought to overcome this obstacle, Hopkins said, “support from the community helped us keep going and kept our fire fueled.”

The legislation passed by Measure 91 to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana in 2015 brought relief to the fear of further raids occurring. “We’re extremely happy to be working in the legal market,” Hopkins said. When the new legislation took effect, The Greener side began selling their products recreationally. Soon after, Hopkins saw the customer demographics patronizing his store start to change. 21-year-olds started to come in on their birthdays for their first stop of many. Senior citizens, intrigued by the new market, began purchasing more and more cannabis product, finding it to be an effective medication for many ailments. Hopkins even met a woman who could recall a time before marijuana prohibition, when she had the same freedom to buy that she does now.

Hopkins has seen the normalization of marijuana as a necessary step for the industry since before the days of The Greener Side. Starting out, he decided to change the negative stigma that many people have associated with weed through the actions of his business. Since 2013, The Greener Side has hosted an annual charity golf tournament. This event has raised over $10,000 in the past four years, with the proceeds going toward multiple sclerosis.

As a member of Eugene’s Chamber of Commerce and the International Rotary Club, Hopkins has put his foot in the door of local business to make one thing clear: dispensaries are a credible business model. “It’s pretty awesome that I can go to any Rotary Club meeting in the world now, and I’ll be there for cannabis,” he said. “I can talk about my cannabis openly and proudly now.”

Being the oldest marijuana dispensary in Eugene and Springfield means that The Greener Side has persevered while seeing competitors come and go. While he welcomes the competition, Hopkins recognizes why many of them don’t last, attributing the ongoing success of his business to its commitment to customer integrity. “Changes to the industry don’t affect our protocol,” Hopkins said. Putting the customer first and staying consistent with the quality of the products they offer has earned the business a more loyal following than newer dispensaries that simply follow the latest trends.

Part of the customer loyalty that The Greener Side offers is daily deals that make marijuana consumption more affordable.  “Presumptions are left at the door,” Hopkins said. “When people come in here, they’re all coming in for the same thing. That’s something to better their life.” There are plenty of deals at The Greener Side to help improve customers’ lives. Mondays bring 15 percent off all edible products, and Tuesdays offer 10 percent off any purchase of $40 or over. On Wednesdays, customers can get $5 off the price of The Greener Side’s top-tier strains. Thursdays offer 15 percent off all products based in CBD, the cannabinoid with relaxing effects, and Fridays bring 20 percent off the purchase of seeds. Additionally, The Greener Side has a free membership program that customers can use to get further discounts and win periodically offered prizes.

Ultimately, the successful business Hopkins has built is only the beginning of the company’s potential. On Nov. 10, The Greener Side opened a new location in Detroit Lake, Oregon. Hopkins hopes to next franchise out into the greater Eugene and Springfield area. With an emphasis on customer loyalty, commitment to superior quality and a business model that has proven longevity, the future of The Greener Side looks bright.

The Hempiest Time of Year: Eugene’s 2017 Hemp Gift Guide

words by Sierra Pedro | photo contributed by Mountain Rose Herbs

From skincare to clothing to lip balm, hemp products make great go-to gifts for any of your Oregonian friends. We compiled a list of local, hemp products you might consider purchasing for a special someone in your life!

Hemp Hoop Infinity Scarf, $15

Made with 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton jersey, these cozy scarves are guaranteed to please a special fashionista in your life this holiday season. Currently offered in sea foam and iris colors.

Shop: sweetskins.com, 850 West 2nd St.

Street Purse, $48

The Eco Boutique, home to Of the Earth Organic Apparel, offers stylish purses that can be worn over the shoulder or as a handbag. They are also on discount at $29 on their website right now! Currently offered in black and denim colors.

Shop: oftheearth.com, 782 Blair Blvd.

Sprout Bag, $16.50

Made with 100% hemp, this 7” by 10.5” sprout bag is a go-to gift for any cooking guru. Just include some seeds, water and your sprouts will be ready in 3 to 5 days!

Shop: mountainroseherbs.com, 152 W 5th Ave. #3

Hemp Seed Oil, $11

An 8.5 oz. bottle of quality oil a delightful present for any kitchen enthusiast in your life! This certified organic hemp seed oil can be used for hummus to guacamole to smoothies to pesto. Plus, the oil bottles themselves are made from 50 percent recycled material.

Shop: mountainroseherbs.com, 152 W 5th Ave. #3

Hemp Lip Balm Assortment, $41.58

Lip balm makes the perfect stocking stuffer, and this assortment of 28 tubes and seven flavors offers a one-stop buy for all your closest friends and family. Made with hemp seed oil, rosemary and Vitamin E. Flavors include peppermint, spearmint, orange, lemon lime, cinnamon, vanilla and unscented.

Shop: merryhempsters.com

Organic Dog Salve, $5.25

Don’t forget about your furry friend this holiday season! This pet-friendly, price-friendly dog lotion with soothe cuts, bites or other abrasions. Packaged in a simple, roll on applicator.

Shop: merryhempsters.com

LivWell Takes Oregon

By Delaney Rea | *Sponsored Content*

Marijuana dispensaries continue to pop up left and right. It’s becoming more and more evident that we’ve reached a fever pitch when it comes to the demand and supply of cannabis. With this many options, the pros and cons of each should be weighed. Are you getting the level of expertise required to make your cannabis shopping experience as successful as possible? The newest addition to Lane County’s dispensary scene aims to provide you with just that.

A family-owned organization, LivWell Enlightened Health began in 2009 with a single medical dispensary in Denver. Following Colorado’s 2014 recreational marijuana legalization, LivWell began catering to a new realm of customers. After expanding into 14 locations in Colorado, LivWell is venturing out to a fifteenth location in Springfield, Oregon.

At LivWell, you’ll find a one-stop-shop for all things cannabis. Not only that, it’s all offered at competitive pricing – which is ideal for college students on a budget. LivWell only stocks products from leading brands in the marijuana industry, which they closely evaluate for quality before setting them on their shelves. LivWell’s in-house cannabis infused products brand, Infusiasm, currently offers a wide range of concentrate, edible and topical products. In 2015, LivWell launched their own line of glass and accessories, Faded by LivWell. That same year, LivWell became the first dispensary to be endorsed by a celebrity when Snoop Dogg teamed up with them to sell his own cannabis line, Leafs by Snoop.

Michael Lord, LivWell’s Director of Business Development, takes pride in the business’ ability to serve consumers from all walks of life.

“In our locations, you’ll find customers representative of the diverse populations we serve, with men and women aged 21 to 65 [and older] regularly patronizing our stores,” Lord says. From first-time users to experienced “cannaseurs,” LivWell is a one-stop shop for everybody. Their popularity among a wide consumer base was earned by turning each employee into a cannabis expert. Every “budtender” undergoes an intensive two-week training program that provides them with all kinds of expertise. They are your resource for everything from the science of cannabis to choosing the best strain for your personal tastes.

LivWell makes your cannabis shopping experience easier with their customer loyalty program, LivWell Rewards. Free to join, the program awards its members points for every purchase. The points can be put toward discounts on non-medicated items in-store. In addition, you’ll receive $10 of store credit just for signing up, and you’ll even earn points on your birthday. Think of it as a punch card that doesn’t stop punching.

LivWell also strives to make their store like home for their customers. “Our budtenders love making personal connections with their customers, and many of them operate on a first-name basis with our consumers,” Lord says. The stores are also designed to be welcoming and relaxing for patrons. Friendly, inviting atmospheres are a major part of the culture that makes LivWell an enticing option for college students. This is far from the sterile, medicinal environments of some dispensaries.

At the end of the day, Lord’s ambitions for LivWell are relatively simple: “Our goal is for every customer to feel comfortable and confident about their cannabis purchase so that they can enjoy the best of what cannabis has to offer.”

LivWell will be opening soon at 2329 Olympic St. in Springfield. They can be reached at 541-357-5230.