Six Cannabis Extraction Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

Cannabis extract is a highly popular, in demand product in virtually every legal medical and adult use cannabis market. However, extracting is a complex process that requires substantial knowledge and experience to do it right. If you’re establishing or expanding a cannabis extraction business, there are a few critical errors that could stunt your progress. Avoid making these common mistakes to ensure your cannabis extraction business can produce quality products and scale without hindrance.

Common mistakes in cannabis extraction

From the point of harvest to storage of biomass to the manufacturing process itself, reliable equipment and proper setup is essential for a successful extraction process. Cannabis businesses must be diligent and consistent in avoiding these common cannabis extraction mistakes.

  1. Sourcing untested cannabis biomass

    The final product is only as good as the biomass extractors source. This means that while extractors may not have cultivated the cannabis themselves, they still need to ensure they utilize the highest quality biomass possible that’s been tested for potential contaminants, mold, and other issues.

    Sourcing untested cannabis biomass is one of the biggest mistakes cannabis manufacturers can make, as it can result in a low quality final product and even endanger consumer health. Manufacturers must verify any biomass used in the extraction process to ensure that it has been tested for everything from cannabinoids and terpene content to contaminants.

    extract mistakes

    Manufacturers can take the following steps to verify their biomass suppliers are delivering high-quality cannabis biomass:

    1. Perform a visual inspection: Biomass is considered everything harvested from the cannabis flower; the buds, the leaves, stalks, and stems. Generally, buds have the highest potency of cannabinoids, while leaves, stalks, and stems contain a much smaller quantity. Visually inspecting all biomass, even that which has been previously inspected, is an important step in ensuring its quality remains unimpeded.

    2. Visit your source: Visiting the cultivation facility where you are sourcing biomass is the most direct way to verify their process. This is an especially important step when you plan on partnering with a supplier on a long-term basis. Make sure your supplier has standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place that ensure a quality product on a repeatable basis.

    3. Review test results: Like manufacturers, cultivators are generally required to obtain third-party test results that demonstrate product quality. This includes information on cannabinoid and terpene content, which is key for extractors, as well as assurances that contaminants are not present in dangerous amounts. Never use any biomass that hasn’t been tested by an independent, verifiable third-party laboratory in your manufacturing process.

    4. Perform a test extraction: Start by performing a small-scale extraction on a sample of your sourced biomass. This will allow you to test the quality of extract produced from that biomass before moving forward with a full-scale production run.

  2. Using unverified equipment

    It’s imperative that cannabis laboratories make use of ETL and UL-certified equipment when conducting extraction processes. Third-party inspections and testing ensure that the equipment meets safety standards for both your consumers and personnel. Reliable equipment is critical to sustaining a manufacturing process that produces quality extract at volumes that meet your customers’ demand.

    UL certification indicates whether products and equipment have been tested by a third party and verified to meet UL safety standards. Any UL-certified product or machine will display a small UL label, confirming that it is third-party engineer tested. Equipment bearing these seals is more likely to operate safely and reliably for years to come with proper maintenance. Not only does choosing UL or ETL-certified equipment protect your investment in one of your biggest ticket assets, it also helps protect the safety of your personnel and facility during production runs.

  3. Choosing the wrong facility or design

    Choosing or building the correct type of facility design is essential to maintaining a successful cannabis extraction operation. Extraction facilities need adequate ventilation and enough space not only to host equipment but also to store solvents. It’s also important to remember that not all extraction processes require the same production environment. For example, an ethanol extraction process will require a different set up than a hydrocarbon extraction process. Plan your facility design accordingly.

    Manufacturing spaces known as Class 1, Division 1 rooms are built with fire-suppressing materials and designed to ventilate potentially flammable gasses, such as hydrocarbons. In Class 1 Division 2 rooms, hazardous gasses are confined within closed containers or systems from which they can escape only in the case of accidental rupture or breakdown.

    Generally, facilities carrying out extraction with butane, propane, or isobutane require a C1D1 classified room. If your facility conducts cannabis extraction with ethanol, on the other hand, you will need a C1D2 space. Working with an experienced supplier or consultant, such as Holland Green Science, can give you the insight you need on the right facility design for your extraction process.

  4. Working without SOPs

    Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are critical to the function of any cannabis extraction facility. SOPs generally include safety measures and operational guidance, as well as guidelines for a repeatable and consistent process.

    Documented SOPs and training programs for staff are essential factors in remaining compliant with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which will soon be the standard of the cannabis industry. In general, employees should understand the common safety hazards within a facility, including exposure areas and what to do if an accident occurs. All this information should be thoroughly documented, and incident reports should also be created should any accidents happen.

    Extraction facilities should also pay special attention to the cleaning and maintenance of equipment to ensure that production remains consistent and proficient. One way to keep your facility up to industry standards is by hiring a quality control manager, a specialist who will monitor your facility and maintain proper manufacturing practices.

  5. Failure to document processes

    Like SOPs, cannabis extraction facilities must document everything about their processes and track safety incidents, inventory, personnel schedules, and equipment maintenance. Keeping documentation of all procedures will help you to maintain safe and proficient practices within your facility and ensure that costly or dangerous mistakes do not occur.

    The documentation of your extraction processes is also essential from a regulatory compliance standpoint and will be beneficial in obtaining GMP certification. For cannabis extraction facilities that want to remain operational for the long-term, this is an essential part of the process, both for internal and external purposes.

  6. Failure to work with a third-party testing laboratory

    Manufacturers have legal and reputational obligations when it comes to the testing of their extract products, and there are real consequences for failure to do so. Working with a third-party testing laboratory will ensure that all products manufactured in your facility are safe and compliant with applicable regulatory standards.

    Extraction manufacturers that fail to work with third-party testing laboratories may face fines, penalties, and even closures. On the contrary, companies who partner with testing labs are guaranteed to maintain legal compliance, and can use testing results to gain the confidence of their consumers.

    When choosing a testing laboratory to work with, extraction manufacturers should always be sure to vet their options. Verifying that a laboratory follows regulations and has obtained efficient certifications is essential to ensuring the quality of your final extract. Look for testing laboratories that have attained ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation to be sure results are precise and trustworthy.

Avoid cannabis extraction mistakes by partnering with experts

In a complex field like cannabis extraction, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. In some cases, these mistakes can lead to catastrophic consequences that endanger a business’s viability and the health and well-being of personnel. To avoid making these critical mistakes, it’s best to partner with suppliers and professionals that can help you establish and operate an extraction facility the right way. Contact Holland Green Science for more information on extraction equipment and the best options for procedures within your facility.

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