U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) outlines her cannabis position in her recent book “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.” Harris announced her candidacy in the 2020 presidential race during an MLK Day appearance on “Good Morning America.” Source: “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey” by Kamala Harris
Judge Karen Gievers of Florida’s Second Circuit was without sympathy for the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in her decision in a lawsuit brought by Florida medical cannabis producer Trulieve. Gievers determined that both the state Legislature and DOH did not have authority to restrict the medical cannabis industry by implementing a smoking ban. She called the amendment that legalized medical cannabis a ‘game changer’ with which the Department of Health and Legislature … have not complied.” Source: Public Record of Leon County
Retiring House member Bob Brady (D-PA) told The [Philadelphia] Inquirer reporter Claudia Vargas that he would try cannabis despite it being against federal law to do so. Brady has been a consistent supporter of federal cannabis legislation. He co-sponsored a bill earlier in 2018 that would have protected banks that do business with the cannabis industry. Source: Twitter
Vape cartridges are rapidly growing more popular with new cannabis consumers, and it’s not difficult to fathom why: They are portable, discreet and usually less pungent than flower. During the first four months of 2018, Californians purchased $165 million worth of vape carts, Coloradans shelled out $62.4 million for them and Oregonians spent $31 million, according to data from BDS Analytics, making cartridges the top-selling product in all three states. Given the hype, let’s examine both cartridges and their contents, as there is a wide range of quality on the market.
While there might be exceptions, cartridges (the vessels holding the cannabis extracts) can largely be categorized as high or low quality.
Typically, low-quality cartridges:
- are made of plastic (terpenes can penetrate plastic, and plastic can potentially leach chemicals from the oil),
- have poor-quality or ill-fitting O-rings that leak; and
- have pre-moistened wicks primed with glycerin or propylene glycol that can cause allergic reactions in some people.
Low-quality cartridges will have a higher customer return rate (if a return policy exists) and will drive away customers who become frustrated with the lackluster experience.
High-quality cartridges typically:
- are made of premium materials, such as glass, metal and ceramic;
- have properly-sized O-rings; and
- have sealed joints that prevent contact between the air and cartridge contents.
Choose your cartridges wisely and always examine the cartridge’s quality. A low-cost cartridge is not necessarily better for your business, and it alerts the customer that the contents might be poor-quality, too.
As consumers become more educated about their options, it is likely they will begin to examine your cartridge’s stated ingredients, the same as they do for food ingredients, ultimately affecting how dispensary purchasing managers approach you. Whether you are vertically integrated or working with a third-party extractor, it’s crucial you know everything about your product. Do you claim to use organic practices or to be chemical free? Do you have certifications proving it? Does your product contain cannabis-derived terpenes, artificial flavors or terpenes derived from other sources? What terpene-isolation method was utilized? If non-cannabis-derived terpenes or artificial flavors were used, what are they, and from where were they sourced? If a purchasing manager asks a question about your product that you cannot answer, you’re in trouble.
Here is a rundown of contents found in typical vape cartridges:
1. Cannabis-derived terpenes: Cannabis terpenes sourced from cannabis.
Full-spectrum in composition, products made with these terpenes contain a high percentage of monoterpenes that have not been oxidized or degraded by heat application.
2. Steam-distilled terpenes: Softer in taste than extracted terpenes that have been isolated without utilizing heat, many steam-distilled terpenes are lost in the water used to produce steam, aka “pot water.”
3. Hydrosols: Hydrosols are a byproduct of steam distillation and low-heat distillations. They are classified as floral waters (i.e., essential oils) and contain only small percentages of actual terpenes. Heat is utilized and degrades the terpenes, too.
4. Non-cannabis-derived terpenes: Terpenes sourced directly from plant leaves, fruits or other organic sources, rather than from cannabis. It is impossible to recreate the aroma or flavor of the original plant/cultivar utilizing terpenes from non-cannabis plants, but a gross approximation can be achieved.
5. Artificial flavors: Typically, the artificial flavors found in cannabis cartridges are sourced from the e-cigarette industry. There are thousands of flavors, but their safety is in question (e.g., diacetyl causing “popcorn lung”).
6. HTFSE (High-Terpene Full-Spectrum Extract): Made from hydrocarbon extraction, there has been a recent trend of producing these products from pressed rosin. Also called sauce, HTFSE has high terpene content and is aromatic and flavorful.
7. CO2 Extracted: Some CO2 extractors collect a few available terpenes from CO2 extraction, but, more often than not, the cannabis product utilized to extract is dried, thus much of the available monoterpenes are lost in the drying process. This will result in a terpene composition that is mostly comprised of basic primary terpenes and low percentages of available monoterpenes. Therefore, both the final aroma and flavor are not as strong as HTFSEs, or if you had utilized a no-heat methodology of terpene isolation.
Beyond customers and purchasing managers, an important production-related detail to keep in mind is whether the stated THC percentage is measured before or after viscosity adjustment (fine-tuning the oil’s density) with glycerin, glycol and hydrosols. If any of these products were added after lab testing, the stated THC percentage is higher than what the product actually contains, making the stated percentage erroneous and potentially opening you to a lawsuit.
Most quality cartridges contain either CO2, hydrocarbon or distilled extracts, or a combination thereof, and most have flavor added. Some add cannabis-derived terpenes to a distillate to approximate the original characteristics of the plant/cultivar from which it came. This is typically accomplished by adding a fresh-frozen, terpene-rich hydrocarbon extract to a distillate. The resulting extract is flavorful and has a preferred viscosity.
Some utilize steam-distilled cannabis terpenes and hydrosols (a type of floral water), but these often lack monoterpenes (e.g., geraniol, terpineol, limonene, myrcene, linalool, pinene, etc.), which are responsible for the differentiation between cultivars. Some companies claim to re-infuse cannabis terpenes in their products, but said terpenes are often manufactured via low-heat steam distillation (utilizing distilled water and ethanol, or a variation thereof). The oxygen- and water-exposure results in a product with few of the original terpenes.
How to Decide
All extracts, isolates and compounds mentioned can be added to a flavorless or close-to-flavorless distillate or extract to increase aroma and flavor. This endless supply of cannabinoid cocktails has led to a great disparity in overall quality with respect to the desirable traits of the original cultivar. What looks low-quality and what is low-quality can be difficult to distinguish.
Some customers choose the clear oil over the dark oil, thinking it is purer and superior; this is generally a good rule of thumb to follow, as a dark oil typically indicates excessive amounts of lipids, fats, wax, or pigments in the product, or improper storage of extract material leading to exposure to air (oxidization), heat (decarboxylation) or a multitude of other factors.
That does not mean all darker colored extracts are inferior. Case in point: If one were to add a HTFSE to a water-clear distillate, it would inevitably add color. The more HTFSE added, the darker the distillate will become. Pressed rosin will impart undesired darker color when added to a clear distillate, yet the flavor profiles it imparts are strong when the rosin is produced at low temperatures (which preserves the available terpenes).
Cannabinoid content is another factor that can be misleading. If a distillate is made up of 95-percent cannabinoids, it contains 5-percent non-cannabinoid content, which can be terpenes, wax, pigments, flavonoids, etc. If a distillate is made up of 99-percent cannabinoids, it obviously has fewer of these non-cannabinoid compounds. While it might sound appealing to the unwitting consumer, a vape pen cartridge that contains 99-percent cannabinoids may not be pleasant to consume because terpenes are what add flavor and aroma.
Having the most potent cartridge at the expense of other desirable attributes may eventually work as a disadvantage for the cartridge producer. A vape cartridge should contain a perfect balance of both cannabinoids and terpenes. Within that larger scope, manufacturers can formulate specific cannabinoid and terpene ratios to cater to customer desires or requests. If a group of customers only wants CBD distillate at 80-percent cannabinoid, 20-percent terpene ratio, with no THC, you will be able to formulate that. If another desires an 80-percent THC cartridge combined with 20 percent terpenes, you can do that too.
As we develop new products and formulations within this space, we will also have to wrestle with health and safety concerns. I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of unknowns with cannabis. For starters: How much is too much? It’s a simple question, yet there is certainly no easy answer given the vast number of terpenes in cannabis and how they interact with different metabolisms, different body weights and a whole host of other factors that determine what thresholds of terpenes are healthy (or perhaps detrimental) to an individual.
There are even more unanswered questions regarding the medical applications of cannabinoids. What is it about the synergistic effects of cannabinoids, terpenes and the specific blending of the two that can produce the pharmaceuticals of the future? What combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes treat which types of cancer? What combination can be used as a neuroprotectant? Given the worldwide cancer rate, and the worldwide need for neuroprotectants for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, I believe there is great monetization incentive to develop these drugs.
“We love being able to use beneficial predators,” says Botanica’s cultivation manager, Mariah Peters. “We are an organic grow, and we try to stay away from any kind of synthetic pesticides [and] fertilizers. We just want to create a healthy ecosystem, so having ARBICO there helps. It also feels great to work with a company that shares our values of environmental stewardship and striving toward an organic product.”
Botanica uses a variety of ARBICO products as the foundation of its integrated pest management plan. These include green lacewings, beneficial nematodes, ladybugs, Neoseiulus californicus, Encarsia formosa and other types of broad predators to control pests and diseases. Botanica receives weekly shipments from ARBICO to help boost predatory mite numbers and minimize the risk of infestations.
Recently, Botanica noticed the very beginning stages of spider mite activity and contacted ARBICO, who recommended that they use persimilis, which eliminated the threat and prevented any decline in quality and crop loss.
In addition, Botanica has never experienced any serious infestations of damaging pests or diseases, which Peters credits to ARBICO's preventative beneficials and fungicides.
Since no natural predators exist indoors, ARBICO’s products help Botanica create a healthy environment. “Having happy, healthy plants and creating a healthy ecosystem with bugs there [is important],” Peters says. “So, just having happy, healthy plants helps increase our yield and the quality of our products without having anything synthetic on any of our plants. We really take a lot of pride in that.”
Cultivating healthy, organic plants not only allows Botanica to increase yields, but also to sell more products, and ARBICO’s products help increase the company’s profitability through the prevention of crop loss and decreased time spent mitigating pest issues.
“If we can keep the beneficials in there and keep the plants healthy, then we don’t run the risk of having to get rid of a whole crop because … russet mites or broad mites come in [and] just wipe out everything,” Peters says. “I feel like if we have a good natural defense, it just helps increase the profitability and the quality across the board.”
Smart Cannabis and Next Generation Farming Founder, President and CEO John Taylor had tried just about every nutrient product over the years. Yet, when it came to growing cannabis, one company’s product suite consistently produced far greater results: Dyna-Gro®.
After seeing the success, Smart Cannabis/Next Generation Farming partnered with the nutrient solutions company in 2018 with a promise to use and test Dyna-Gro products in its own research greenhouses in conjunction with Next Generation Farming’s SMART App, which allows growers to operate and monitor their smart greenhouse and add Dyna-Gro products remotely. The agriculture technologies and services company even goes a step further by selling and recommending Dyna-Gro full nutritional solutions, such as Foliage-Pro® and Bloom™, as well as its supplemental nutrient formulas, Pro-TeKt® and Mag-Pro® to all its cannabis cultivation clients. “Knowing we’re advising our cannabis growing clients to use the very best nutritional [products], in conjunction with knowing that the Dyna-Gro team is excellent to work with, is a win-win for us,” Taylor says.
There is always risk associated with closely tying your brand to another: If one screws up, it reflects poorly on both. That was never a concern for Taylor and Smart Cannabis, as he explains: “Associating with top-quality products and services is a minimum standard for our overall operations. Including Dyna-Gro nutrients is a natural fit because we only want to affiliate with the best. Knowing [Dyna-Gro is] fastidious when it comes to quality and consistency assures us that they are the best solution for our clients’ current needs.”
If proof is needed, Taylor says, “We’ve never heard a complaint about Dyna-Gro nutrients. In fact, responses have always only been positive.” According to Taylor, use of Dyna-Gro nutrients, especially when used with the SMART App, have increased cannabis yields (and therefore profits) for his clients. “The combination of technology and science-backed nutritional [solutions] produced by Dyna-Gro results in an automatic win for our clients,” he says. But “even without our tools, yields increase. It isn’t just an increase in yields that we’ve experienced, but also an improvement in the quality of crop yields,” which has also, in turn, led to an increase in potency and quality of the company’s extraction products.
Sometimes, though, the best way to increase profits is simply to pinch your pennies. Dyna-Gro’s nutrient solutions help Taylor with that also. “Our own data shows that Dyna-Gro nutrients consistently produce better yields," adding that Dyna-Gro's program is "a more natural cultivation method and saves money,” he says.
Outside of producing highly effective nutritional solutions, Taylor lauds Dyna-Gro for its highly personal customer service approach. “The entire team at Dyna-Gro encourages feedback, is open to ideas, offers feedback constructively and is motivated to be helpful and productive. This never waivers. Dyna-Gro is immediately responsive and always helpful,” the CEO says.
For more than 35 years, Dyna-Gro, touted as The Nutrition Solution®, has been a perennial leader, providing growers with complete, easy-to-use, cost-effective, liquid nutrient concentrates. Its formulas, which contain the 17 essential macro and micro mineral elements plants require for optimal growth, has made the company “one of the most respected names in organic nutrients for horticulture, agriculture and cannabis production,” Taylor says.
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