Everest Apothecary invited us to tour their grow operation recently. As we waited for the head grower to prepare the way, we took the opportunity to sit down with the dispensary’s extractor Alejandro Garcia and pick his brain about concentrates.
Weekly Alibi: Something I've always wondered—does it really matter if a concentrate comes from a sativa- or indica-dominant plant? THC is THC right?
Alejandro Garcia: Whenever you extract from a plant, common belief may lead you to think that you lose some of the aesthetics of what make a plant an indica or a sativa. In some ways, that's an accurate statement, but it also isn't. When it comes to distillation, you can actually isolate what you want to extract. So you can isolate the terpenes and the cannabinoids that the specific plant has when it's fresh. You are then able to reintroduce those terpenes and cannabinoids at the end, after you've isolated the THC or CBD. And then you can mix it at the ratio which will allow you to sell it at the state's 70 percent THC limit.
And that's what I mean. You still retain some of the plant profile when you extract it your waxes, your crumble, your shatters, your sugars, your sauces—for the for most part (depending on material and method of extraction) you're going to have a full-spectrum profile. There is some loss, because when you remove the solvents that are used in extracting THC, you do take some of the lighter terpenes—some of the terpenes that may evaporate at lower temperatures. When that happens, there is some loss. But one of the things we do to combat that is doing everything at cryogenic temperatures to preserve as much of the terpene and cannabinoid profile as we can. In fact, what you're getting is a more concentrated profile of the plant in itself.
Now there isn't a set number—for medicinal patients—as to what is therapeutic level and what isn't. There's many studies that suggest one thing or another, but there really isn't a conclusive amount that you should take. What we do know for a fact is that certain conditions do require really high doses of THC, CBD and some of these terpene profiles—something that by smoking flower, you're just not really getting to therapeutic levels of consumption.
With patients who have certain lung conditions, getting to therapeutic levels by smoking is mostly out of the question but with a pure concentrate you can use an inhaler to treat your condition something you can’t do with smoking plant matter. When you move into concentrates, you're able to clean out those fats and lipids and things that make cannabis harsh when you smoke it.
So it alleviates the harshness of any fats and lipids as they were never intended to be smoked or inhaled. Once you are able to remove those fats and lipids, you have a cleaner, more concentrated, safer product. There's less of a chance for somebody to have an allergic reaction to it.
For example, I'm allergic to cannabis—the actual plant. I medicate on a daily basis with antihistamines so I don't break out. However, whenever it's concentrated, and the fats and lipids and pollen are removed from the plant itself, I'm no longer allergic to it.
Cannabis is a relative of ragweed, so people with similar allergies are oftentimes going to have similar reactions to cannabis. But when you concentrate it, you remove some of those allergens that induce the hives and the sneezing and the runny nose. Most of the time they don't survive the harsh process of extraction, and we have really fine filters that filter out the undesirables.
The process in itself is pretty fascinating—from loading the material in the column to loading the propane/butane mix, making sure that it's all under -40 degrees to make sure that the fats and lipids will pretty much separate from the product. There's a lot of steps that are taken to make sure that we can preserve as much of the terpene profile of the plant as possible. Not only because some of our patients require higher doses of medication, but because all in all we're trying to provide a cleaner, safer product for our patients.
Is it better to add the terpenes back in than just have a higher amount of THC [legal limits notwithstanding]?
There are studies that show the “entourage effect” that terpenes and cannabinoids provide to create a better therapeutic feeling than just the THC on its own. You'll see for example in California and Nevada—where there are no limits—a lot of the cartridges are 95 percent THC, and that's the standard. However, we're finding out that a lot of the patients trying the 70 percent THC with the added terpenes that we formulated specifically to be therapeutic are getting better highs and seeing better effects than from the 95 percent cartridges that they happen to get their hands on.
So because of the entourage effect that these products already have in them, the therapeutic possibilities are much larger than with just high potency cartridges. Not that they aren't beneficial, but they are geared more towards people who really need those high dosages of THC.
It looks like you're making your concentrates in-house. Are you the only dispensary doing that?
No. But we wanted to have more control over the extraction process from seed to sale. Let's take Nevada for example. Nevada has different laws on distributorship, almost like the liquor laws—like Anheuser-Busch doesn't have their own storefront—so just like with Southwest Distributing, Nevada has a law in which the farms have to send their product to a distributor and then the distributor themselves wholesale to all the dispensaries in the state. So when it comes to controlling your product from seed to product, those dispensaries don't necessarily have that full control.
We aren't the only ones here in this state doing that, but we are trying to be in the forefront of doing that—there's maybe two or three others who have begun to do so, but only in small batches. We're one of the only ones who are doing this in mass production of inhalable products all under the Hoodoo and Heyday brand. Not only that, but because we have full transparency and continuous open communication with the companies that are extracting the material for us, we are able to track their efficiency from batch to batch accurately. That way we eliminate shrinkage, loss, theft—all things that come with just handing out your material and being hands-off until it comes back.
When it comes to the Heyday and Hoodoo products, our goal is to have a concentrate version of all of our available strains. Say a patient comes in and they really like this Candyland, but they need a higher concentration of THC or cannabinoids, they have the option of getting this high-end product. All of these strains have their own medicinal value, and they are all important in their own right, so to deny a patient the ability to get a higher concentration of that specific product isn’t right.