All cannabis oils not created equal

By: Chris Edwards
April 13, 2016

Cannabis enthusiasts discovered that solvents could be used to separate essential oils from dried cannabis plant matter years ago. Numerous products can be made from these cannabinoid-rich oils, including liquid and solid concentrates, to create products including wax, shatter, and vape oil. Initially, nearly all extractions relied on hydrocarbons such as butane and propane as the active solvent. While these solvents are certainly very efficient when it comes to cannabis extraction, concerns about safety quickly became apparent.

For starters, hydrocarbons are flammable. Numerous incidents, including deadly explosions, have occurred when proper safety precautions were not taken. It has even occurred a few times right here in Massachusetts (eg. http://www.wcvb.com/news/cause-of-tewksbury-house-explosion-under-investigation/25169188). Under proper conditions, the chances of combustion can be reduced significantly. But what about residual solvent left in the finished concentrates? Many of the hydrocarbons commonly used in cannabis extractions are known to contain carcinogens. For these reasons, a widespread shift towards using Carbon Dioxide as a solvent rather than hydrocarbons took root in the cannabis industry circa 2009.

Despite the risks, some providers of Medical Marijuana argue that hydrocarbon extractions can be done safely, and with minimal residual solvent left in the finished products. There is also the fact that extracting with hydrocarbons generally produces a higher yield per gram of plant material, thus boosting profits. At Alternative Therapies Group, we are committed to producing medical grade products for our patients. We believe using hydrocarbons poses an un-necessary risk to our staff and patients. We are ok with sacrificing profits in order to deliver products which do not contain carcinogens. That is why our focus is on CO2 extraction at ATG.