Two of the easiest and safest methods for extracting can nabinoids from cannabis plant material are water extraction and steam distillation. Both are easy enough that they can be done at home without much risk. But for commercial purposes, neither method produces the volume necessary to make an operation profitable. Therefore, processors have to utilize extraction methods that are considerably less safe.
This means that processors also must address safety issues in the lab. They need to be incredibly careful about everything they do so as not to risk harming employees, guests, and even their neighbors. Rest assured that OSHA has a lot to say about safety in the processing lab.
Common Safety Issues
Ethanol extraction is the most efficient and cost-effective means of extracting can nabinoids and terpenes from cannabis biomass. According to Houston-based Cedar Stone Industry, ethanol extraction can be performed at a variety of temperatures. Room temperature is attractive because it splits the difference between extracting at high and low temperatures.
Butane extraction is another solvent-based process that relies on liquefied butane to break down plant material. It must be tightly controlled in terms of pressure and temperature. Unfortunately, butane is highly flammable. Ethanol is, too. So the risks of fire and explosion are always present with these two methods.
A third extraction method is supercritical CO2 extraction. It involves cooling and pressurizing CO2 gas to liquefy it, then injecting the liquid into a pressurized tank holding plant material. There are obvious safety issues that come with pressurized CO2.
How Processors Address Safety
Extracting can nabinoids and terpenes safely is the number one priority. Processors rely heavily on OSHA standards to instruct them how to do what they do. Cedar Stone Industry says the appropriate OSHA guidelines are found in 29CFR1910.1200 of the Federal Register.
With these guidelines in mind, processors do the following:
- Identify Hazards – In order to effectively maintain a safe lab environment, processors have to identify all potential hazards. Hazards may be related to chemicals, flammable liquids, the use of pressurized tanks, and so on.
- Evaluate Exposure – Once hazards have been identified, safety officers evaluate individual exposure to those hazards. In other words, some employees face greater exposure than others. Processors need to understand exposure so that employees can be trained properly.
- Train Employees – It goes without saying that proper training is essential. Employees must be taught how to work safely and constantly reminded to do so. That is what training is all about, after all.
- Develop Procedures – Processors develop procedures for safely working in the lab. Procedures are routinely evaluated and modified as are deemed necessary. The point here is to make sure employees are doing things safely at all times.
Preventing hazards from becoming serious problems requires a team effort. It requires clear communication at every level, from floor operations all the way up to senior management. It also requires everyone going the extra mile to do things the right way.
It is Worth the Effort
Maintaining a safe extraction lab requires a lot of work. It requires a lot of time and effort. But for processors, it is all worth it. Extracting can nabinoids and terpenes from cannabis biomass is big business. There is money to be made by companies that do it safely and do it right.
Anyone considering getting into the cannabis industry should consider processing. But they should also note that the processing portion can be dangerous. Business owners have to make a commitment to safety. They have to follow through on that commitment every single day, otherwise they risk harming others in the event of an accident.