David DownsOctober 9, 2019

Contemporary-frozen cannabis will get was THC diamonds at Utopia Hashish in California. (Courtesy Utopia Hashish)

Harvest season is upon us throughout North America and within the cannabis-growing heartlands of inland Northern California, there’s a brand new fall scarcity: dry ice.“It’s powerful. The dry ice is gone,” stated Alien Labs founder and operator Ted Lidie, when speaking about harvesting three acres in Yolo County, California, this month.

During the last six years, the thought of freezing half—or all—of 1’s cannabis harvest has gone from weird to obligatory. A full 30% of Alien Labs’ coveted new pressure Planet Dosi is heading straight from outside fields into the freezer this yr.

California’s largest cultivation licensee, Uncooked Backyard, freezes 100% of their harvest, notes Jason Guillory, from Nug extracts of Oakland, a Uncooked Backyard contractor.

Ben Grambergu at Grambergu Advertising and marketing in Northern California says: “A pair years in the past, when you informed somebody you had been going to freeze 100% of your crop, they’d let you know you had been loopy. Now, we’re seeing 100% frozen harvests, and actually giant farms: 8,000-pound harvests. It’s completely taken over.”

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Why frozen?

Demand for extracts

Driving this pattern is shoppers. They need pure, high-THC cannabis extracts in modern vape pens which might be simple to dose and don’t odor. Farmers have responded by shopping for up industrial freezers—plus utilizing dry ice within the fields—and are sending the frozen crops straight to extract labs, skipping the normal harvesting course of.

Harvest price financial savings

Freezing harvested cannabis can save numerous time, labor, and danger—and likewise cash, says Ed Rosenthal, co-author of the 2017 crop science guide Marijuana Harvest (this story’s creator, David Downs, is Marijuana Harvest’s co-author).

Vigorous competitors places monumental stress on farmers, squeezing their revenue margins and making farming vastly extra environment friendly. Contemporary-freezing saves tons of money on harvesting man-hours and drying rooms. “It eliminates complete steps,” stated Rosenthal. “The extra subtle the farmer, the extra possible they’re to do this.”

How farmers freeze

To get to pure extracts at low price, farmers have flipped the millenia-old means of harvesting on its head.

Conventional strategies

Within the spring, farmers within the Northern Hemisphere sew the fast-growing crop. In fall, farmers harvest buds at peak ripeness, when aromas and cannabinoids—like THC—close to peak ranges.

You get smokeable flower by chopping down the ripe plant and air drying its buds in a cool, dry, darkish room for about ten days. Weeks or months of curing can observe to good the odor and style of boutique bud.

Conventional air drying is a battle towards temperature and humidity spikes to keep away from mould and fungus and protect valuable terpenes and THC.

Ditching custom

However farmers are more and more saying ‘Screw all that’ with fresh-frozen. They chop vegetation, take away the leaves, branches, and stems, and vacuum seal buds in thick plastic pillows weighing two to 4 kilos. These pillows go into in an industrial freezer at -38°F, and the low temperatures lock in every thing for processing at a later date: flavors and terpenes, cannabinoids (THC, CBD, and many others.), in addition to all of the water.

“You’re not fearful about degradation as a lot [in the plastic pillows],” stated Grambergu. “The shelf life on that versus an everyday pound in a turkey bag are very completely different.”

A Utopia Cannabis technician holds up bags of fresh-frozen cannabis. (Courtesy of Utopia Cannabis)

A Utopia Hashish technician holds up baggage of fresh-frozen cannabis. (Courtesy of Utopia Hashish)

Getting from frozen buds to stay resin

Subsequent comes industrial solvent extraction.

Technicians finely grind the frozen buds right into a powder, pack kilos of it in thick, chrome steel tubes, and blast a solvent like butane by means of it, which pulls out all of the fresh-frozen terpenes and cannabinoids. Water crystallizes and separates from the plant materials.

The result’s a freezing chilly, golden liquid. Technicians then purge the solvent, abandoning focus, which is normally 4 or 5 instances stronger than flower.

This extract goes into what’s taken over the focus scene—stay resin, which is utilized in dab rigs and pens, in addition to pre-filled stay resin vaporizer cartridges like Loudpack’s Mimosa pod for the Pax Period. “Stay resin is what’s driving this,” stated Grambergu.

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Stay resin makes up a few of the most fragrant cannabis merchandise. And the odor is way much less pungent than lighting up some flower.

“It comes all the way down to ease of use,” Lidie stated. “As new shoppers enter the market, they don’t essentially need to reek of pot… I can dab in my workplace and it doesn’t permeate by means of my complete residence. If I smoke a joint, the entire home goes to stink.”

Results from fresh-frozen extracts could also be completely different too. Cannabinoids keep at peak ranges with nearly no degradation. Freezing preserves terpenes that may in any other case be misplaced to weeks of drying and curing.

Fresh-frozen material yields Banna OG live resin at Nug extracts of Oakland, CA. (Courtesy of Nug Extracts)

Contemporary-frozen materials yields Banana OG stay resin at Nug extracts of Oakland, CA. (Courtesy of Nug Extracts)

“Typically the sensation you get is revolutionary,” stated Tracee McAfee, CEO of Cryo Treatment, a Michigan-based cannabis freeze-dryer start-up. “It’s clean, uplifting, sparkly, inventive, and social, with no couchlock impact and no crash.”

Extra merchandise past stay resin

Past a few of the finest, terpiest dabs, fresh-frozen harvests assist energy the huge manufactured items marketplace for THC-infused meals, drink, sweet, topicals, and tinctures. Many farmers elect to ship their total harvest straight to grease, often known as distillate.

Contemporary-frozen is altering cannabis farming past simply rising for the dankest bud. Horrible-looking flower may need nice terpenes and go into edibles. Farmers are sending the A-grade buds to the drying room, whereas freezing all of the B-grade buds, small budlets, and re-growth on outside vegetation after the preliminary harvest, stated Grambergu.

And farmers are transferring previous the annual harvest cycle within the fall to additionally develop small, brief, winter cannabis crops in greenhouses only for extracts, stated DiPaci.

Rosenthal notes that such manufactured merchandise had been the majority of the market earlier than prohibition started within the ‘30s. “The entire motive we obtained to smoking flower was as a result of it didn’t require as a lot processing, which you could possibly not do when it was unlawful.”

“As an alternative of, ‘You develop weed to make kilos of flower,’ it’s, ‘You develop weed to make merchandise—you develop weed to make cannabinoids, and to make terpenes.’ It’s not ‘indicas and sativas’ anymore,” DiPaci stated. “It’s a means completely different panorama.”

The brand new frontier—stay rosin

For some extract aficionados, mere stay resin gained’t lower it—they’ve moved onto stay rosin, which comes from fresh-frozen cannabis extracts untouched by butane or every other solvent.

Firm Paradiso has partnered with boutique model Fields to launch restricted, artisanal runs of extracts utilizing this course of. Paradiso moist trims and freezes the most effective one % of its harvest—its Grandiflora and Zkittlez strains—utilizing a surge of 20 trimmers working quick, as an alternative of the same old dry trim staff of 9. “It’s far more labor intensive,” DiPaci stated.

Corporations like Blue River have perfected trade-secret strategies to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from frozen cannabis whereas leaving every thing else behind. They’re utilizing points of sublimation—the place water will get eliminated by means of freezing as an alternative of drying—and so they’re utilizing mechanical separation strategies. It’s very time-intensive and requires such high-quality supplies that the ensuing extract is price 4 instances extra per gram than gold—for instance, Synergy’s Micho Flan goes for $165.

“It creates the most effective extract available in the market. It’s far more labor intensive and there’s much less return. That’s why it’s so costly,” stated Grambergu. “One of many coolest components about cannabis is experimentation. Each farmer has all the time been inquisitive about ‘What occurs when you do that or that?’ Clearly freezing is among the strategies that has damaged by means of and confirmed to be price their time. I feel we’ll proceed to see farms transfer increasingly more towards this.”

Freezing cannabis harvests is a disruptive know-how that’s right here to remain.

David Downs's Bio Image

David Downs

David Downs directs information and life-style protection because the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He is written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the previous cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, in addition to the creator of a number of cannabis books together with ‘Marijuana Harvest’ by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns