This is how cannabis gets turned into CBD
Cannabidiol, or CBD, as it’s better known, was once only a concern of the most tiresome of stoners. Now you can find it in tampons, face creams, ice creams, hummus, water, and at Tesco. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry: the UK’s CBD market alone has been forecast to reach $1.2 billion by 2025.
This explosion in popularity can be traced back, in the UK at least, to 2016, when the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ruled that products containing cannabidiol used for medical purposes had to be classified as a medicine. This focus from the government kick-started a UK interest in the product, says Harry Sumnall, a professor in substance use at the Public Health Institute. “All of a sudden, there’s a lot of media articles,” he says – it catapulted CBD into the national consciousness. “That provided some really nice context to have that wider public discussion about CBD.”
A broader factor, says Saoirse O’Sullivan, a pharmacology professor and consultant, has been the wider acceptance of cannabis as a medicinal product, with a number of countries legalising its use with a prescription. CBD is one of the two active components of cannabis, along with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – which remains illegal in Britain (for instance cannabis oil can only contain 0.2 per cent THC.) “The availability of CBD allows people to try a cannabis product,” says O’Sullivan.
Colorado-based company Vantage Hemp is one of the key suppliers to the UK market. It’s headquartered in Greeley, about an hour north of Denver – a city that was traditionally based on agriculture, oil, gas and beef, but one that welcomed a new industry with open arms. “When we first came to Greeley, they were very encouraging,” says Deepank Utkhede, Vantage Hemp’s COO. “They wanted us to set up shop; they really wanted to become the hemp hub of Colorado – the city came to us with that.”
Vantage owns two buildings spread over 60,000 square feet. The first of these, Falcon, measures 35,000 square feet. It’s where farmers drop off the green needles of the hemp flower – “the biomass” in Utkhede’s words – in huge sacks: anywhere from 10 to 52 bags, depending on the size of the truck. Vantage can process five tons of biomass every day. A sample is taken from each bag and tested in a lab. (Testing, says Utkhede, is a key to every stage of the process). Utkhede’s team are looking for potency: they need a minimum of six to seven per cent CBD per bag; any less than that isn’t economical.
These small samples are themselves sampled. A third party lab tests these for potency, pesticides, heavy metals and microbes. These all give an insight into the life of the biomass before it reached the factory, explains Utkhede: pesticides tell you how it was grown; microbial tests tell you how it was stored; heavy metals tell you where it was from, because each growing region has a particular heavy metal profile. Once Vantage gets the results back from these tests, the biomass is released from quarantine and the process of making CBD begins.
Published at Tue, 26 Oct 2021 05:00:00 +0000