Finding an Acceptable Additive

Thanks to the alarm bells raised about the use of vitamin E acetate as a cutting agent in some THC vaping products, the list of additives that an extraction company might put in its vape oil has been slashed. But extraction executives still have important choices to make:

  • Should they omit additives altogether from vape oil?
  • Do they feel comfortable adding terpenes?

If the answer to the second question is “yes,” the next hurdle is determining where to source those terpenes—for example, plants other than cannabis.

Marijuana companies ideally prefer to use pure cannabis oil. “Our philosophy is 100% cannabis because there’s a large body of evidence that vaping cannabis oil is safe,” said Matt Ingram, chief product development officer at Cresco Labs, a multistate marijuana company headquartered in Chicago.

“We’re also constantly evolving. Last year, we launched a new process for our liquid line that moved it to a 100% cannabis product, no additives. We’re looking at that for all our vape products. And I think that’s where the industry is headed,” Ingram said.

Terpenes, meanwhile, are separated from THC during the extraction process and don’t end up in the extracted cannabis oil, leaving it free of taste and aroma as well as the coveted “whole plant” experience. While many oil manufacturers add terpenes back to the extract for flavor and aroma, those terpenes are difficult to recover.

Consequently, oil manufacturers often use botanically derived terpenes, or terpenes derived from plants other than cannabis.

“We use only cannabis when we can, but on occasion, we will use botanically derived terpenes,” Ingram said.

Shavo Odadjian, CEO of 22Red, a Los Angeles cannabis company that produces vape oils, also is comfortable using terpene additives—provided they come from botanical sources. Odadjian offered the example of obtaining watermelon flavors from watermelon.

“Our terpenes come from real plants. They’re not oils or perfumes that can’t be ingested,” he said. Other common examples include extracting limonene from lemons and linalool from lavender.

Some executives, however, are concerned about using any terpenes—even those from botanicals—that don’t come from the cannabis plant.

“At this time, cannabis-derived terpenes are the only thing that is safe to add to a vape cartridge,” said Cody Sadler, CEO of Platinum Vape in San Diego.

It’s not that terpenes derived from botanicals are bad, Sadler added. “They’re used in all kinds of things. But who knows if those are meant to be smoked? Were they meant to be inhaled? We’re too early in this stage of cannabis to know.”

Next: Vape Hardware in the Spotlight

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