Deciding which extraction method results in the highest product quality probably requires the most qualifying statements to come up with a clear winner. Each type of extraction has benefits and drawbacks when it comes to the end result.
“Not all extractions are the end-all, be-all for all types of end products,” Makoso said.
At Lucid Labs, Makoso extracts cannabis into high-potency distillate. In his mind, the best process to create that product is ethanol extraction.
However, if you’re looking for a full-spectrum extract with a high terpene and cannabinoid content similar to the whole plant, then Makoso recommends hydrocarbon extraction.
Deric Claypool, co-founder and director of extraction for Claywolf, a hydrocarbon extraction company in Clackamas, Oregon, agrees.
“We believe using hydrocarbons allows you to extract the most complete terpene profile from the original starting material,” he said, noting the end product was “the highest quality.”
That’s the same reason Abernathy uses hydrocarbons at Xtracted.
“We feel that the hydrocarbon process handles the cannabinoids as well as the terpenes the gentlest,” he said. “It really allows the best transfer of their ultimate properties – the best out of all these processes we’ve used.”
But Wilhoit of Puffin Farms contends CO2 extraction creates the product closest to the starting material – one that offers more than just cannabinoids and terpenes. The final product also captures the flavonoids and carotenoids.
“When you break open a nug, you smell the plant,” he said. “That’s what our oil tastes like.”
MedPharm’s Gutierrez has opted to use CO2 to keep solvents out of the final product. He believes the industry is moving away from butane and propane for the same reason.
“We’re creating pharmaceutical-grade dosage forms, and we don’t want any trace elements from the butane and propane in our products,” he said. “CO2 is definitely cleaner.”
VERDICT: Too close to call. It depends on the type of cannabis extract you’re making and what attributes you want it to contain.