David DownsOctober 9, 2019

Fresh-frozen cannabis gets turned into THC diamonds at Utopia Cannabis in California. (Courtesy Utopia Cannabis)

Harvest season is upon us across North America and in the cannabis-expanding heartlands of inland Northern California, there’s a new fall shortage: dry ice.“It’s challenging. The dry ice is gone,” mentioned Alien Labs founder and operator Ted Lidie, when speaking about harvesting 3 acres in Yolo County, California, this month.

More than the final six years, the concept of freezing part—or all—of one’s cannabis harvest has gone from bizarre to mandatory. A complete 30% of Alien Labs’ coveted new strain Planet Dosi is heading straight from outside fields into the freezer this year.

California’s biggest cultivation licensee, Raw Garden, freezes 100% of their harvest, notes Jason Guillory, from Nug extracts of Oakland, a Raw Garden contractor.

Ben Grambergu at Grambergu Marketing and advertising in Northern California says: “A couple years ago, if you told a person you had been going to freeze 100% of your crop, they’d inform you you had been crazy. Now, we’re seeing 100% frozen harvests, and genuinely huge farms: eight,000-pound harvests. It is completely taken more than.”

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Why frozen?

Demand for extracts

Driving this trend is customers. They want pure, higher-THC cannabis extracts in sleek vape pens that are straightforward to dose and do not smell. Farmers have responded by getting up industrial freezers—plus making use of dry ice in the fields—and are sending the frozen crops straight to extract labs, skipping the conventional harvesting procedure.

Harvest price savings

Freezing harvested cannabis can save lots of time, labor, and risk—and also income, says Ed Rosenthal, co-author of the 2017 crop science book Marijuana Harvest (this story’s author, David Downs, is Marijuana Harvest’s co-author).

Vigorous competitors puts huge stress on farmers, squeezing their profit margins and producing farming vastly a lot more effective. Fresh-freezing saves tons of money on harvesting man-hours and drying rooms. “It eliminates entire methods,” mentioned Rosenthal. “The a lot more sophisticated the farmer, the a lot more probably they are to do that.”

How farmers freeze

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

Standard procedures

In the spring, farmers in the Northern Hemisphere sew the quick-expanding crop. In fall, farmers harvest buds at peak ripeness, when aromas and cannabinoids—like THC—near peak levels.

You get smokeable flower by chopping down the ripe plant and air drying its buds in a cool, dry, dark area for about ten days. Weeks or months of curing can stick to to fantastic the smell and taste of boutique bud.

Standard air drying is a battle against temperature and humidity spikes to prevent mold and fungus and preserve valuable terpenes and THC.

Ditching tradition

But farmers are increasingly saying ‘Screw all that’ with fresh-frozen. They chop plants, eliminate the leaves, branches, and stems, and vacuum seal buds in thick plastic pillows weighing two to 4 pounds. 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 so on.), as properly as all the water.

“You’re not worried about degradation as a lot [in the plastic pillows],” mentioned Grambergu. “The shelf life on that versus a typical pound in a turkey bag are incredibly distinctive.”

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

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

Having from frozen buds to reside resin

Subsequent comes industrial solvent extraction.

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

The outcome is a freezing cold, golden liquid. Technicians then purge the solvent, leaving behind concentrate, which is generally 4 or 5 instances stronger than flower.

This extract goes into what’s taken more than the concentrate scene—reside resin, which is employed in dab rigs and pens, as properly as pre-filled reside resin vaporizer cartridges like Loudpack’s Mimosa pod for the Pax Era. “Live resin is what’s driving this,” mentioned Grambergu.

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Reside resin tends to make up some of the most aromatic cannabis solutions. And the smell is far significantly less stinky than lighting up some flower.

“It comes down to ease of use,” Lidie mentioned. “As new customers enter the industry, they do not necessarily want to reek of pot… I can dab in my workplace and it does not permeate by means of my entire dwelling. If I smoke a joint, the entire residence is going to stink.”

Effects from fresh-frozen extracts may perhaps be distinctive also. Cannabinoids keep at peak levels with practically no degradation. Freezing preserves terpenes that would otherwise be lost to weeks of drying and curing.

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

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

“In basic the feeling you get is revolutionary,” mentioned Tracee McAfee, CEO of Cryo Remedy, a Michigan-primarily based cannabis freeze-dryer get started-up. “It’s smooth, uplifting, sparkly, inventive, and social, with no couchlock impact and no crash.”

Extra solutions beyond reside resin

Beyond some of the finest, terpiest dabs, fresh-frozen harvests assistance energy the vast manufactured goods industry for THC-infused meals, drink, candy, topicals, and tinctures. A lot of farmers elect to send their complete harvest straight to oil, also identified as distillate.

Fresh-frozen is altering cannabis farming beyond just expanding for the dankest bud. Terrible-seeking flower could possibly have wonderful terpenes and go into edibles. Farmers are sending the A-grade buds to the drying area, even though freezing all the B-grade buds, tiny budlets, and re-development on outside plants just after the initial harvest, mentioned Grambergu.

And farmers are moving previous the annual harvest cycle in the fall to also develop tiny, brief, winter cannabis crops in greenhouses just for extracts, mentioned DiPaci.

Rosenthal notes that such manufactured solutions had been the bulk of the industry ahead of prohibition started in the ‘30s. “The entire explanation we got to smoking flower was simply because it didn’t need as a lot processing, which you could not do when it was illegal.”

“Instead of, ‘You develop weed to make pounds of flower,’ it is, ‘You develop weed to make products—you develop weed to make cannabinoids, and to make terpenes.’ It is not ‘indicas and sativas’ any longer,” DiPaci mentioned. “It’s a way distinctive landscape.”

The new frontier—live rosin

For some extract aficionados, mere reside resin will not reduce it—they’ve moved onto reside rosin, which comes from fresh-frozen cannabis extracts untouched by butane or any other solvent.

Company Paradiso has partnered with boutique brand Fields to release restricted, artisanal runs of extracts making use of this procedure. Paradiso wet trims and freezes the finest one particular % of its harvest—its Grandiflora and Zkittlez strains—using a surge of 20 trimmers operating quick, as an alternative of the usual dry trim group of nine. “It’s a lot a lot more labor intensive,” DiPaci mentioned.

Corporations like Blue River have perfected trade-secret procedures to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from frozen cannabis even though leaving every thing else behind. They’re making use of elements of sublimation—where water gets removed by means of freezing as an alternative of drying—and they’re making use of mechanical separation procedures. It is incredibly time-intensive and demands such higher-top quality components that the resulting extract is worth 4 instances a lot more per gram than gold—for instance, Synergy’s Micho Flan is going for $165.

“It creates the finest extract in the industry. It is a lot a lot more labor intensive and there’s significantly less return. That is why it is so high-priced,” mentioned Grambergu. “One of the coolest components about cannabis is experimentation. Every single farmer has normally been curious about ‘What occurs if you do this or that?’ Clearly freezing is one particular of the procedures that has broken by means of and verified to be worth their time. I assume we will continue to see farms move a lot more and a lot more toward this.”

Freezing cannabis harvests is a disruptive technologies that is right here to keep.

David Downs's Bio Image

David Downs

David Downs directs news and life style coverage as the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He’s written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as properly as the author of quite a few cannabis books like ‘ Marijuana Harvest’ by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns