Medicinal cannabis oil yield world-class

Pressing work . . . Southern Medical quality assurance head Callum Jones enters instructions into a press that squeezes the oil or rosin out of dried medical cannabis flower heads. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

The quality and quantity of oil being extracted from this year’s medicinal cannabis crop is like ‘‘we landed a rocket on the moon’’ Southern Medical executive director Greg Marshall says.

Staff are processing the first crop of flower heads harvested this year in Eastern Southland at the company’s Mataura processing plant.

The team was hoping for a oil yield, also known as rosin, of 10% from the dry weight of the flower heads but was achieving 15% and, in some instances, 22.5% which he was thrilled about, Mr Marshall said.

‘‘We’ve really knocked the ball out of the park.

‘‘We’re hitting world-class levels of yield and quality.’’

At the start of the project five years ago, the team knew it was possible in theory to achieve these results.

‘‘It’s really nice to see it actually happen in real life.’’

However, they did not expect to see those results for several years.

Unlike cannabis grown as a drug to make users high, the cannabis Southern Medicinal was growing had low amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient which produced a high, he said. It is grown for its bioactive components, such as cannabidiol (CBD), which were compounds which affected the biology of the body and can help relieve pain and other symptoms.

The quality of the product was high with a CBD content of 18.5%.

The dried flower heads were put into a mesh bag and then squeezed in a machine that had 400 settings to produce different products.

The process had been fine-tuned now so that almost all of the rosin in the flower head was extracted.

Very few cultivars ‘‘squash well,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve got an outstanding genetic that processes really well and means we capture almost 100% of the bioactives.’’

The result was ‘‘all about Southland’’.

‘‘It’s about having the right genetics, the right place, the right people and we get a world-class result.’’

Rosin was a relatively new product on the market and originally had been extracted by home users with hair-curling irons, he said.

‘‘We believe this is the best premium material for all medical cannabis products.

‘‘We believe it has better bioavailablity and has significantly less adverse impacts.’’

It was different in quality to resin which was used to describe a product where solvents were added in the process to extract the oil.

Next year the plan was to produce live rosin which was a premium product.

Live rosin was extracted within two hours of the flower heads being harvested.

It was also expected that with improved cultivation methods learned from lessons gained during the crop’s first year of planting, the performance could be improved further.

‘‘We think we can get rosin yields of above 25%.’’