Between 2020 and 2021, cannabis vape cartridges saw 25% year-over-year growth and all-in-one vapes grew a whopping 64% as a category during the same time period. Two years later, the vape space shows no signs of slowing down. There are more strain and extraction style options than ever, not to mention advances in consumption device technology.
That huge growth and diversification means consumers have a lot of choices and decisions to make. Cutting through that noise takes a little know-how, however. For a shopper who’s hesitant or overwhelmed when comparing multiple vape options, brands and budtenders can start with some informative, friendly education on how terpenes deserve their consideration.
Why are terpene profiles so important? Imagine going into a wine store and only getting a recommendation for red or white at different price points. You might end up with something delicious that fits your budget, but you’re missing out on deeper nuances that could enrich the experience. Consumers don’t know what they don’t know. But brands can do better.
Terpenes and the Entourage Effect for Vape Products
Instead of the indica-sativa-hybrid trichotomy, focus on the kind of experience you want to have. Understanding terpenes can go a long way to helping consumers find the strains that produce their favorite flavors, scents and sensations. Also key is understanding how terpenes work together in different strains—a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.
The entourage effect is often simplified to a collaboration between major and minor cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, CBN and THCV. But a true entourage effect isn’t just the combination of different cannabinoids. It’s the combination of terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids and other chemicals such as esters.
Why does this matter? The best cannabis represents the best of each of these elements, not simply terpenes and cannabinoids. As a result, the best cannabis vapes are the ones that can preserve all of these elements and produce an entourage effect.
This is where it’s worth pointing out the pros and cons of low-end cannabis vape products. Cheaper strain profiles typically feature fewer ingredients, including the terpenes, flavonoids and esters that contribute to a distinctive entourage effect. It’s not a matter of upselling: Sure, the price point might be attractive, but one-size-fits-all weed isn’t the experience most consumers are ultimately looking for.
How Extraction Methods Impact Cannabinoids, Terpenes and Other Chemical Compounds
The loss of crucial members of a cannabis cultivar’s entourage is one reason extraction methods make such a big difference. It can be hard for many consumers to cut through the jargon of resin vs. rosin, CO2 vs. butane, ice vs. heat and so forth. But one simple way to break it down is this: botanical, aka distillate, terpene profiles typically have 30-60 ingredients. Meanwhile, cannabis-derived terpene profiles will have over 100.
On the high end of that spectrum is rosin. Rosin products typically will have the largest number and range of flavor components. That’s one reason this category is so popular with cannabis connoisseurs who are particularly dialed into the flavors and effects of the products they consume, vape carts included.
Why Hardware Matters
There are two primary types of vape consumption hardware—510 thread batteries combined with various brands of vape carts, or all-in-one vape devices that come pre-loaded with proprietary concentrates. 510 thread systems were carried over from the nicotine vape space, and quickly became the industry standard because they allow consumers to try vape carts from many different brands with the same rechargeable battery. There is a caveat: Temperature variance can affect the consumer’s experience for the worse, particularly with sensitive terpene boiling points.
All-in-one devices have been gaining popularity because they’re so easy to use. They come pre-loaded with concentrates and don’t require any charging cables or changing device settings. All-in-ones are typically pre-set to a tight temperature range well-suited to their unique concentrate formula—all a consumer has to do is put the device to their lips and pull.
A quality piece of vape hardware won’t produce a burnt flavor or irritate the nose. The flavor will come through cleanly and the draw should be smooth and consistent. Indeed, the latter is another sign of quality vape hardware consumers should know to look for—the resistance of that pull can vary widely between brands. The concentrate should draw easily from the chamber. If it feels like sucking a hefty milkshake through a straw, both the hardware and the concentrates inside are probably not the highest quality.
Whichever terpene profile, strain, extraction technique or device category is on a customer’s mind, it’s critical for brands and budtenders to help guide consumers to their individual best-fit cannabis vape experience.
The vaping technology market is a constantly evolving landscape, driven by the changing needs and preferences of consumers. Staying relevant in this competitive market requires companies to deliver exceptional vape experiences. Airo Brands has risen to the challenge since its inception, offering a diverse product portfolio that includes multiple vaporizers, pod blends and flavor combinations, all crafted with the latest technology, natural ingredients and intuitive features. Airo Brand’s commitment to delivering state-of-the-art products has resulted in impressive year-over-year growth and expansion into new markets.
Maintaining Consistency Across a Diverse Product Portfolio is Challenging
With three types of vaporizers and an array of cartridge oil formulations, Airo Brands needed a machine that could accommodate various products, streamline operations and produce consistent, high-quality devices to grow the business. But given Airo’s complex product offering, there were potential challenges with oil viscosity, temperature and dispense control, making it essential to find a reliable machine that could switch between products easily and streamline operations without compromising quality.
Finding an Easy-to-use Machine that Evolves with Time is Critical
Airo Brands recognized the significance of investing in a machine that could handle product variations, was simple to use and could accommodate their growing footprint. Airo Brands turned to Thompson Duke Industrial, an original equipment manufacturer that creates automated solutions for filling and capping vaporizer cartridges. Early on, our teams worked together to test and revise a custom septum-fill adapter to fit their needs. Airo was impressed with our availability to troubleshoot issues and come up with solutions in real-time. As the industry evolved, Airo Brands updated to a new cartridge design and switched to automated machines, a transition that our machinery and team handled with ease.
With Thompson Duke Industrial’s IZR machine, Airo Brands’ partners can fill a variety of different products, up to 30 variations. The machine’s straightforward design allows its operators to turn over and switch between various products in only a few minutes. The IZR’s simplicity and efficiency with setup, clean-up and maintenance make a huge difference in output. Airo now has the ability to train partners on how to fill their products with one machine versus several, which has also been a huge advantage.
Strong Partnerships Go a Long Way
As a result of our partnership, Airo Brands was able to implement automatic solutions that evolve with the industry to accommodate its diverse product portfolio and growing footprint. Erik Stewart, COO of Airo Brands said, “Thompson Duke Industrial’s machinery handles viscosity, temperature, and processing challenges with ease – and this is exactly what we need to create consistency and quality across our growing business.”
How to Choose the Right Equipment to Set Up Your Business for Success
When choosing cannabis equipment, it is important to work with a partner who is capable of developing innovative solutions that align with evolving industry needs. In the world of machinery, simplicity is key. Streamlined setup, uncomplicated maintenance processes and quick product turnover enhance operational agility. For companies managing multiple partners, the ability to train teams on a single machine is also an advantage.
As your business expands into new markets, consider your equipment’s adaptability, scalability, and capacity to deliver high-quality consistent products. Airo Brands is an example of how automation can drive unprecedented growth. Due in part to the introduction of efficiencies and speed through automation, they were able to expand their footprint across 17 states and increase their SKUs, rising from 38 to 180.
History has shown that if companies fail to innovate when new technology emerges, even household name brands with enormous market share can squander their success if they are blind to anything that could ever unseat them from the top.
Kodak developed digital camera technology in the 1970s but didn’t envision a world where the film market wasn’t dominant. Toys R’ Us failed to adapt to the changing retail landscape, and Amazon became the chief source of online toy sales. Blockbuster famously laughed Netflix out of the room when the now-$149 billion behemoth sought to sell for a measly $50 million.
Brands in the cannabis landscape can also fall victim to this same misstep. New technologies are driving the industry forward, yet many brands are still standing by sub-par processes. Whether due to misplaced beliefs around automation or an unwillingness to invest, cannabis brands could suffer the same fate as many of these bygone-era brands.
The Financial Argument: Automation Reduces Overhead
The financial argument for automation is at the top of the list of motivators for most cannabis businesses. A great example of this is with pre-roll production. For cannabis brands still employing a “dexterous approach” to their pre-roll manufacturing, staying afloat to keep up with demand is a constant battle. Rebel Spirit, currently the number one pre-roll brand in Oregon, was burning through eye-welling amounts of money in labor costs to produce 300,000 pre-rolls per month. With a crew of 22 full-time pre-roll manufacturers, the team at Rebel Spirit quickly realized their process was unsustainable, and they were headed for an economic crisis if they didn’t cut costs.
They were using a knockbox-style unit which they had modified themselves in an attempt to force it to fit their needs. But this “semi-automated” solution simply wasn’t working. Rebel Spirit then turned to our team at RollPros to clean up and fully automate their production process, helping them to create quality pre-roll at scale with a fraction of the labor costs. (We are the Vancouver, WA-based designer and manufacturer of the Blackbird automated joint rolling system.) For them, it wasn’t a matter of greed, as some opponents of automation sometimes claim; it was simply a choice of going out of business or not. In competitive markets like the Beaver State, where every dollar counts, the case for automation was a no-brainer.
The Remote Argument: Automation Reduces Risk Of Human Error
It’s a basic concept: the more human interaction in your processes, the more risk for error. We, as flawed humans, are simply not capable of being as precise or consistent in our work as a machine can be. Consider the cultivation process. Most experienced cultivators will tell you that growing cannabis is easy, but growing quality cannabis is very difficult, with a lot that can go wrong.
Enter one of the most valuable automation tools for cannabis cultivators – automated irrigation systems. With your irrigation systems and nutrients on autopilot, cultivators can ensure plants get the ideal mix of nutrients regardless of whether you are on-site, remote or facing a staffing crunch. Sensors can provide real-time data so that water, nutrients or even light can be adjusted as needed. In many cases, even these adjustments can be automated. (Think AI hasn’t entered the cannabis space yet? Think again!) Sure, there is always a potential for issues no matter how advanced a system you use. But when you compare this to a farmer using a manual watering and nutrient system, there are far fewer opportunities for mistakes. Does a human feel the difference between .94 gallons of water and 1 gallon of water? No. But a well-calibrated irrigation system can tell the difference and even alert you if it goes outside of whatever tolerance limits you set.
When the cost of flower is high, human errors that lead to damaged or inferior product are often overlooked. But when flower prices drop as markets mature, success versus failure can be balanced on a knife-edge, and cultivators can’t afford to make mistakes.
The Skynet Argument: Automation Increases Productivity Without Taking Your Job
Whether AI is coming for our jobs or will destroy human creativity as we know it has been argued ad nauseum since the release of AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney. The good news? Automating your business doesn’t mean enlisting the T-1000 from Terminator 2 to terminate your 9-to-5. Think of automation as Arnold Schwarzenegger telling you to come with him if you want to live.
The truth is that any task that needs to be completed frequently or on a set schedule is ripe for automation. Automation eliminates tethering your most talented employees to cog-in-the-machine work that wastes their time and abilities. Freeing them up to focus on more high-value tasks like customer service, marketing, or new product development will likely make your business more profitable long term, and make your employees happier with their work.
No industry has been spared from the impacts of industrial automation, says Amar Olgeirsson, CEO and founder of Green Vault Systems, but, “labor is typically not reduced as a result of automation.” Instead, “production is increased, and workers’ value increases because of higher production in terms of units produced per labor time. By increasing worker efficiency, companies and corporations are able to pay their workers a higher salary,” says Olgeirsson.
The Performance Argument: Automation Guarantees Consistent Quality Every Time
Expansion across state lines means consumers know they can buy the same quality product whether they buy it on the East Coast or West Coast. You know that you can buy your favorite Red Blend wine whether you’re in Denver or Atlanta and expect to enjoy the same tasting glass (barring any unintended oxidization). If a customer purchases that same glass of wine, and it doesn’t meet their expectations of what it should be (it’s inconsistent with the last time they had it), a brand is essentially breaking a promise to that customer. When a customer doesn’t get what they want and expect out of a product, they’ll quickly move on to a competitor. Consistency builds loyalty… inconsistency destroys it.
The cannabis industry is notorious for producing inconsistent products. It’s not surprising, considering the near-total ban on state-to-state commerce, (thanks federal government!) And, of course, the variation that can occur from crop to crop, batch to batch or facility to facility. There are so many variables to just the cultivation process; the amount of light a crop gets, the type and dosage of nutrients, the growing medium that’s used, the amount of air flow in the facility… The list goes on, and that’s just the first of many processes needed before a product ends up on shelves! It’s nearly impossible for humans to manually manage and ensure consistency of all these variables without the help of some level of automation.
Nohtal Partansky, ex-NASA-JPL engineer and CEO of Los Angeles-based Sorting Robotics, teamed up with fellow NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory colleagues Cassio Santos and Sean Lawlor to found their firm that creates next-generation hardware and software for cannabis industry producers.
“Automation in the cannabis industry plays a crucial role in maintaining product consistency by reducing human error and standardizing processes across cultivation, extraction, and packaging,” says Partansky. “If brands are going to expand across states, consistency is a requirement if customer loyalty is ever going to be a market driver for sales.”
The Contamination Argument: Automation Limits Human Error & Contamination Risk and Improves Product Safety
Our industry demands very strict safety standards. Our customers deserve safe products, but beyond that, the testing requirements mandated by regulations in most markets are very, very strict. Each and every human touchpoint in your processes carries with it additional contamination risk. Even with stringent protocols, mold, mildew and other unwanted crits can more easily venture their way into final products as the human variable increases.
Automation minimizes these risks and improves the safety of the product for consumers, and reduces the risk of recalls or other regulatory issues. Consider that for many cannabis businesses in hyper-saturated, competitive markets, a significant product recall can be the end of the road. Automating production processes provides a reliable and consistent solution in an industry that demands the highest safety and quality standards.
“The new and burgeoning Cannabis industry and its consumers are no exception and possibly benefit it more than other industries. The medicinal qualities of Cannabis products make consistency, quality, safety, and traceability paramount to the consumer. Cannabis products are most often consumed by ingestion into the lungs which means product cleanliness and quality are essential to safety. Chemically derived oils and extracts would not be possible without automation equipment. Again, industrial automation is a huge benefit to the Cannabis space, to the producers, their employees, and maybe most importantly to the consumer”.
Amar Olgeirsson, CEO & Founder, Green Vault Systems
Olgeirsson’s take on products created on specialized automation equipment? “Products produced on purpose-built machinery are more consistent and of a higher quality which lends itself to better oversight, enhanced traceability, and improved product safety.”
The Physical Argument: Automation Eliminates Tedious & Overhead-Heavy Tasks
In an increasingly competitive marketplace like cannabis, streamlining processes and reducing the liabilities that come with human labor – like being sidelined from Carpal Tunnel – is key. Let’s consider the trimming component of the post-harvest process. Manual trimming is monotonous, low-paying for workers, and an unrealistic way to harvest cannabis at scale. Also, it’s hard to be successful when team-wide prescriptions for night-time wrist splints are a threat.
Leaning into “hand-trimmed” as a differentiator for your brand? Many connoisseurs will argue that hand-trimmed bud is superior because buds stay aesthetic and trichomes aren’t lost. That may have been true in the early days of automated trimming machines, but with today’s crop of super-sophisticated trimming technology, it is now nothing more than a myth. (Yes, myths and misled traditions can be difficult to overcome in our industry, but I digress…)
The Mobius M108S Trimmer, for example, allows operators to reduce the staff required to process thousands of pounds of product every year without compromising quality. It’s next-gen tech not found on traditional trimmers can produce hand-trim quality buds with minimal trichome loss.
When flower prices are high, especially in the case of newly-legalized markets, it can be easy for operators to overlook the cost of trimming, and pay their employees higher wages to offset the physical risks to their bodies. But what about when product prices inevitably fall once the post-legalization honeymoon period wears off? It’s unrealistic (and unethical, I believe), to pay employees minimum wage while putting their health and safety at a significant risk. In the above example, at some point, your operations will grow to a point where hand-trimming will dig you further into a fiscal hole every time you harvest.
The Future Argument: Automation Isn’t Going Away (and Your Competitors Know It)
Automation could cause you to lose people, just not in the way you might think. Ultimately, competitors in any space will invest in new technology to streamline people, processes and tools to establish a competitive advantage. This investment puts them in a better position to attract talented employees that stick around for the long term.
Automation is like a boat motor in the 21st century, and companies that don’t use it are paddling against the current. Sure, you can use a wooden oar, but your competitors know paddling is too much work and will strap a motor to theirs. The truth is that companies that drag their feet out of stubbornness or inability to see how the current situation could ever change will often find their employees jumping ship to go elsewhere.
“I strongly believe that automation not only propels our industry forward but also sets the stage for a more profitable future in cannabis production for those that embrace technology rather than fight it,” says Ryan Hoitt, CEO, developer & founder of Vape Jet in Portland. “I can confidently say that it enables businesses to fine-tune operations, improve product quality, and achieve unmatched consistency.”
Saying that you will eventually be forced to automate sounds harsh, but it’s largely true. As soon as your competitors deploy automated processes, they gain an advantage. If you don’t do the same, it will become more difficult to compete, stay profitable and stay in business.
The Consumer Argument: Automation Provides Consumers More Options
Automation isn’t going away, and it’s certainly not a fad like pogs or planking. Automation drives lower production costs, which means lower-priced products for consumers. This process has been behind the dramatic increases in global living standards and population growth since the birth of the Industrial Revolution and is not likely to change anytime soon.
Automation allows producers to manufacture a broader range of products and focus on providing the consumer with more options. Consumers want to be in control of their purchasing decisions, and companies that deliver variety will be the ones to reap the rewards.
Embrace the Future with Automation
History has shown us time and again that failure to innovate can lead even the most prominent brands to fall victim to their inability, or unbelief, in the necessity to evolve. Automation is a no-brainer in crowded and competitive markets.
No doubt, the future of the cannabis industry will trend toward automation. Businesses embracing it will have a significant advantage over those that do not. Companies that drag their feet in the face of disruptive automation risk resigning to the same fate as those brands that underestimated technology at the expense of their own existence. No industry is immune from disruption, and there will be dynamic entrepreneurs who will come along and see to it. Embrace the change, embrace automation and technology, and you’ll increase your chances of winning in the cannabis industry!
Flower continues to be the dominant product category in US cannabis sales. In this “Flower-Side Chats” series of articles Green interviews integrated cannabis companies and flower brands that are bringing unique business models to the industry. Particular attention is focused on how these businesses navigate a rapidly changing landscape of regulatory, supply chain and consumer demand.
Connected is a vertically-integrated cannabis company based out of Sacramento, CA and one of the most sought-after brands in California and Arizona. Having formed as a legacy operation in 2009, Connected has created a cult-like following over more than a decade in business. According to BDS Analytics, Connected Cannabis and their acquired brand Alien Labs now boasts the highest wholesale flower price in any major legal market – their average indoor flower wholesale price is 2x the CA average – yet also has the highest flower retail revenue.
We spoke with Sam Ghods, CEO of Connected to learn more about his transition from tech to cannabis, how Connected thinks about product and his vision for future growth. Sam joined Connected in 2018 after getting to know the founders. Prior to Connected, Sam was a co-founder at Box where he stayed on for 3 years after their successful IPO.
Aaron Green: How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?
Sam Ghods: I originally came from the tech industry. I co-founded Box, a cloud sharing and storage company, in the mid 2000s with three other friends. We grew that from the four of us to eventually a multi-billion-dollar public offering in 2015. I stayed on a few more years after that until I took some time off trying to decide what I wanted to do next. I looked at a number of different industries and companies, but personally I always had a real passion for artisan and craft consumer goods. It’s a really big hobby of mine. Whether it’s going to Napa or learning about different kinds of premium consumer goods, I really had a deep love and never knew cannabis could be like that.
When I first met Caleb, the co-founder of Connected, he instantly got my attention by telling me that they had been selling out of their product in the volume of millions of dollars a year at more than two times what everybody else was selling for. That really piqued my interest because creating a product that has that level of consumer passion and demand is maybe the single hardest thing about building a consumer goods business. For them to have been so successful in what was a very difficult and gray market to operate in at the time – this was mid 2018 that I was speaking with him and he had been building this company since 2009 – is a really big challenge, and really impressive.
So, I started spending time with Caleb and the Connected team and learned a lot about the business. Everything I learned got me more interested and more excited. The way that they thought about the product, the way they treated it was with a reverence and level of sophistication I had no idea was possible.
I was so excited to just learn about the space. I mean, honestly, it feels like the internet in the 90’s- The sheer possibility and excitement. The only difference here is that the market already has existed for 100 years plus: the gray and underground markets for this product are actually phenomenally mature. And now we’re lifting up billions of dollars in commerce that’s already occurring and attempting to legalize all of it in one fell swoop, which creates such an interesting set of challenges.
I first got involved as an advisor on fundraising and strategy. And then a few months later, they were looking for a CEO and I joined full time as CEO in September 2018.
Aaron: What trends in the industry are you focused on?
Sam: It may seem basic, but I think product quality in the broader cannabis markets nationally and internationally is really underrated. Because of the extreme weight of the regulatory frameworks in so many different markets, it’s resulting in a lot of product being grown and sold just because it can be by the operators that are doing it. In many markets, they count the number of producers by the handful, instead of being measured in hundreds or thousands like in California or Oregon. And in that kind of environment, you’re not really having competition, and you’re not really able to see the quality that has existed in this category for years and years and years.
That’s one of the things that really sets us apart – the quality is first above all else, as well as the innovation and time that has gone into it, and not many existing brands in the legal market can say that. With some of the “premium” brands on the market, it would be comparable to just jumping into the wine industry one day and thinking that you can become a premium brand, without having any knowledge of the history of the product or the industry itself. At Connected, we have a team that’s been doing this for over a decade. We did a back of the envelope calculation: there’s over one thousand lifetime harvests between our team. We’ve also brought in specialists from Big Ag and other industries to complement that experience.
Cannabis is a very, very difficult plant to grow at a very high level. It’s much more like high-end wine or spirits than other fruit or produce. I think in the cannabis community, that’s extremely acknowledged, and appreciation for that is the reason we get by with the highest prices in the legal market. I think in the broader investor and financial community, this point hasn’t really hit home, because the limited license markets aren’t mature enough, and there isn’t enough competition in many of them.
Our focus is continuing to make the best product we can, which has fed and developed our brands [Connected and Alien Labs] into what they are today. That is our number one focus, and we think it’s pretty unique to the space of not just cultivating a great quality product, but also as far as breeding, pushing the bar higher and higher on what can be done with the genetics of the plant.
Aaron: How do you think about choosing testing labs?
Sam: So, the number one criterion is responsibility and compliance. We must be completely confident that they’re testing accurately, safely and exactly to the specifications of the state. Then from there, it is really cultivating about a partnership. There’s a lot of nuance in the relationship with a testing lab. We note things like: Are they responsive? Are they sensitive to our needs in terms of either timelines or requirements we have? It does come down to timelines and costs to a certain extent, like who’s able to deliver the best service for the best cost, but it really is a partnership where you’re working together to deliver a great product. Reliability and consistency are big pieces as well.
Aaron: Industry estimates for illicit market activities are something like 60% of the California market. From your perspective, how do we fix that?
Sam: I think it probably comes down to funding for the efforts to discontinue those activities and opening up the barrier to entry, incentivizing “illegal” operators to make the investment in the cross-over. I think the most successful attempts to tamp it down was when there were initiatives that were well-orchestrated and well-funded, allowing for legacy growers to actually cross over to the “legal” industry. You can’t launch an industry with such an extreme amount of regulation, set a miles-high barrier to entry, and then penalize legacy growers for continuing their business as-is. If the illicit market continues to be fueled by rejection, you’re not going to achieve the tax revenue that you’re expecting to see, that we all want to see. There needs to be an attitude that every dollar put into transitioning illicit markets into regulated markets is returned many times over in tax revenue to the state’s citizens.
Aaron: So, I understand you sell wholesale. Do you sell direct to consumer?“Once they hit the shelves, we blow people away again, beyond their expectations of what they had before.”
Sam: We own and operate three retail stores, so we do sell direct to our consumers, but at this point the majority of our product is sold through third party dispensaries.
Aaron: Do you make fresh frozen?
Sam: We do. On the cultivation side we have indoor, mixed light and outdoor. We fresh freeze a portion of our outdoor harvest every year, and then we use that fresh frozen for our live resin products, for example, our recent live resin cartridge. It creates a vape experience really unlike any other because we are using our regular market-ready flower, but instead we’re taking that flower and actually extracting, not just using the distillate and mixing a batch of terpenes with it. We extract the entire plant’s content across the board, from cannabinoids to terpenoids and everything in between, and then you have our live resin cartridges.
Aaron: How do you think about brand identity and leveraging the brand to command higher prices?
Sam: The cycle we’ve effectively created is that every time we do a release of a new strain or a new batch or harvest, the quality is generally going up. That quality is released under our brands, and then the customer is able to associate that increase in quality and reputation with those brands. Then for our next launch, we have an even bigger platform to talk about the products and to ship and distribute and sell the products. Once they hit the shelves, we blow people away again, beyond their expectations of what they had before. That continuous cycle keeps fortifying the brand and fortifying the product. From our perspective the brand is built 100% on the quality of the product. The product will always be our highest priority and the brand will come downstream from that.
Aaron: Tell me about Alien Labs.
Sam: Alien Labs was an acquisition. It was a company that had built their brand really successfully in the gray market through 2017 and Prop 215 in California and had an incredible level of quality, a really loyal and dedicated fan base, not to mention a tremendous Instagram presence and following, which is where 98% of cannabis marketing happens today. We really loved the spirit of what the founders were bringing to the table. In 2018, we decided basically to join forces with them and bring them on board, creating a partnership where they leverage our infrastructure and the systems and processes we’ve built, but still keep their way of cultivation and their product vision. To this day, Ted Lidie, one of the founders, continues as the lead brand director for Alien Labs.
Aaron: In what geographies do you currently operate?
Sam: Our primary offices and facilities are based out of Sacramento, California, but we have facilities throughout the state. Last year, for the first time we launched operations in a new state, Arizona. As you may know, you’re not allowed to take cannabis products across state lines at all, so if you want consistent product in multiple markets you really have no choice but to rebuild your entire infrastructure in each state you want to open up.
There are many brands that are expanding and launching in more markets more quickly, but they’re doing so by taking product that’s already existing and putting their brand name on it. That is something we’ve decided strategically that we will not do. We’ve spent years building a high level of trust with our customers, so we’re only going to put our brand name on products that are our genetics, our cultivation, our style, our quality of product. When we launched in Arizona, we did it with a facility that we leased and took over and now operate with our staff. We’re replicating the same exact product that you can get in California in Arizona, which is really exciting.
We launched just this past November, which has been incredibly successful. Our dispensary partner Harvest saw lines of dozens of people out the door.“We consider ourselves a flower company first and foremost, so for us, that was a very calculated strategic move.”
Aaron: Any new geographies on the horizon that you can talk about?
Sam: We’re constantly evaluating new opportunities. I don’t have anything particularly specific to announce right now, but I will say we look for states where we believe there’s a competitive environment where the product quality is going to really stand out and be appreciated.
Aaron: Do you notice any differences in consumer trends between California and Arizona that stand out?
Sam: Not too many yet. We don’t have a retail location in Arizona, so we don’t have as much direct contact. However, we have heard consistently that the Connected customer demographics – as you would imagine most interested in our product – are those looking for something special, unique, different and have a really superior quality to everything else out there. We ended up launching in Arizona with the highest price point for flower in the state, and we say that’s just the beginning. The market is still so young and immature, both nationally and internationally, that this category is going to develop into one that’s really taste-driven.
Aaron: What’s next in California?
Sam: Continued growth and product development. We want to keep blowing away our customers with more and more incredible products, different product types and categories. For example, the cartridges were a really big launch for us because we don’t really consider ourselves a vape company. We consider ourselves a flower company first and foremost, so for us, that was a very calculated strategic move. We were only going to launch the product if we could fully replicate what the consumer gets from the flower experience. We are very unlikely to ever release a distillate pen, for example.
Aaron: What are you personally interested in learning more about?
Sam: We, as a society, really don’t know very much about the cannabis plant. Pretty much all meaningful research around cannabis stopped in the early 1900’s with prohibition. In the meantime, we’ve performed millions of dollars of studies and research on almost every other plant that we grow commercially. We understand these plants extraordinarily well. Cannabis science is stuck back in agriculture of early 1900s. The most interesting conversations I have are around how the plant works, how it doesn’t work and the ways in which it is so different from all other plants with which we are familiar. Our head of cultivation comes from Driscolls, the largest berry company in the world, and even he is frequently surprised by the way the cannabis plant reacts to things that are commonly understood in other plants. So, the way the actual plant responds to different environments is truly fascinating and something I think we’ll be learning about for decades and decades to come.
Aaron: Okay, great. That concludes the interview. Thank you, Sam!
In September of 2019, Charles Wilcoxen fell seriously ill after vaping cannabis oil from a cartridge. Just days after he began experiencing symptoms he was hospitalized and later diagnosed with lipoid pneumonia, the mysterious lung illness now known as EVALI associated with the 2019 vape crisis.
Wilcoxen spent three days in the hospital and ever since he was diagnosed, he has been unable to exercise, return to work full time or even play with his daughter. Attorneys for Herrmann Law Group representing Wilcoxen filed a product liability lawsuit, Wilcoxen v. Canna Brand Solutions, LLC, et al., in Washington State Court, naming six cannabis companies as defendants: Canna Brand Solutions, Conscious Cannabis, Rainbow’s Aloft, Leafwerx, MFused and Janes Garden.
Canna Brand Solutions, the primary defendant named in the complaint, is a packaging supplier and distributor for CCELL vaping products (heating elements, pens and batteries) in the state of Washington. The complaint alleges that Wilcoxen believes he used a CCELL vape. CCELL is a Chinese company, which makes it notoriously difficult to pursue legal action against them, hence why Canna Brand Solutions was listed as a defendant instead.
On August 31, 2020, Judge Michael Schwartz dismissed all claims against Canna Brand Solutions. “All claims asserted by Plaintiff against Canna Brand in the above-mentioned matter shall be voluntarily dismissed without prejudice and without costs or fees to any of the parties to this litigation,” Judge Schwartz says in the dismissal. Judge Schwartz dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning it could be brought to the court again should the plaintiff’s attorneys decide to do so.
With the allegations against Canna Brand Solutions focusing on CCELL products, it seems that the case was dismissed largely due to a lack of evidence connecting exactly which product resulted in the illness, as well as the lack of culpability for a distributor of products they did not manufacture.
Daniel Allen, founder and president of Canna Brands Solutions, claims that the product mentioned in the complaint did not come from his company. “We stand by our high quality and customizable CCELL vaporization products,” says Allen. “We feel vindicated in this case by the judge’s decision, which shows the claims against our company and products were completely unfounded from the beginning.”
He also added that the quality and safety of the products they distribute is their highest priority. “The product in question involved in this case did not come from Canna Brand Solutions,” says Allen.
Wilcoxen’s illness and subsequent long-term lung injury is extremely unfortunate. Thousands of people have been hospitalized and 68 deaths have been confirmed by the CDC. The CDC is still calling the illness EVALI (e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury). According to the CDC, there is no real known cause of EVALI, but they have found that vitamin E acetate is “strongly linked” to the outbreak. Knowing that, it is entirely possible that Mr. Wilcoxen’s illness was a result of one of the cannabis products he consumed, just most likely not anything that came from Canna Brand Solutions. A closer look at the contents with an independent lab test of the THC oil he consumed could shed some more light on what exactly caused the illness.
I would venture to guess that one of the products he consumed did have vitamin E acetate. Because the case was dismissed without prejudice, it could be brought to the court again if, say, Mr. Wilcoxen’s attorneys were to obtain more evidence, such as an independent lab report showing vitamin E acetate in the contents of one of the products he consumed. If Mr. Wilcoxen’s attorneys can figure out which product actually contained vitamin E acetate, perhaps the lawsuit could get a second shot and Mr. Wilcoxen could have a greater chance at getting some long-overdue and much-deserved restitution.
Cannabis extraction and manufacturing is big business in California with companies expanding brands into additional states as they grow. This is the first article in a series where we interview leaders in the California extraction and manufacturing industry from some of the biggest and most well-known brands.
In this week’s article we talk with George Sadler, President and Co-founder of House of Platinum. George and his son Cody started their cannabis journey in 2010 when they sold their dirt bikes and set up a 10×10 garage. They have since built the business into a $70 million dollar cannabis empire across California, Michigan and now Oklahoma. The interview with George was conducted on July 31, 2020.
Next week, we’ll interview Matthew Elmes, Director of Product Development at Cannacraft. Stay tuned for more!
Aaron Green: First off, George, congratulations on your recent announcement on the LOI from Red White & Bloom!
George Sadler: Thanks! The deal isn’t done yet but we’re looking at a sixty-five-million-dollar deal. Cody and I will be staying on as officers to oversee growth as we expand into new markets.
Aaron: That’s great news! I hope it all works out well for you and best of luck closing the deal. Now on to the interview questions we had planned. So first off, how did you get involved at House of Platinum?
George: My son Cody and I wanted to do extraction and have a vape company. Five or six years ago we climbed on a plane to China to speak with manufacturers. We started off with extraction equipment in a small room with a table top machine. After a time, we took year and a half off to get our licensing and do our buildout. We opened up again two years ago in June. At the time, China was the main resource for packaging, and everything really. We got hardware from another company and had our Chinese partners rework the hardware to address some of the issues we had. Cody and I spent a week in Shenzhen where we met with our Chinese partners. They first did cartridges, packaging and batteries.
Aaron: Thanks for that, George. The next questions will focus on product development and manufacturing. What is your decision process for starting a new product?
George: In the beginning, Cody and I would both be a part of new product development from beginning to end. Cody has taken lead now on the beginning phases so our new product development really starts with him. We collectively come up with the concept. Cody does the market research. The concept then goes to our design team for visuals and to do the artwork- this usually takes some time. After we are satisfied with the branding, we start the manufacturing process. We do everything start to finish and can go from design to package in less than two weeks. The only thing we still manufacture in China is hardware these days, so cartridges and batteries.
Aaron: Are you personally involved in manufacturing? Tell me about your process
George: Cody and I are both involved in manufacturing. In California, we have about a hundred employees at our facility. In Michigan we have another hundred, and Oklahoma has about thirty. In Michigan, we do carts only right now and are getting ready to launch chocolates and gummies. Oklahoma is also getting ready to do edibles and gummies.
Aaron: What is your process for developing new products? George: In manufacturing, when we start a new line of edibles, we’ll first do a full test batch of products before committing to full-scale manufacturing. We start small at first then scale into larger batches. If everything looks good, we’ll decide whether or not to invest in larger equipment.
Aaron: Are you developing new products internally?
George: Our California and Michigan production is done 100% in-house. In Oklahoma we have a licensing deal with a manufacturing partner.
Aaron: Do you ever bring in external product development consultants?
George: No. We do all of our product development internally.
Aaron: In product development or manufacturing, what does being stuck look like for you?
George: That depends on what phase of the process we’re talking about. One challenge is getting the recipe dialed and then figuring out how to move into large scale. Take chocolate for example: going from a one spout pour on chocolate to a three-spout pour. That process can take a while to figure out. Any time you are trying to move forward in your manufacturing process, if there isn’t existing equipment available you may need to purchase it. There isn’t a lot of information out there to gauge on the cannabis side what is relevant.
Aaron: How about source materials for your products?
George: We pride ourselves on doing a deep dive on all of our suppliers. That includes packaging, chocolate, sugar, and flower. The advantage of longevity in this industry, we have keen radar on those doing premium work.
Aaron: What’s the most frustrating thing you are going through with the business?
George: I think a majority of people would agree that there’s lack of understanding of what’s happening with licensing. Legacy market products and unlicensed stores are frustrating. Inconsistency on testing is also frustrating. The states aren’t really doing anything to correct inconsistent testing. But banking is the number one industry pain point. We have a handle on the rest. Banking we don’t have any help.
Aaron: Feel free to answer the next question however you like. Imagine you could have someone come in and wave a magic wand to solve your problems. What does your magic helper look like?
George: Hah! Not sure what a magic helper would look like. Distribution is our biggest headache. Distribution is a different animal that is outside cannabis product development. We do all of our distribution in-house and it can be a pain.
Aaron: Now for my final question: What are you following in the market and what do you want to learn about?
George: We’re semi-new in the CBD space. Anything up and coming is something we are looking at. We’re focused on going big and multi-state. Arizona is the next state we are looking at. Nevada is after that. The partnership with Red White and Bloom is going to grow the brand into other states with them. Growth continues in that direction. Recently we’ve been going back to cultivation and doing cultivation deals. We started as cultivators and a lot has changed in the past several years. We are trying to pick up new knowledge.
Aaron: Well, thanks for that George, this is all awesome feedback for the industry. That concludes the interview! Thanks so much for your time and congrats again on your recent announcement with Red White & Bloom.
The e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak of 2019 caught the attention of many, and has brought with it the scrutiny of both regulators and plaintiffs’ attorneys eager to act as “civil prosecutors.” As Tolkien would say, the Eye of Sauron has now turned its gaze towards the cannabis vapor industry.
With the misinformation and negative publicity that the EVALI outbreak brought to the industry, vaporizer device manufacturers should expect more lawsuits to be filed against them through 2020 and beyond. The cannabis vapor industry should also expect the theories of defect alleged against their products to become more sophisticated as more plaintiffs’ attorneys enter the arena.
One theory of defect you should expect plaintiff’s attorneys to pursue in 2020 is what I generally refer to as “temperature control litigation.”
Here is the problem:
Typical additives in cannabis oil, while once thought to be safe, can degrade at higher temperatures into toxic chemicals. For example, the Vape Crisis of 2019 was largely attributed to a cannabis oil additive known as vitamin E acetate. While typically regarded as safe for use in nutritional supplements or hand creams, when used in cannabis oil, investigators believe vitamin E acetate can degrade into a toxic chemical when vaped—and is responsible for causing mass pulmonary illness for thousands of consumers.
Researchers do not fully understand how this process occurs, but chemists from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland found in a recent study that the key is understanding how temperatures affect chemicals when vaping. Through a process known as pyrolysis, the study found that vitamin E acetate can possibly degrade into ketene when vaped at higher temperatures—depending on the type of coil resistance, voltage and temperature configuration used in a vaporizer device. (Ketene has a high pulmonary toxicity, and can be lethal at high concentrations, while low concentrations can cause central nervous system impairment.) Similar studies have also shown that additives like Propylene Glycol (PG), Vegetable Glycerin (VG), and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) can degrade into toxic chemicals at high temperatures—which has led Colorado to ban the use of PEG for inhalable cannabis products altogether.
More shocking, is that such temperature control issues are not limited to additives. It is very common for experienced users to experiment with low to high temperatures when vaping cannabis; it is believed that vaping cannabis at low temperatures (325-350°F) results in a mild high, while vaping cannabis at higher temperatures (400-430°F) results in a more euphoric feeling and intense high. But when cannabis is vaped at even higher temperatures (450°F +), industry experts do not really know if or how cannabinoids and terpenes degrade, which combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes affect degradation and what the health risks could be. It’s anyone’s guess.
These temperature control issues are further complicated due to the universal 5/10 thread. Most consumers purchase cannabis oil through pre-filled “carts” (cartridges)—that are compatible with 90% of vaporizer batteries on the market because of universal 5/10 thread connectors. But vaporizer batteries can operate anywhere from sub-300 degrees to 800 degrees and above. Coupled with varying battery voltages, ceramic coil quality and oil quality, vaporizer batteries can produce a wide range of operating temperatures. Consequently, it is possible users could connect a cart to a vaporizer battery (set at too high a temperature configuration) and risk pyrolysis, change the chemicals inside their cannabis cart, and cause unknown harm to themselves.
Unquestionably, all of the above will result in lawsuits. Companies that manufacture cannabis oil will be sued for failing to conduct emissions testing to properly evaluate safe temperature settings for use of their carts. Vaporizer device manufacturers will be sued for failing to publish warnings, instructions and adequate owner’s manuals regarding the same. And the rallying cry against the cannabis vapor industry will be damaging. Plaintiff’s attorneys will accuse the industry of choosing profits over safety: “The cannabis vapor industry knew cannabis oils could turn into toxic chemicals when heated at high temperatures, but instead of conducting long-term emissions testing to evaluate those concerns, the industry chose profits over safety. As long as the industry made money, no one cared what dangers arose from elevated temperatures—and consumers paid the price.”
With the above as background, it is critical for the cannabis vapor industry to get serious about product testing. The industry needs to know if and why certain cannabinoids, terpenes and additives can turn into toxic chemicals when they are vaporized at high temperatures—and how the industry can guard against such dangers. And to cover their bases, the industry needs to publish proper warnings and owner’s manuals for all products. The time to act is now.
The Brand Marketing Byte showcases highlights from Pioneer Intelligence’s Cannabis Brand Marketing Snapshots, featuring data-led case studies covering marketing and business development activities of U.S. licensed cannabis companies.
Here is a data-led, shallow dive on the California brand, PlugPlay:
PlugPlay – Executing on Social Media
This company is about three years old and based in Los Angeles. PlugPlay distributes proprietary vaporizers and cartridges to more than 150 dispensaries throughout California.
The company’s brand identity is a bit different from the traditional California cannabis company image. They trade the typical beach, yoga and plant imagery for a more modern, contemporary and sleek theme. Furthermore, the brand ambassadors featured throughout PlugPlay’s social media and communications reflect the diversity of its market.
The demographic they target in social media is increasingly tech-savvy and on the younger side. PlugPlay uses a few very smart tactics to engage with this demographic: They experiment with bold and creative content formats, some being a bit more refined than others. They engage in the comments section with their followers in an unabashed, genuine manner. Lastly, they share information with their followers on current events effectively, whether it be the vaping crisis back in 2019 or the current coronavirus pandemic.
All of these marketing tactics have worked tremendously in their favor. In March, PlugPlay’s social media earned them the #1 spot on the Pioneer Index, up from #10 in February.
As cannabis markets continue to gain traction, inconsistent and largely unpredictable markets have left recreational consumers in an informational fog. Try as the industry may, or may not to inform consumers, the lack of knowledge was evident when an established Colorado hash company opened a second operation in California. Expecting high demand for their solventless concentrates, the demand for their solvent-based counterparts came as a surprise. Initially hoping to eliminate solvent extracts from their product line-up, the company was forced to devote about half their overall production to solvent extracts, until information spreads and attitudes start to change. Over the past year several companies have joined the solventless side of history, but consumer understanding remains largely stagnant. For those immediately overwhelmed by terminology, cannabis extracts, concentrates or hash are all interchangeable terms describing concentrated cannabis. Under these umbrella terms, two distinct categories emerge depending upon whether chemical solvents were or were not used to extract the hash. Hence: solvent or solventless. A brief overview of cannabis concentrates will help consumers to understand the evolution away from solvent extractions and toward a superior solventless future.
Before regulated cannabis markets, cannabis extracts had long been in use. These old-world methods of cannabis extraction use very basic solventless techniques to create more potent, concentrated forms of cannabis. Dry sifting is easily the oldest form of cannabis extraction and a prime example of one solventless technique. Something as simple as shaking dried cannabis over metal screens and collecting the residue underneath creates a solventless product called keif. Dark brown bubble-hash, made popular decades ago, is another ancient technique using only ice and water to perform extractions without chemical solvents. After decades of stagnant and limited old-world methods, changes in legislation allowed cannabis sciences to flourish. These old-world hash methods were quickly forgotten, replaced by the astonishing progress of modern solvent extractions.
The emergence of solvent extracts revolutionized cannabis around 2011, creating new categories of cannabis products that exploded onto the scene. Not only did solvent extracts produce the most potent and cleanest forms of hash ever seen at this point, it also created new possibilities for hash-oil vape cartridges and cannabis extract infused edibles. These solvent extracts use butane, propane, or other hydrocarbon solvents to extract, or “blast” cannabinoids from the plant. By running solvents through cannabis and then purging or removing leftover, residual solvents, a super-potent, premium hash product is achieved. Regulated markets require testing to ensure only a safe level, if any, of the solvent used in the extraction process remains in the final product. This technology ushered in the first wave of concentrates to medical and recreational markets under the descriptive titles of wax, shatter and crumble. While these effective and affordable products can still be found today, far superior products have largely replaced wax and shatter. Distillation techniques can further purify and isolate THC-a, while removing harmful residual solvents. For a time, Solvent-free was used to describe this ultra-purified distillate, but the needless term has fallen out of use. Solvent-free is still a solvent extraction using chemical solvents, don’t be fooled. Distillation and CO2 extractions have fallen into general disfavor as they destroy the flavorful terpenes and valuable cannabinoids, that when present create an “entourage effect.” This “entourage effect” happens when the medicinal and recreational properties are most effective, pronounced, and impactful due to a full range of terpenes and cannabinoids being present in the final product. With companies manually reintroducing terpenes to their final extracts, it’s an attempt to restore what was lost during solvent extraction processes. Many brands claim to use cannabis derived or food-grade terpenes to infuse or reintroduce terpenes into their purified hash oils. While this adds flavor and taste, especially to distillate cartridges, it’s far from an ideal solution. Armed with this new information, the informed consumer looks for a full profile of terpenes and cannabinoids in their hash.
With terpene preservation a new priority, all aspects of hash making were reevaluated. By using fresh-frozen cannabis flower, solvent extractions quickly reached new heights. Using the same techniques as prior solvent extractions, the cannabis plant is frozen immediately upon harvesting, rather than trimming and drying the crop as usual. Freezing the plant preserves valuable terpenes helping to create a new category for hydrocarbon extracts under the general label of live resins. This live resin, containing vastly greater profiles of terpenes and cannabinoids than earlier waxes, shatters or crumbles is sold as live-resin sauce, sugar, badder, frosting, diamonds and more. Many versions of live resin re-use previous terms that describe consistencies. These live resin solvent extracts outperform the wax, crumble and shatters of old, and are priced accordingly. Some of the best solvent extracts available today use butane to extract hash oil, which forms THC-a crystals and diamonds seen in live resin sauces. Having learned the value of terpenes and cannabinoids, early efforts to purify THC were clearly misled. The industry defining use of fresh-frozen cannabis flowers greatly improved the quality of all extracts having realized the psychoactive effects are largely dependent on the various profiles of cannabinoids and terpenes. Pure THC-a crystals and isolates are easily achieved with solvent extractions but, produce inferior effects both medicinally and recreationally. Discovering the “entourage effect” as described earlier, these elements of cannabis allowed old-world solventless techniques to be re-inspired and reinvigorated with the benefit of healthy genetics and a hearty understanding of past mistakes.
Having gone full circle, solventless techniques are again at the forefront of the cannabis industry, having attained near perfection for our current understanding of cannabis anatomy.
Using the lessons and tendencies of prior extractions, the solventless method, in all its final forms, begin with the same initial process to make ice-water hash oil. Often referred to as solventless hash oil (SHO), fresh-frozen flowers are submerged in ice and water, soaked and agitated before the water is filtered through mesh screens. As these mesh screens are measured by microns, the increasingly finer mesh works to separate and extract microscopic trichomes that break free from the cannabis plant. The 120- and 90-micron mesh screens usually collect pristine trichome heads. After scraping the remaining material from the screens, its sieved onto trays where the hash can dry using modern techniques of sublimation. The results are beyond phenomenal and are sure to shock even life-long cannabis consumers. This technique isolates only the most potent and psychoactive parts of the plant, to produce white to clear solventless ice water hash. When done with precision 6-star ice water hash is formed. The hash can be sold and consumed as is or undergo additional solventless techniques to produce hash-rosin. Not to be confused with live-resins, rosin uses pressure and slight heat to squeeze ice-water hash, into hash-rosin. Some companies have elected to whip their rosins into a solventless badder or allow their hash rosins to undergo a cold cure process that creates textures and varieties like hash rosin sauce. Regardless of the final solventless product, they all begin as ice water extractions. These simple, natural methods of extraction are quickly being adopted by companies known for live resin. As solventless extracts are safer, cleaner and superior in quality to solvent chemical extractions, the race is on as the industry shifts toward a solventless future.
While I’d be happy to never see another solvent extract again, without the miraculous breakthroughs and advances in all aspects of cannabis manufacturing and production we may have not yet arrived where we are today. When using solvents to extract, the trichomes, which contain the full spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids, are dissolved by the solvent, which is then evaporated off, leaving behind dissolved trichomes. In solventless hash, these trichomes remain whole and are never dissolved or broken down. Instead they are broken free by agitation in ice and water, separating the trichome heads from their less-active stems. These valuable trichomes heads contain everything pertinent and are never destroyed, dissolved or melted like solvent-extractions are forced to do. The benefit of keeping the heads of these trichomes whole results in a far superior product expressing the full profile of terpenes and cannabinoids the way mother nature intended. This natural profile of trichomes lends itself directly to the entourage effect that solvent extracts were found to be missing.
Extraction techniques are not equal and depend upon whether quality or mass production is the aim. Solvent extracts have quickly begun to represent the old-guard of mass-produced cannabis concentrates, with the solventless new-guard focusing on quality, small batch, hash-rosin excellence.
As the legalization of cannabis continues to spread across the U.S., both THC and CBD products are rapidly growing in popularity, and we can expect that popularity to increase in the coming years. The cannabis industry alone is expected to account for nearly $16.9 billion in revenue this year.
Subsequently, there is a rising need among infused product manufacturers for sufficient filling machinery for CBD and THC products. These products, including CBD oil cartridges, require filling equipment that can provide quick turnaround, detailed parts and simple changeover and cleanup, among other factors. Let’s go over the different types of filling machinery used for these products.
Vial Filling Machines
For small vial packages made of glass, metal or plastic, vial filling machines are available. Often used for a variety of pharmaceutical products, they’re now suitable for filling liquid THC and CBD oil. Vial fillers are also often suitable for filling liquid products of varying viscosity levels, with either the installation of peristaltic pumps or volumetric filling stations.
Rotary fillers can also fill containers at high speeds and with quick turnaround, and are ideal for filling various types and sizes of containers made of materials such as plastic, metal or glass. A good rotary filler will be able to meet the demands of high-speed environments consistently and with accuracy.
Fixed or Variable Volume Cartridge Filling ToolsAs the industry develops more demand for high-quality filling and other types of equipment, more machines are likely to be manufactured or configured specifically with these types of products in mind.
Fixed and variable volume cartridge filling tools often feature a single-handed operation and are used to rapidly fill cartridges for THC and CBD oils used for vaping. With fixed volume fillers, you’ll be able to designate a specific and consistent volume, while variable volume models allow for different fill volumes for applications requiring versatility.
Automatic filling machines will be able to fill a large number of products at varying speed settings, without the need for manual operation. These machines can fill many different types of products with consistency that helps maintain optimal productivity. As with other fillers, automatic fillers are often customizable in a wide variety of configurations.
For concentrates, filling syringes are ideal in many cases. Many patients are in need of a specific dosage of oil, and a syringe can allow for accuracy through the inclusion of measurement indicators. Many dispensaries sell syringe units, so this type of packaging method is likely to continue to rise in popularity.
Other Types of Equipment for Liquid Cannabis Packaging
In addition to reliable filling systems, manufacturers should make sure every other aspect of their packaging lines is covered with high-quality equipment. Facilities will require a variety of conveyors to transport products from one end of the line to the other, cleaners to ensure that bottles or other containers are clean prior to filling, and labelers to apply custom labels to packaging, among other machinery.
With one or more of these types of liquid fillers in a facility, companies can maintain accuracy and efficiency throughout their operations when filling CBD or THC products. As the industry develops more demand for high-quality filling and other types of equipment, more machines are likely to be manufactured or configured specifically with these types of products in mind.
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