August 10, 2021

Expert Interview: Andrew Megahy, Chief Scientific Officer, Always Pure Organics

4min read

Always Pure Organics is a specialist manufacturer and distributor of cannabis-based products and a sponsor of Prohibition Partners' recently-released The Cannabis Extraction Report.

Image of Andrew MegahyAndrew Megahy is Chief Scientific Officer of Always Pure Organics (APO). Based in Manchester, APO has created hubs across key geographies; Belgium, Switzerland and Japan. This footprint has allowed APO to speed up our processes, navigate local and international regulations and provide a greater level of service to its clients globally. 

What is the most common question you get asked regarding the extraction process?

Not just the most common question, but also the biggest misunderstanding I see, is between CO2 and ethanol extraction for cannabis extracts. This is the stage of the process where all the compounds are removed from the biomass of the plant, and involves soaking it in a solvent to create a solution (the solvent is then evaporated). People are always asking what the difference is, and which one is better. Unfortunately, it depends. Ethanol extraction is fairly inexpensive to set up and run because your chemist is working with a liquid. However, it does require a level of technical know-how to maintain and get the most value out of it.

Compare that with CO2 extraction, which involves cooling a gas down until it forms a supercritical liquid. This requires much more specialist equipment, meaning a higher setup cost. Most companies that provide this equipment will offer a self-contained unit that does the whole process for you. This means that you only need someone trained on the machine, rather than a technical expert. At the end of the day, both options have the capability to produce a high-quality raw extract, but this is only part of the process.

Would you say that the actual extraction from the plant is the most important aspect of the process then?

No, actually. Personally, I feel that the final stage of the process – crystallisation – is the most crucial stage of the extraction process, for the majority of extracted CBD products (like isolate or distillate). Typically, this stage of the process involves washing your almost-finalised product with solvent to remove any traces of contaminants or impurities that may be left over from the extraction process, or even as far back as the growing stage. The product must then be left to dry for several days to ensure proper evaporation of the solvent, leaving a clean and dry product.

In the case of isolate, we would specifically be looking for a pure-white compound that is powdery and does not clump. There have been potential suppliers in the past who provided samples of an isolate that tests at 99.6% CBD, but the physical appearance wasn’t up to standard. Most often this is due to an incomplete or rushed crystallisation, leading to discolouration, clumping or moisture.

What would you say is the greatest challenge for yourselves when deciding between extracts?

In addition to the physical appearance mentioned above, the level of testing, for sure. The plant Cannabis sativa is a well known hyperaccumulator, which means it absorbs a high quantity of chemicals from the ground it’s planted in. This is great if you’re trying to remove toxic waste from soil (like at Chernobyl) but not so helpful if you want to produce a clean CBD extract. This is why we require extensive safety testing for any extract we purchase. At a minimum, we would look for residual solvent, heavy metal, and pesticide testing. These are all contaminants introduced during the growth/extraction process that need to be controlled and removed.

Additionally, due to the difference in legalities for some of the cannabinoids that the plant produces, we would expect to see a comprehensive suite of cannabinoid testing carried out. This is to ensure that THC and CBN content are within the legal limits for the UK, from which we operate. The final criteria are microbiology testing to detect any fungal or bacterial contamination, and what accreditation the lab that carried out the testing holds, with UKAS accreditation being the ideal.

Do you think naturally extracted products will eventually be replaced by synthetic cannabinoids?

I would be very surprised to see that. Synthetic cannabinoids do circumvent the need for heavy metal and pesticide testing, but not for microbiology or cannabinoids content. Additionally, the general public tends to have a negative disposition towards ‘synthetic’ products. I have seen some lab-produced synthetic isolates, but the availability is much lower than plant extracts currently, mostly due to the technical requirements to produce them.

Personally, I expect that synthetic cannabinoids will become more widespread in medical/pharmaceutical products once these industries begin to adopt cannabis products, but natural extracts will be more popular with the general public, especially in the beauty and cosmetics markets.

To find out more about Always Pure Organics, visit their website here.

The Cannabis Extraction Report takes a detailed look at the extraction industry, analysing methods of extraction, the types of extracts and extract-based products currently available, technology advances, supply chains, and an in-depth look at the North American and European markets, and the regulations that currently govern extraction in these geographies.


Expert Interview: Andrew Megahy, Chief Scientific Officer, Always Pure Organics

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