As consumers become more educated and technology advances, the future of cannabis processing is leaning towards solventless extraction methods. Solventless extraction is the process of separating cannabinoids and terpenes from the trichomes of plants without the use of solvents.
This method is similar to pressing olives for olive oil or harvesting grapes for wine. The trichomes, which contain the main compounds of the cannabis plant, can be easily extracted through squishing, just like how grapes are pressed for wine. The use of solvents in extraction is unnecessary and can negatively affect the flavor and safety of the final product.
Furthermore, many other plants that require solvent extraction for their medicinal compounds only contain small amounts of those compounds. In contrast, hemp plants can contain up to 30% dry weight of cannabinoids/terpenes, and up to 90% for the trichomes. This high concentration of desired compounds makes solventless extraction a viable and efficient option.
While some may argue that solventless extraction is less efficient than solvent-based methods, this is not necessarily true. In fact, cultivar selection plays a significant role in extraction efficiency. Additionally, the last bit of Cannabinoids remaining in the leaf are not a significant loss, as the plant produces the palatable flavors in the trichomes rather than in the leaf matter.
Overall, treating the cannabis plant like fruit and utilizing solventless extraction methods makes the most sense for both safety and quality reasons. As technology continues to advance and prices of solventless extracts drop, it is likely that this method will become the standard in the cannabis industry.