The idea of bulk cannabis oil being sold at wholesale rates and rebranded under different names is likely a foreign concept to the end consumer, but this type of business is the bread and butter for BAS Research. Located in an industrial area in Berkeley, California, the lab was the first in the state to receive a city permit to both manufacture and process cannabis oil. The reason the city of Berkeley was keen to issue such a permit involves the fact that BAS works exclusively in C02 extraction, a method that — unlike other forms of creating ultra-potent cannabis oil — does not involve the use of volatile solvents.
According to Chief Strategy Officer Ernie Arreola, the 6,000-square-foot facility processes about 60 kilos of cannabis oil per month, which equates to roughly 2,000 pounds of trim and cannabis buds.
“We don’t make products,” Arreola said. “[Our partners] don’t feel threatened by our position, they know we are just here to provide.”
Some of the company’s open partners include Lenitiv Labs, backed by television personality Montel Williams, Marley Natural and Bhang Chocolate. Arreola says BAS also works with about 60 different cannabis cultivators who supply a mix of outdoor, indoor and light dep flowers and trim as well as a pool of about 80 clients.
“We have more demand than supply,” he said.
At the facility, terpenes sourced from cannabis are added back to the refined oil to recreate profiles of common strains such as Jack Herer, Girl Scout Cookies and Super Lemon Haze. BAS tests all the material that comes into its lab for pesticides and molds and works with SC Labs to ensure that all the oil leaving the lab meets the testing standards for sale. This testing process is set to become even more formalized as California begins to implement new regulations for the medical marijuana industry. BAS is already preparing to attain additional licensing with sights on expanding its business model to more cities in the coming months.
The current BAS lab came with $1.2 million in construction costs and an additional $2 million in lab equipment and passed its final building inspections in June 2016, according to CEO Dr. Bao Le. A former chiropractor, Le met his business partner in a dispensary Arreola owns — Lux in San Jose — after seeking cannabis oil for his young son who suffers from autism and night terrors. Le said he doesn’t use cannabis himself, but has seen the benefits it has made in his son’s life and is devoted to providing clean medicine.
“I don’t know which batch is for my son, so I have to treat it all like it’s for my son,” he said.
The first step of the extraction process is grinding the material and then decarboxylating it using a large commercial oven.
“In stage one we capture the terpenes,” Arreola said. “How we do it efficiently is the part that we really don’t disclose.”
From there, the extracted material moves to a series of custom modified Waters machines. Arreola says while the original machines cost around $250,000, the ones at BAS are customized up to the range of $375,000.
“Now it’s our technology and we know [Waters] would copy it,” he said.
The next step in extraction is winterization, a process that removes oils and waxes, and, for some oils further distillation. While the end result depends on the source material, Arreola said winterization of cannabis can bring potency levels up to 70 percent THC. With distillation the THC levels can rise to about 90 percent, a range that’s found in cannabis breath strips BAS produces.
BAS Chief Scientific Officer Robert Sindelar explained that through C02 extraction BAS can create condition-targeted medicine.
“We can re-constitute and re-engineer a product,” he said.
This ability allows the lab’s partners to request C02 oils that meet their customer’s preferences, without fully disclosing the fact that the provider worked with BAS to create the oil.
“We never want to come up with our own brand,” Le said, citing Coca-Cola as theoretical example. “Where are they getting their high-fructose corn syrup from? Me.”
TELL US, have you ever tried a CO2 extract?