Extraction

Cannabis must be dried be it is extracted, because it is not possible to remove more than 50% of the cannabinoids from fresh material THC-Acid is difficult to extract If you plant to convert the THCA to THC, the plant material should be thoroughly decarboxylated by heating it under nitrogen at 105° C for 1 hour before performing a solvent extraction.

Chloroform is the most efficient solvent for the extraction of THC from cannabis. A single extraction will remove 98-99% of the cannabinoids within 30 minutes. A second extraction removes only 88-99% of the cannabinoids within 30 minutes. A second extraction removes 100% of the THC. Light petroleum ether (60-80°) also works well, but a single extraction removes only 88-95% of the cannabinoids; a double extraction removes up to 99%. Ethanol also can be used, but it removes ballast pigments and sugars which complicate the purification of the resin (11, 12)

Extract the dried cannabis with a suitable solvent for several hours at room temperature or by refluxing. Filter through charcoal to clarify the solution, then chill overnight to precipitate waxes, then filter the solution again. Concentrate it to one-half volume, and extract it with 2% aqueous sodium sulfate (to prevent oxidation). Separate the aqueous layer, and strip the solvent. The residue is crude hemp oil.

The odoriferous terpenes can be removed by steam or vacuum distillation. Cautious distillation in vacuo yields a fraction of crude red oil (bp 100-220° C/3 mm). This can be purified by redistillation or column chromatography. Use ethanol to remove the residue from the flask while it is still hot. Filter the solution through charcoal, and strip the solvent. Distill the residue to yield pure red oil (bp 175-195° C /2 mm). Distillation must be stopped if smoke appears, indicating decomposition. (13, 14)

Because THC is heat-sensitive, it is preferable to isolate the cannabinoids by column chromatography. The simplest method of column chromatography is performed with ethanol and ether extracts of hemp on alumina, yielding two major fractions: (1) chlorophyll, CBD, and CBN, and (2) THC. A second, more difficult method is performed on Florisil (use 10 times the weight of the oil) with the solvent system hexane:2% methanol. This yields a doubly-concentrated, viscous oil which can be repeatedly chromatographed on alumina to separate the THC and CBD. (15)