Hi Everyone,
About a month or so ago, Graywolf asked me to write an article on the history of cannabis extraction, as I witnessed it.  He also asked me what I thought the future of cannabinoid chemistry might be.  Well …. Thanks a bunch Graywolf!  Keep me up thinking an extra hour every night for a month contemplating what the hell might be next.  Not actually complaining, mind you.  I do love it!
My first thoughts on the future was that the future is here, the future is now, we done done it all already.  When the basement Alchemist can perform the same experiments and procedures that previously only happened in university laboratories, or were carried out by government-funded scientists in Israel or Spain or at Harvard, we have come a long way. There’s not much that our intrepid Alchemists have not figured out. (Note that I left out those so-called researchers at University of Mississippi government “farm”. They have been about as useful in advancing the science as … you supply the metaphor). 
But then, something dawned on me that hit me pretty hard.  There is a massive universe of unexplored cannabinoid chemistry out there that may eventually yield incredible medicines and euphoriants.  It is likely a vast untapped mine of chemical wonders, and right now it is being abused, neglected, prostituted, besmirched, and possibly worse.  In fact, the way that this vast potential resource of wonderfulness is currently being treated will most likely lead to disaster.  Unless some young brave Alchemists step up and develop the research as it should be.
What the hell am I talking about? Synthetic cannabinoids! Spice! K-2! That horrible crap that the media has labeled as “synthetic marijuana” that makes big news as people freak out on unknown chemical mixtures that may or may not actually contain some synthetic cannabinoids.

11 responses to this post.

  1. Hello good people of Cannabis alchemy! I appreciate this blog, I have learned a lot reading the posts here over the last 4 years. I could stand to learn A LOT more. Is there any opportunity for someone to attend a hands on class that is not tailored to beginners? I see that some classes were offered by SkunkPharm in 2013. I understand that with BHO getting popular and BHOtards getting popular there has been a pullback. I am hoping to learn about CO2 extractions and in particular what the forum thinks of OCOlabs desktop CO2 extractor for $3200…

    I am interested in CO2 technology given the concern surrounding hydrocarbon/alcohol extractions.

    Thank you everyone for sharing, I have been able to help some people with the information on this site and would like to expand upon that endeavor.

    Thank you THank you,


  2. Posted by nachshol on November 27, 2016 at 11:38 PM

    as a chemist i say i dont like synthetics….they are a massive environmental hazard, every organic synthesis leaves behind big amounts of waste…better stick to extractions- zero waste.


    • As a superannuated mfg. engineer, who took organic chemistry in the previous century, I’m closer to moderation in all things, including moderation.

      I’m reminded how much better aspirin works than willow bark tea on one end of the scale, and with fully synthetic mixed right and left handed molecules on the other, without the minor fractionals that often participate in making the concentrate effective.

      Seems like it may not be black and white, with some room in the middle for wiggling………

      Closer to home, we also like THC-O-Acetate a lot, as did every member of the student test panels sampling it.

      Conversely, Pharmer Joe synthesized a few (<5?)of the cannabis esters in our lab the year he took organic chemistry, but except for nice aromas and flavors he didn't produce anything earth shaking to me personally and we never ran any of them by volunteer test panels, beyond us three.

      It would appear that Huffman has identified at least 450 analogues, so clearly five doesn't represent a significant sample, leaving me to wonder if there are a few more "aspirins" available from Sweet Mary??



  3. Posted by dan on November 24, 2016 at 5:09 PM

    It will be Interesting unraveling the endocanaboid system. Hopefully with legalization spreading these truths can be explored. Credible research will finally bring opponents into a more favorable light.One thing that disgusts me is big tobacco getting into this industry. I feel like cannibis has and always belonged to the people.


  4. Posted by avidreader on November 24, 2016 at 1:27 PM

    first of all, i really like your blog
    I have often considered the ways that i could take cannabis research, and it occured to me that it might be possible to chromatographically separate the different cannabinoids using a large column (large column to separate amounts larger than for analytical purposes).

    Do you know about the current marijuana research scene with regard to this subject? Anyone with hplcs or other chromatographic methods… what is their status? or perhaps how to get into the analytical research scene?


    • Posted by redturtle984 on December 5, 2016 at 11:36 AM

      I bought a chromotography column from chemglas off of Amazon. I bought aluminum Oxide as the stationary phase and (maybe very wrong?) settled on 400 grit size after the 1200 grit cracked under presssure.

      To pressurize my $35 chromotography column I bought a tine air pump meant for air brushing pastries and cakes. I wrappped tape around the outlet to the hose so that it fits semi-snug into the top of the colum. I can control the flow by putting weight (steel chunks) or just hold my hand on top of the tape plug if more prressure seems wise.

      I bought hexane for the mobile phase, also off of Amazon. I also bought Ethyl Acetate although I did not get reagent grade and fractioning the EA receals it has a lot of water in it. I have not used it yet as the mobile phase.

      There are many videos on the net about how to pack the column this size (student/research) and preparing the column and there are a multitude of sites that show how to do this and the many considerations. The part about an airbrush compressor was just because that is what I had. It works perfectly.

      With the hexane purchase and the alumina needed and the chromatography column (‘mine came without a fritted disk), the entire experiment minus stands was just over a $100 initial investment with so much hexane and alumina left that MANY runs and tests can be done.

      I will not post the Amazon part numbers I used because you can search on the terms in Amazon and find them.

      I urge you to attempt to master doing this on a one gram scale or so which the column will handle. There are a great many nuances that despite good videos online you just need to do it yourself.

      I discovered that chromatography at scales of even one gram involve significant solvent flow/recovery issues, and introduce more minor problems like aluminum oxide grit on things. Packing a column needs to be done over a sink and have rags standing by. I use a distillation apparatus to recover the hexane mostly. It is very expensive just to evap away.

      Then the problem of completely removing the mobile phase (hexane) from the target medicine involves distillation recovery, evaporation, then vacuum chamber at high vacuum and hot temp to remove the hexane.

      Long post? Because chromatography involves so many steps and issues, and yes the columns can crack under pressure and then the whole thing needs to be done again. This is just gram quantities. It is difficult to understand how a large operation could run ounces and ounces through a column and recover all the solvent and deal with the clean up. It does work for research, (and I discovered great potential for short path distillation off of aluminum oxide saturated with extract by accident doing this.)

      I do not see how a commercial operation could get enough product through at a cost competitive with all of the logistical problems surrounding the method. Try it at the small scale first to see if it is something you want try to deal with at larger scale would be my advice.


      • Posted by redturtle984 on December 5, 2016 at 11:50 AM

        I took a time lapse of my set up. I am almost ready to do another experiment but with about 5% Ethyl Acetate added to the hexane. I just need reagent grade.

        This column actually cracked at one third down because too much pressure. Seperation was still excellent and the product was as pure as it gets for anyone. You can see i used a fan to evap the hexane. Purging all hexane after is easy but does take heat and vacuum.

        NOTE: hexane fumes go BOOM. Hexane is like gasoline in smell and even tiny amounts burn very hot. The way to mitigate risk is keeping fans going and open windows for ventilation. Extreme fire hazard.

        I hope this helps a bit – even if it is an example of how a column can fail.


        • Posted by redturtle984 on December 5, 2016 at 11:52 AM

          If you look closely at the top of the column you will see a sludge (wax) that will not pass through the alumina. Very effective dewaxing.


  5. Posted by Donny Adelman on November 24, 2016 at 12:34 PM

    Look I have no doubt gotten lucky being an at home extractor. I built my own version of the lil terp customized with a few bells and whistles. I still have no great concept of how I am running but the test results don’t lie. This being said I have procured a fancy rotary evap and steam distillation gear. For the past few months I have been trying to create essentially a sub-lingual cannabinoid. There are just times I can medicate by smoking for public reasons and edibles take too long. With this gel I hope to have a 3 minute onset of a large dose. Science is the future not synthetics. We can create cleaner and more efficient ways to ingest cannabis and should, When I am able to ambulate and use my time in Princeton’s labs I still may blow myself up because I cannot get basic ?’s answered, but what happens if I don’t?


    • Posted by ChillyDogg on November 25, 2016 at 12:45 AM

      There’s nothing wrong with synthetics as long as the molecules are the same. The aspirin we make from crude oil is exactly the same molecule as the aspirin that comes from willow bark. Imagine having a large stock of cheap synthetic cannabinoids and terpenes and being able to mix and match at will for the desired effect.


      • Posted by redturtle984 on December 5, 2016 at 8:56 AM

        There is nothing wrong with synthetics. The problems occur because there are things wrong with human endeavor. Humans make mistakes that nature does not. A plant that gets radical is named “trainwreck” or a plant that has the Oh-So-Delightful purple hairs gets cool names like Grand Daddy Purple.

        Both Trainwreck and Grand Daddy Purple can be consumed without fear that nature has made an error in the chemistry somewhere. Nature does not use cheap chemicals to save money, does not cut corners in product safety, and does not make mistakes that can lead to human sickness or worse.

        Mankind cannot make the claims nature can. There is no instance that I am aware of in synthetic drug manufactering in which some living animal is used for testing. Inevitable even well intentioned testing can produce horrifc deaths for our animal brothers on Earth. Marijuanna has never done that.

        There is no human on Earth that is istake and error free. Synthetic drugs are attractive ONLY from the standpoint of potential profits to those who try to do a cheaper job than Mother Nature. If Marijuanna was ineffective at treating disease, and if refinement (and potency increases) cannot heal the problem, then THC or its analogs are unlikely to help either.

        I see huge potential for suffering when humans undertake to mimic on the cheap that which nature grows for free.


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