How to Minimize Air Pollution While Growing Cannabis

As the medical marijuana, recreational marijuana and CBD markets each grow into multi-billion dollar industries, the demand for cannabis is at an all-time high — and canny entrepreneurs across the country are starting commercial cannabis grow operations in earnest. However, institutions like the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) are studying the potential effects of cannabis farms on air pollution and finding worrying results.

Aurora, Colorado, which is the second most popular locality in the nation for commercial cannabis farming operations, currently has the country’s 8th worst air quality according to the American Lung Association. The CDPHE asserts that this has much to do with cannabis farms and their output of what are known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.


What are VOCs, and why are they a problem?

VOCs are naturally released by a wide range of plant life, and are generally harmless on their own. An example of well-known VOCs are terpenes, which are present in everything from lavender to black peppercorns. The terpene profiles of different cannabis strains give them their respective identities, like the Lime OG strain which is incredibly popular among consumers.

The problem with VOCs occurs when they combine with combustion gases and become harmful to the ozone. Cannabis farms are commonly positioned along stretches of highway, with frequent car traffic through all times of day. This makes them uniquely problematic, as unlike other VOC-emitting plants like lavender, they are positioned to release VOCs en masse to combine with automobile exhaust and produce air pollution.

We can’t alter the release of VOCs in agriculturally and industrially-grown crops like marijuana at present, but there are ways farmers can offset these emissions with the use of environmentally-friendly alternatives to onsite operations. In this post, we go over three important examples of how cannabis farms can reduce or counter their own VOC emissions with little to no impact on productivity.

Strategic Positioning of Cannabis Farms Using Road Hierarchy

The first and most obvious step that can be taken to reduce the harmful interaction of VOCs produced by cannabis farms with motor vehicle exhaust is to position them along less traffic-intensive roads. The current road hierarchy within the United States and Canada is as follows:

  • Freeways are categorized as interstate or intercity roads, limited access roads and on- and off-ramps.
  • Arterial roads are designed to accommodate plenty of traffic throughout the day, and are subdivided into minor and major arterials for urban and rural areas respectively.
  • Collector roads are the convergence points for local roads, ultimately distributing local street traffic to different arterials.
  • Local roads carry low traffic volume and can typically be found in residential areas or specialized districts. In rural areas, these are sometimes unpaved depending on budgetary constraints or development timelines.

Cannabis-friendly states like California, Oregon and Colorado would benefit from the creation of more specialized farming counties and districts, where cannabis farms are positioned along local roads connected to a single collector a respectable distance away. This would prevent anything other than essential traffic, such as transport or supply vehicles to and from the farms themselves, from being in frequent proximity to the VOCs produced by onsite crops.


Use of Biofuels in Tractors, Tillers & Other Onsite Utility Vehicles

Continuing on from the concept of using road hierarchy in positioning cannabis farms: the risk of VOC conversion from approaching transport or supply vehicles could be further diminished if they were either electric vehicles (EVs) or made use of currently available biofuels.

This also applies to utility vehicles operated onsite, such as tractors, diggers and tillers, all of whose emissions are in contact with VOCs far more often than those from logistics vehicles.

Green Energy to Power Onsite Machine Processes

While they may not yet have the output specifications to effectively power entire farms, solar panels can provide ample energy for common onsite machine processes, such as the extraction of cannabinoids and terpenes to make isolates or the wet-mixing of hemp hurds to make hempcrete.

Depending on the products onsite facilities are purposed to manufacture, the use of green energy could be feasible for several farms across the country that haven’t already made the switch.

Everything You Need to Know About Terpenes and CBD

Cannabinoids and terpenes are two compounds that are becoming increasingly popular in the world of health and wellness. But what do we really know about them?

Well, we do know that both compounds have powerful properties that can benefit our bodies, but many people don’t really understand how these components interact with each other to bring about positive results.

Terpenes and CBD

In this article, we’ll dive into what terpenes are and how they work together with CBD. Read on to learn everything you need to know about terpenes and CBD.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are organic compounds found in many plants, fruits, and herbs that give each plant its unique scent and flavor. They are responsible for a plant’s essential oil production, as well as for the way it smells and tastes.

Terpenes also contain medicinal properties and have been known to provide anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and stress relief benefits. As a result of their diverse nature, terpenes can be used to create products such as perfumes, lotions, and even food additives.

By leveraging their various beneficial qualities, terpenes offer consumers a safe and natural way to enhance their health and well-being.

Terpenes and CBD

Terpenes have been found to be critical components in the production and efficacy of CBD products. Terpenes interact with cannabidiol (CBD), the active ingredient in CBD products, to produce a wider range of therapeutic effects.

Not only do terpenes help enhance the medicinal effects of CBD, but they also alter its taste and smell so users can enjoy a more pleasant experience. The combination of terpenes and CBD allows users to customize their desired effect, varying from calming and soothing peace to alertness and focus.

Together, terpenes and CBD create an effective synergistic relationship that can be utilized for various health benefits.

Steam distillation of terpenes

Terpenes are traditionally distilled using steam. During the process, the plant material is placed in a chamber and heated by steaming hot air. The steam carries the terpenes from the plant material into the distillation chamber, where it is separated from other compounds like waxes and oils.

After distillation, terpenes can be used to create a variety of products, including natural fragrances, lotions, and even food additives.

However, when you derive live resin terpenes with steam, it uses a lot of energy, and this is because of the inherent large energy cost to maintain a column of steam. Then there are the issues around the fact that steam distillation destroys the light end of the live resin’s terpene profile.

The cryogenic distillation process

An alternative to the steam distillation process is cryogenic distillation. With this method, plant material is immersed in a liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide bath, which freezes and separates the terpenes from other molecules. Cryogenic distillation allows for greater control over the extraction process and can yield higher purity levels than steam distillation, while capturing the entire terpene profile.

The innovative company, Alpine Vapor Hemp, utilizes a proprietary cryogenic distillation process that uses liquid nitrogen and pressure to distill terpenes from live resin. By only using the harvested flower, and never trim material, from craft cannabis farms in California to create live resin, they create full profile true-to-strain terpenes.  These terpenes are only available on a  seasonal basis and are dependent on the specific microclimate at the cannabis farm that year.

By utilizing Cryogenic Distillation, the entire terpene profile of the the live resin strain is preserved and captured, versus steam which destroys and damages the light end of the terpene profile (the profile that captures the floral and fruit scent qualities of the terpenes).

In the same way that a vineyard’s vintage quality is dependent on matching grapes to the microclimate and soil, cannabis farms can take the same approach so that they produce the finest cannabis that specifically matched by strain to the local conditions.

Advantages of using liquid nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen is the less valuable component and often a byproduct from the manufacture of liquid oxygen, used in hospitals and other industrial processes, but even the actual condensing of air to a liquid is also very energy efficient compared to steam. This is due to the fact that liquid nitrogen makes up the bulk of the atmosphere and requires less work to separate, and the waste heat created from its compression can be used for other purposes thereby reducing the use of energy.  Liquid nitrogen is also efficient to store when not needed, versus steam which requires constant energy input to maintain its effective temperature.

Additionally, its critical temperature storage point makes it much more efficient than steam distillation, which requires time and energy to get to critical temperature. as it requires less energy and time to achieve a result. This makes cryogenic distillation an ideal method for capturing and preserving full terpene profiles from live resin extracts and ensuring higher levels of quality and purity.

Finally, because liquid nitrogen is non-flammable and non-toxic, it is considered one of the safest methods for extracting terpenes from cannabis plants. This also means that there are no worries about contamination or emissions involved in this process.

How are the live resin terpenes combined with CBD?

After the terpenes have been extracted from the live resin, they can then be combined with CBD isolate or full-spectrum CBD oil. This allows users to customize their desired effects and create a more balanced therapeutic experience.

The combination of terpenes and CBD also allows users to enjoy a wider range of health benefits, such as improved sleep, stress relief, enhanced focus, and even pain relief.

tips to buy CBD products online

How do you know if you’re buying high-quality CBD products?

When it comes to buying high-quality CBD products, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting your terpenes from a reliable source. Make sure to check the lab test results and look for proof that the product is made with live resin extracts and is free from heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, and other impurities.

You should also be aware of any added flavors or additives, as these can mask the true effects of the terpene profile and even introduce unwanted side effects. A good way to ensure quality is to buy from a reputable manufacturer that uses cryogenic distillation to extract their terpenes.

Final thoughts

With a greater understanding of the properties and effects that terpenes and CBD can have on our bodies, we can make informed decisions about how to best incorporate them into our lives for optimal health and well-being.