By Jesse Grove
It’s a question as old as time, well at least as old as the cannabis industry; where do my concentrates and edibles come from? Well to let you in on a little bit of an industry secret, it all starts with copious amounts of ganja. While I’ve spent the last few years exploring different Marijuana Infused Product (MIP) kitchens, I can’t claim to have nearly as good of a grasp of the process as I probably should for someone who writes about marijuana. This is partially why I was extremely excited when I found out that I was going to get the opportunity to tour The Green Solution® MIP kitchen and see how plants become shatter, gummies, soda, and more. This was also a chance to get to see first-hand the safety checks and rigorous testing that recreational marijuana products need to go through before hitting the shelf. Besides being excited to see how The Green Solution® and Nectar Bee™ produce their products, who in their right mind wouldn’t be completely stoked to visit the largest marijuana concentration and edible producing facility in the world? Getting to see this crucial step in the seed-to-sale process is one of the greatest opportunities anyone in the cannabis industry can ever have. To give you an idea of just how exclusive this facility is, I’ve heard it referred to multiple times as the “Area 51” of the marijuana industry. Ready for the experience of a lifetime, I prepped my gear and hit the dusty trail, in search of The Green Solution® MIP, and my chance to see some of the most advanced marijuana processes in the world. I knew I was going to need to put my nerdy science glasses on for this one… Oh, wait I’m always wearing them.
It was early Wednesday morning when I made my way through the early autumn fog to The Green Solution’s® MIP facility. After circling around the block next to the Denver Colosseum, I laid my eyes on the very unassuming and downright mundane-looking warehouse. I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place until I saw a tiny little Nectar Bee™ logo on one of the parking signs in the lot. After confirming the address, I knew this is the facility making The Green Solution’s® fabulous Nectar Bee™ products. I found a spot to park and after meeting up with a few other members of The Green Solution® Staff (on their first tour as well) I entered the building and left the smell from the Purina factory outside and let the smell of fresh amazing concentrates hit my nose. It clearly wasn’t buds that I was smelling as I entered the facility, but extra terpene-laden extracts. I’m warning you now, I’ll be reporting heavily on my repeated smell-gasms that I had throughout the entire tour (I’m sure I looked like a madman as I frantically huffed the air in each subsequent room on the tour). We all signed in at the front and were equipped with the proper gear, including safety glasses, hair nets, and in my case a beard net. After all, no one wants to open their Bananas Foster Caramel and find a beard hair. We were introduced to Josh and Adam who would act as our guides throughout the tour. Josh wasting no time opened the door and let us all enter the place where the magic happens.
We entered the first long hallway of the 20,000 square foot facility and were requested to put our cell phones and other electronics on a shelf so that we wouldn’t inadvertently start off our tour with a bang. This is a good safety precaution when entering the main room where blasting occurs due to some particularly volatile chemicals such as butane that are in the mix. As Josh guided us back, a couple employees were hard at work and several large vacuum tanks cordoned behind cement walls, werebusy blasting buds into the raw concentrate slurry that would become the driving force behind Nectar Bee™ and The Green Solution’s® Pure line of extracts and edibles. As Josh pointed out, safety is key in a facility this massive. Everything from the cameras (which were sealed behind antistatic, airtight glass) to the sensors on the wall (which are constantly sniffing for any potential gas leak) was in place to keep the employees and your future products safe. Even the electronics for the vacuum machines themselves weren’t allowed in the room. All of the necessary tanks and equipment were in the adjacent hallway, and all pipes feeding extraction mediums were poured into the concrete floor between the two rooms. All this cement made me think that The Green Solution’s® MIP would be the perfect place to wait out a zombie apocalypse (there’s plenty of weed at least). Josh turned our gaze back to the mighty extraction tanks, which he said were capable of producing forty-plus pounds per run. That’s a lot of high! The next step in our adventure was checking out a different type of extraction, CO2 extraction. The smell in the CO2 room was a little mellower but still smacked of weedy goodness. As the operator in the CO2 room took over the tour, he explained that the machines they were running for CO2 extraction run 24/7. While it can take anywhere from five to 24 hours to produce a batch through CO2, the end result is an extraordinarily clean concentrate that can be altered in remarkable ways by extracting terpenoids, for either later reintegration or repurposing. After a quick pass through their massive ethanol extraction process and BHO production lab, we took a look at how The Green Solution® and Nectar Bee™ produce their solvent-less products like their hash and rosin. First I need to ask you as the reader if you’ve ever visited a marijuana grow? If you have, take that smell, and multiply it times a hundred and you’ll know what Nectar Bee’s™ solvent-less extraction room smells like. Josh started by showing us the micron bags ready to be filled with raw product before being placed in one of the half dozen knee-high ice water extraction machines. Honestly, he had already lost my attention; like a kid in a candy store, I was transfixed by shelf after shelf of golden brown hash sitting on massive cookie sheets. This was why the room smelled so amazing. Placating my desires, Josh pulled down a sheet so that I might weep at its beauty. With this much product, I had to know how The Green Solution® keeps track of it all and makes sure they regulate everything accordingly. That’s when one of the other Green Solution® members on the tour with me mentioned, “we’re not in the marijuana business, we’re in the compliancy business.” Chuckle-worthy and undeniably true for a facility producing so many amazing cannabis products. We had seen several of the different extraction processes that Nectar Bee™ uses for their concentrates, it was now time to see what was done with said THC.
We started our second phase in the topical room, where the Topicals Lead, Joan was hard at work formulating new transdermal salves and balms for testing. As Joan explained, while Nectar Bee™ produces all of the run-of-the-mill set products, she along with every other department gets to dabble with new inventions. After a batch of something new has been created, it is then sent off to The Green Solution’s® Research and Development team, which consists of different employees in the company. They then have the painstaking job of sampling the new products and telling the kitchen how they turned out (horrible job, right?) As Joan showed off a brand new batch of sugar scrub, ready to go out for testing, she mentioned the importance of using additional proven natural components like arnica, frankincense, and myrrh. Needless to say, they’re doing something right, since they already bagged a number two win in the 2016 Cannabis Cup with their Citrus Pine Spice topical; that was only their second submission ever, so expect more wins in the future. After our visit to topicals, we journeyed on to one of the best smelling concentrate rooms, the Rosin Room. This is where the Natural Hash is compressed to form rosin, the all-natural equivalent to shatter. I was pretty sure nothing could smell weedier than the natural extraction room, but I was wrong. Nothing could prepare me for the blast of freshness I received; simply scrumptious. There is a reason the smells were so good. Josh explained that they have started running their press at a lower temperature for a longer time in order to maintain a better terpene profile in the end product. After taking in the terps, we exited past several strange honey-comb shaped devices on the wall. Josh explained that these are the same systems used in hospitals to cleanse the air of potentially harmful bacteria. It was all very Star Trek feeling. No amount of sci-fi shows could prepare me for the shatter lab. Going back through the main hallway we entered the magical land where the majority of concentrates go through their final step before weighing and packaging. Several of the most complex apparatus I’ve ever seen sat bubbling and churning off to my left as we entered. I half expected to see some type of mad scientist come from the room over and start screaming, “it’s alive” over the newly birthed shatter, pie crust, and wax. Josh went through a quick run-through. After the initial THC Slurry is fully prepared, it’s combined with alcohol and tossed in a super cold freezer to rend the fat away from the THC. After a stay in the freezer, the fat is separated and then the remaining alcohol extract combo is percolated off, and you’re left with pure, unadulterated concentrate, which then, depending on how much it is agitated during the final curing, will produce one of several different marijuana concentrates. After the end products are sent off for lab testing for particulates, they are ready to be weighed and packed. Thoroughly wowed by my experience, I was shocked when Adam from the back of the tour told me, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
He wasn’t lying to me. The doors opened onto a massive floor with dozens of employees working at stations, mixing sugar, melting chocolate, and spreading out large sheets of crumbled graham cracker. The fresh hint of lime in the air mixed with wafts of white chocolate, making a smell that I want as an air freshener in my house. It was Key Lime Truffle day, and I was hungry. Never bring a hungry fat man to an edible kitchen, it’s torture. Since Josh mentioned they were going to be producing over 3,500 truffles that day alone, I really was hoping that they wouldn’t need all of them. As I admired the dozens of industrial ovens, massive refrigerators and industrial mixers, Erica, the floor manager, brought over a few new inventions for us to peruse. I got to see the first batches of Nectar Bee’s™ new gummies set to hit the shelf on October first, along with a fresh tray of truffles, which were ready to go off for testing with the Research and Development team. Each little white chocolate truffle was topped with a candied peach drizzled with white chocolate. We took a quick stop in the soda room, where they are filling over 600 sodas a day with the help of a semi-automated machine, that ensures a perfect dosage in each batch. We breezed by the popsicle station and Josh took a moment to tell us about one of their new products, made with man’s best friend in mind. High-CBD Peanut Butter, Bacon, and parsley dog treats will be available soon, to help canine companions cope with pain. After passing several more massive ovens Josh told us a little bit about how Nectar Bee™ safety checks their products. Each batch must be sent off for testing unless a MIP has proven its cleanliness and ability to produce consistent concentrations in their products. New batches still need to be tested every six months, but if a facility is able to pass over six batches with all acceptable levels in a two-month period, then they won’t have to re-submit for another six months. This is extremely hard to do, but it’s never been a problem for the Nectar Bee™ kitchen, which ran like clockwork. Just when I though my stomach couldn’t get any angrier with me, we went to the final step, packaging. During my visit, they were packaging Nectar Bee™ Brookies. Brookies are the amalgam of a cookie and a brownie. As each set of Brookies went through the packaging machine and was heated up as it was sealed, the smell of chocolate and sugar was almost unbearable. I needed Brookies.
We wrapped up our adventure and left the Nectar Bee™ and Green Solution® MIP with a little more knowledge and a lot more hunger. I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit that following a short meeting I had after my tour, I went straight to the Green Solution® off of I-225 and Parker and bought a pack of Brookies. Not only did they taste amazing, but I also knew exactly where they came from, and how they were produced, which is much more than I can say about the majority of food I eat on a daily basis. I can’t emphasize enough, how cool it was to see how The Green Solution® produces their concentrates and edibles. This level of mass production assures that the highest safety precautions must always be taken and that the resulting products must be of the highest quality. Hopefully, you too have a better understanding of all the work that goes into producing the cannabis products that you enjoy every day. Hopefully now if you’re ever asked, where and how your concentrates are produced, you can proudly retort “My concentrates came from The Green Solution® and were produced with love, care, and a shit load of science.”
By Jesse Grove