California Ethanol Standards for licensed labs

Dear cannabis community,

We are writing to you in hopes that the intelligent minds of this industry can once more come together to help resolve a common issue that is known to effect many us, particularly those of us in distillation.

Currently, California Code of Regulations, Title 17 of Cannabis Manufacturing Licensing §40223. Ethanol Extractions (a) states that “Ethanol used for extractions or for post-extraction processing shall be food- grade”. This regulation inadvertently prohibits the use of ethanol which has been denatured with heptane. Solvents with the chemical makeup of: Ethanol: 95%, n-Heptane: 4.5%, Water: 0.5% are routinely sold to the cannabis industry as “High Purity Extraction Grade Ethanol for Cannabis and Hemp Extraction”. Because this particular solvent of interest contains heptane, it is no longer considered food-grade, thus deemed unusable. For the distillation community, the problem lies here. Although heptane is not considered food-grade, even at percentages used for denaturing, these solvents that are commonly used for extraction are fractionally distilled and separated from the product during the distillation process, leaving zero remaining residual solvents. Many hydrocarbon solvents, such as heptane, are allowed to be used during post extraction processes but not during extraction (under a Type 6 license), even though the solvent could potentially be touching the same product which can be once again distilled of all residuals.

The California Department of Public Health and Safety is currently issuing Ceased and Desist orders for violations of such practices. The ramifications of such circumstances include destroying product which has been completely refined, distilled, and accurately analyzed and tested by a state licensed cannabis analytical laboratory, as well as disposing of all ethanol denatured with heptane used for processing.

It is up to this community and this industry to advocate for the education of these processes and defend our rights to conduct the same chemical processing procedures seen in other industries. We are asking for help in fighting unfair regulations that hinder safe chemical procedures which are otherwise recognized as standards. If you are willing to help us and the community in this fight please help by writing a scientifically correct letter that supports the safe and regulated use of such practices that we can use as support. Every letter can help and is appreciated.

Consolidated Oil
Santa Cruz, California


So, as far as I know, I dont think theyve dinged anyone for the use of heptane-denatured ethanol, because the state does allow for hydrocarbon extractions as well as long as they are sufficiently pure.

We had a neighbor right next to us in another type 7 occupancy using some of the heptane denatured stuff and I dont recall them having any issues. It’s late now but I’ll shoot them a text again tomorrow and see if they ever had any issues.

The way I see it is that if the ethanol on its own would be pure enough to be food grade, and the hydrocarbons used to denatured it are also of acceptable purity, then the mix should be ok.

Their main concern is whether or not it will contaminate your final product. This is what will make or break the acceptance of your SOP when you turn it in for them to evaluate and approve.

If you can demonstrate that both the ethanol and heptane will be removed during the process, you should be okay. For example, if you decarb after your ethanol extraction, decarbong temps will easily boil off both ethanol and heptane, so there shouldnt be an issue.

Remember, it doesnt really hurt you to submit an SOP to the state and having it rejected, especially of you can make a pretty good case to back your point. It’s doing stuff without permission that’ll get you in trouble.

I heard thru the grapevine that very recently some lab in Santa Cruz got worked pretty good over the heptane denatured ethanol, so I think OP is asking some legit questions, and is possibly part of the crew that had the hammer drop

I don’t think it was inadvertent. They ment to do that.

EU doesn’t allow any solvents for hemp extraction.

Maybe has to do with the excise tax? Correct me if I’m wrong, but food grade etoh costs a lot more (excise tax) than denatured etoh. Someone noticed how much money the state was losing?

Well thats good news at least. We’ve been having problems with the environmental health agencies saying the ethanol with heptane needs to be “food grade”. The problem is that heptane isn’t classified in such a way so we’re trying to do exactly that and prove that it is a high enough purity to be safe since it is in fact an extremely high purity.
And yeah hopefully submitting SOP’s with details on how it’s fully removed will do the trick.
Let me know what your friend says if he gets back to you, Thanks!

Don’t know if this is true or not but from what I’m to understand the excise tax is a sin tax on ethanol, with the assumption it’s going to be used to make booze of some kind. I’ve been told that legal industrial uses (like hemp extraction) are able to request a refund on all excise taxes they’ve paid for their barrels and totes of ethanol, and the state should refund it, though I’ve yet to meet anyone who has successfully done so. I also recognize that can be a painful amount of capital to have tied up on the gamble that the state agrees that you are not making it into booze.

1 Like