CO2 CBD extraction...truly organic?

Hello the brilliant extraction minds of 4200!

I have a basic question at first glance, but I have a hunch it may get more complicated.

QUESTION: Is CO2 extraction all the way through distillate truly organic?
SUBQUESTION: Super-critical, “mid-critical”, and subcritical seem to be the three classifications. Is one truly organic, where another employs ethanol at some point?

This question comes from being told that while CO2 removes CBD cleanly, to get the “plant fats” out, ethanol is still used. The second reason is the one thing I understand is that CO2 is much more expensive, yet I see consumer-facing “CO2 extracted” products that are the same price, or even cheaper, than ethanol extracted products. This seems odd to me.

I know their are many well-informed professional extractors on here. Any and all opinions are welcomed and appreciated. Thank you.

1 Like

Ethanol, CO2, and hydrocarbons are all organic solvents.

Sub-critical to Super-critical are phases of CO2, which are affected by pressure and temperature.

Organic is a somewhat silly and loose term.


I feel like they might be asking if this could be classified USDA Organic - not like, “organic” solvents from the organic chemistry world.

If that’s the case…

CO2 is 100% on all the international and US national standard lists for material that can be utilized during organic growing and processing activities for other USDA organic things out there.

Ethanol can be Organic - but you must source this appropriately with appropriate documentation for where it originated from and how it was processed. Totally doable, only slightly more expensive. Check me out.

Hydrocarbons (butane/propane…) are generally thought of as “not organic”. I haven’t seen any that don’t come from dinosaurs, honestly. And their processing doesn’t usually meet the requirements for what I think you are talking about.

The national certification folks appear to be aligned with other organic international inspection folks. And they definitely do not allow butane/propane extraction. And they are now recognizing “hemp” but not really other kinds of cannabis. And it looks like - there is even an organization out there for cannabis, but I don’t know how legit their inspections are, etc.

Sooooooo - CO2 extraction is a 100% a go for organic certification production of cannabis extracts.

Ethanol is only if you also have all the appropriate documentation for where your ethanol came from.

And sadly, hydrocarbon is out for the count due to its petrol industry roots. Those organic folks seem to really hate dinosaurs, you know?

Hope this helps. <3



Thank you very much for your detailed answer, it does help a lot. If I may ask a follow up question: How common do you think CO2 processing is (in relation to volume) in US? And how do prices of say an “CO2 processed distillate based tincture” compare to “ethanol processed distillate based tincture” compare?

Note: I ask coming from a Japanese company that sells ethanol-extracted (which we don’t label as organic) CBD products (CBD Nano) here. Yet it seems everywhere is selling “organic” CBD at prices that just don’t make sense.


“Organic is a somewhat silly and loose term.” This is my opinion actually. And a company could use the word “organic” (based off of what you and Cassin wrote) even using ethanol.

It should be noted that the “organic” CBD being sold over here in Japan doesn’t tend to have any certification…they just say it is “CO2 extracted” and / or “organic.” With no evidence actually provided. And I have a sneaky suspicion that the Japanese businesses buying these products are being duped too.

We would love to be “organic” but we know that at our volume and financial requirements it’s not possible. Just trying to figure out how to educate Japanese businesses we sell to that their “organic” CBD might not be so.

Thanks again for the “silly and loose term” comment. It’s nice to know someone out there agrees with me. Peace.


is that cause they’re stupid hippies?

says here that

Concentrations and isotopic compositions of ethane and propane in cold, deeply buried sediments from the southeastern Pacific are best explained by microbial production of these gases in situ .

seems to fit their definition of “organic” to me…

edit: clearly I’m with @ExTek90 on this.


Perhaps. The whole organic movement is really weird. And its different in different countries and not all countries agree to the international standards.

So yeah - it might be because people are hippies. But I’m thinking it probably has more to do with people thinking that “organic” means comes from natural sources. There is even a USDA document that helps people think through what might mean “natural” source. Which always just confuses more people.

Probably if someone wanted to show to the organic bodies (aka the hippies) what was happening, why it was organic, and that they should be able to see it as such. Then they might approve it. They legit review dozens and dozens of cases to try and there is a like a panel of “scientists” and “other interested parties” that does this every year.

100% - it is a silly term. And since @CBDNihon has acknowledged that this is for marketing, that makes very good marketing sense. Organic generally costs less to produce (but maybe not for secondary producers like them) but you get a semi-premium price for it.

That’s just consumers (educated, silly, whatever) deciding with their dollars what they are willing to pay extra for. Always made me chuckle. I’ve spent years growing my own food - and I’ve seen traditional and organic methods. And some organic methods are more toxic and dangerous to workers than traditional methods by far. Would probably help if more people actually went to the places their food is produced, but that’s probably asking too much. :slight_smile:

1 Like


I find your insight truly refreshing. I don’t know if your voice is super unique or I just haven’t inquired enough. Either way, thanks for shedding light on a feeling and basic scientific understanding I’ve had for a while now. I do have one question about what you wrote:

“Organic generally costs less to produce”

It seems you are speaking about all agriculture products in general, or perhaps just CBD. Either way, I have the same question: really!?!? Now this is where I have been wrong (especially with CBD). I thought organic was more expensive across the board. And for CBD specifically I thought CO2 extracted (read: “organic”) is more pricey than enthanol to produce? If I am mistaken, it explains the cheap “organic” tinctures I’m starting to see in the CBD shops over here. Any thoughts?

Run ethanol over CO2 if you have the option. Ethanol does a far better job at separating lipids particularly if it’s cold. CO2 for the most part is a massive waste of time (IMO). It’s only somewhat decent when your talking about terpene extraction. Even then other methods maybe preferred due to the high cost of CO2 extraction. The days are number for CO2 extraction in this industry. People are waking up to the reality that hydrocarbons and/or ethanol produce an equally safe/effective product with much greater yields, faster processing times, and lower up front costs. As far as hot ethanol injections being used a a co-solvent with CO2… IMO still a massive waste of time. When you consider the fact that this “hot ethanol injection” idea what will ultimately happen is you will get better yields compared to just CO2 alone. However the real kicker is that this doesn’t negate the fact that cold ethanol would’ve been a better choice from a product quality perspective (as long as you have the recovery capacity for ETOH extractions). So at the end of the day if you’re lab is stuck with a CO2 machine, just run terpenes, then run cold ETOH for the cannabinoid fraction afterwards skipping extracting cannabinoids with CO2 all together. This is the way I do things ATM, and I’ve doubled the output of my lab by making this simple switch. (This is all my personal opinion BTW)

Yes - really. The differences are pretty stark. I did about 2000 acres organic the other year. And 200 conventional acres. My 2000 acres produced great CBD hemp - but I didn’t do anything more to it than the first poop spreader and watering. The 200 acres did good too, but the team kept treating it, driving up labor and chemical costs. Both made CBD.

The CO2 doesn’t cost more - but the equipment is slower AND you still need ethanol for winterization activities, unless you are keeping the fats. So really its batch size dependent. The size of the equipment requires a bigger footprint too (the tanks are HUGE). Depending on where you are the CO2 can be stupid cheap or unusually expensive. Where I was (Midwest USA) its stupid cheap, as its a byproduct of other activities in the area. Sometimes I would even get it for free. :slight_smile: I never got ethanol for free. You can reuse ethanol multiple times - I never had great success reusing CO2.

Cost of goods is always a personal choice. Depending on if you are building your own equipment, batch sizing, what kind of building its going into, and availability of your processing components.

I had very similar yields with CO2 to unchilled ethanol extraction. But its slower and the batch sizes are smaller unless you have gigantic equipment, you know? First skid I saw only did like 5lbs every 4 hours… LOL. There are much bigger systems out there - and it looks like some localities are still only allowed CO2, so it will probably be around for a bit longer.

It is certainly not as easy as ethanol bucket tek - that’s for sure. :wink:

1 Like

Cassin, you are awesome.

Thank you so much for both the thorough reply on farming and on the benefits / drawbacks of CO2 processing. Based off of your explanation I gather that CO2 may be beneficial if one has enough space and patience, but other than that, ethanol.

That said, you hit on THE point that started this thread. While I trained and worked in extraction / distillation for a year in Colorado, I am much more on the business side than the tech-side. So I didn’t want to look dumb. Anyhow, you wrote:

“but the equipment is slower AND you still need ethanol for winterization activities, unless you are keeping the fats.”

This was what I was taught back in Colorado, that even when doing CO2 extraction you still need ethanol to remove the fats. Soooooooo, that means that “organic” (this thread already agrees it can be a loose word at best) CO2 distillate based tinctures aren’t really “organic”. They had to use ethanol for winterization. Is my understanding correct?

I do note that “organic ethanol” does exist. For sake of this conversation, may we assume that we are talking about typical ethanol?

Really I appreciate your input, and when all this corona stuff is over and if you ever find yourself in Tokyo, the sushi is on me. Peace.

The largest co2 extractors in know contract out the winterizing but I know the biggest etoh guy in southern Oregon and they have the contracts for the co2 around and winterizing is a fuckng mess that in that bulk is using multiple solvents but methanol is one to dewax. So that’s the reality. In theory if they ran the co2 properly they would be a organic distillate because with co2 you can use the pressure to remove any layer you want clean. But that takes up line time and people who understand science who are smart. So they are using these machines to remove cannabinoids and yielding as much as possible. This was a benefit of working with a company like thar. They have the data and processes on how to run it properly. I think when cbd needs to be produced for pharmaceutical grade then it will be done properly with co2. But until then it’s just greenwashing because they have the co2 for the purpose of branding it co2

1 Like

If you’re going to be a pharmaceutical grade supplier you need to be on co2 in 5 years. It can be done correctly in house with no other processes.

1 Like

Like @Snook said - its not 100% necessary. But most small operators don’t seem to have things dialed in at all. So they get a mess that needs to handled after it comes out of the CO2 line.

If we are talking about that - the only way for it to be still certified organic would be for all the down stream parts to also be certified organic. Its not hard to do that - you just have to select certified suppliers and the like. But you would not be able to document it properly without that information.

So you couldn’t do it with non-organic EtOH - cause that wouldn’t have the right documentation.

And the equipment is slower. There’s already pharmaceutical grade stuff available in the market (there’s even approved pharmaceuticals in the US…) so its not like people are not already doing that level of purity.

And for that matter pharma is NOT organic. They fucking do whatever they want to get where they want. As long as the process is documented and they have an appropriate design to make sure quality is built in, and honestly even sometimes its not but enforcement just doesn’t have time to chase all this stuff.

So its on us as consumers to notify the authorities if we care about that kind of stuff. Which most people don’t unless something goes wrong. That’s why there is a thing called MedWatch in the US, you know?

Anyway - maybe they are scamming. Maybe they are misusing the marketing. I don’t know the rules in Japan for that kind of thing. But you could always inquire and let the regulators know. Warning letters happen because regulators find out about bad actors somehow. I think its a thin line between keeping the public safe and just being a dick in a competitive market… especially this market with limited oversight and basically non-existent enforcement.

1 Like

As i come from europe there is a crucial step to producing organic extract…

And thats the organic certified biomass that comes into a food grade enviroment. How ia that regulated with you guy, to prove traceability?

The process has to be then overseen by organic certification organs at the time of production, so they witness the use of organic bioethanol and its origin documented. When you make the resin in the rotavapoury you in the end already mix in the organic hemp oil for drops (to avoid inclompliance with the 0.2%), send it over to lab testing for adjustments, and voila!

Organic certified drops EU - cert…

So when a solvent as ethanol is used in an extraction my organ starts telling me to better go touch it, rahter to discuss further… Like the fullspectrum boradspectrum selected spectrum no spectrum debate… :slight_smile:

Co2 is ethanol extraction

Unless you don’t want to winterize

But then you can’t distill

And then you can’t isolate or make t-free with chromatography

For hemp it’s not very scalable and for cannabis it makes mids

except you can perform SCF chromatography, and separate your terpenes from your cannabinoids, and even your cannabinoids from each other, if my memory serves me.

Thar have been at CO2 for a very long time…

1 Like

Co2 crc?

you’d have to ask the CO2 experts.

I’ve read (and poked at you lot to learn more)… but not extensively, because I never had my hands on a (working) machine.

More scalable ways to do all that that super spendy co2 machines