March 07, 2018

Design, Compliance and Optimization for Extraction

Jim Lieberman didn’t plan to get into the cannabis industry when he graduated from the University of Richmond with a B.A. in chemistry. But, years later, looking back on his colorful journey through water treatment, nuclear & hazardous materials management into the oil & gas industry and pharmaceutical industry - his experiences amalgamated perfectly into the founding of THC Safety, Inc.

Lieberman, a Certified Industrial Hygienist, and President of THC Safety originally found himself designing cannabis extraction facilities as a side project, but it very quickly developed into a full-time operation. There is clearly an industry-wide need; although he has had a 35 year long history in consulting, it is only the 4th year of full-time operation for strictly cannabis projects.  THC Safety has worked with clients in just about every state with open marijuana legislation including but not limited to Colorado, California, Michigan, Hawaii, Canada, and even Puerto Rico.

THC Safety is the industry leader when it comes to designing safe, fully compliant, extraction, infusion and post production facilities capable of producing all variations of extracted (concentrated) cannabis products. On top of consulting services, Lieberman offers two courses catering to the exploding cannabis industry: Cannabis Concentrate Production Technology (CCPT) and Cannabis Facility Design Seminar, an American Institute of Architecture approved course.


Legitimizing the Extraction Industry

Their services focus on taking new production facilities from the initial planning stage through full scale operation, all while navigating the complex minefield of regulations. What many consumers fail to realize, is that in 2018, the industry has moved far beyond the backyard extraction methods used in the past.

Now, facilities need to meet a seemingly endless number of municipal, state, national and international safety guidelines including international fire codes, international building codes, Environmental Protection Agency regulations, plumbing and electrical codes, not to mention the regulations laid out by the governing fire protection agency and other Authorities With Jurisdiction. THC Safety takes it all into account, before translating it into English and providing their client's actionable steps to meet those regulations.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, so do extraction technologies.  Systems that utilize liquefied petroleum gases (LPGs) such as butane or propane remain prominent in the cannabis extraction arena.  As these systems get bigger the safety considerations become more complex and important, Lieberman’s lengthy experience in Pharma, nuclear and oil and gas industries set him up for this new era of cannabis extraction. After all, in many cases, processing facilities are operating with some of the same hazardous operations, under the some of the same international standards, rules and regulations.

A typical consultation with THC Safety takes the client through four phases: planning, design, construction, and commissioning. Every building, property, and jurisdiction has different specifications, but THC Safety also pays close attention to the clients expected processing output and the desired final products. For example, a customer working on distillates will have vastly different requirements than one producing simple shatters, budders, or waxes.


Taking Safety to the Next Level

THC emphasizes that the commissioning stage of consultation is the most critical stage of the build. In the commissioning stage, our chemists & engineers perform a top-to-bottom safety audit, to ensure that all mechanical, electrical and other systems were installed correctly and are functioning properly. It all comes down to implementing defense in depth safety protocols into the facility.

Based on his experience working in the nuclear sector, Lieberman relies on the defense in depth approach to remove the risk of human error for critical operations. The defense in depth strategy understands that even under the best circumstances, humans are still prone to making errors. Therefore engineering controls must be put in place to prevent catastrophes when these errors occur. On top of that, there is a three strike rule. There must be backstops so that not just one, but three consecutive mistakes must occur before a significant incident can take place.


Extraction Comparison According to THC Safety

There are many misconceptions in the industry about the dangers of extraction, and in particular, the toxicity of the solvents used. According to Lieberman, many of these rumors are unfounded. Each extraction method, CO2, LPG, or ethanol, all have individual characteristics and hazards, but one method doesn't stand out above the rest.

THC Safety provides clients with invaluable guidance on what systems will work for their particular circumstances. Equipment selection is not only dependent on the client's budget but also on the type of cannabis product to be made, market demands, facility size and location, post extraction processing capabilities and last but certainly not least, state and local municipality regulations.

The knowledge and technical guidance provided by Lieberman and the team at THC Safety gives legitimacy to the ever-evolving cannabis industry. No longer do companies have to wing-it during any phase of their facility development; they have an invaluable resource to rely on.