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In my last article on Bearer Plants I talked about commercial propagation and financial reporting of the cannabis plant. In this article I will introduce cannabis oil in its many varieties. I will talk about what it is, how companies are using it in general terms, how they report cannabis oil in their financial statements and finally on the bioavailability of cannabis oil. This will be my last general science/financial reporting focused article before I start comparing individual companies and the products they produce. I need to write these articles first because the central themes of many cannabis companies involve the concepts outlined here and in my previous article.
First, we must talk about the relationship between the drugs(cannabinoids+terpenes) found in cannabis and oil. Trichomes of cannabis are oil filled compartments packed full of the wonderful drugs we want to extract. The extraction process produces a viscous oil, I found a video that uses the same process many companies currently use. If you skip to the 10:20 mark you will see something similar to the appearance of concentrated cannabis oil. There are many ways to extract drugs from cannabis, the video only covers the most common method used by large licenced producers.
Licenced producers take that concentrated cannabis oil, dilute it, then sell it to their customers as a dose controlled medical product. When I first came across the product companies were selling as cannabis oil I was confused. Why are they calling real cannabis oil diluted in a carrier oil ‘cannabis oil’? Both are oils, so how do we distinguish them? For simplicity sake, I have been using the term concentrated cannabis oil for what companies call ‘cannabis extract’.
Lets now look at how licenced producers and the federal government report on cannabis oil. Aurora and Canopy only report the cash value of cannabis oil in inventory. I believe this is the cash value of their final cannabis oil product found on their website. Aphria gives us a deeper look into their cannabis oil production. Their 2018 Q1 quarterly report showed they had 2,517.6 litres of cannabis oil in inventory. The measurement of cannabis oil in litres is important because of how the federal government chooses to report on cannabis oil. When you’re measuring the final oil product being sold in stores it makes sense to use litres instead of grams because the concentration of drugs in each product is the same (there may be a range of available concentrations). When you’re measuring a concentrated, sticky extract you use kilograms instead of litres because you can get a more accurate measurement. The federal government reports on cannabis oil in kilograms. I believe they gather data on how much ‘cannabis extract’ licenced producers are making, converting to ‘cannabis oil’, then selling. Licenced producers are only reporting the value of the final product in inventory, not the intermediate product (concentrated cannabis oil) the federal government reports. I could be wrong, the lack of standardization with regards to naming and measuring is confusing. It’s possible the federal government requires licenced producers to weigh all their final ‘cannabis oil’ products and report their weights. Aphria could be choosing to report volume in their financial statements instead of mass.
The last topic for this article is on the bioavailability of cannabis oil when ingested. Several companies I will talk about sell products designed in increase the bioavailability of cannabis when ingested compared to simply diluting concentrated cannabis oil in more oil and drinking it. To evaluate the differences in their products, we must first look at the meaning of bioavailability. When we eat something, it travels from our mouth, down our esophagus, to our stomach. Our stomachs are acidic and filled with digestive enzymes to break down food. After food leaves the stomach, it passes through the duodenum, entering the small intestine. We absorb most of our nutrients in our small and large intestines. Typically, the key aspect of making something bioavailable is to get it through the harsh stomach intact. Luckily for us, we can utilize the relationship between cannabis drugs and oil to make the drugs bioavailable. Humans don’t break down oils in our stomach, bile excreted into the duodenum after food has passes through the stomach breaks down oil. Oil doesn’t mix readily with our stomach acid for the same reason that water doesn’t mix with oil. This means that drugs traveling in the oil will be protected by the oil from the harsh stomach acid. Upon reaching the duodenum, the oil starts getting broken down, releasing the drugs into our small intestine.