Just like artisanal chocolatiers’ treats are created with care, craft cannabis is produced using a slower, thoughtful approach to growing, processing and packaging.
At the OCS, we define craft cannabis as dried flower that’s been hang-dried, hand-trimmed, hand-packaged and grown in a small-batch facility that produces less than 10,000 kg of dried cannabis a year (psst: keep an eye out for the new craft cannabis badge on dried flower and pre-rolls as you browse OCS.ca).
“To produce craft cannabis, there’s attention to detail paid every step of the way,” says Peter Doig, chief scientific officer at Rubicon Organics, grower of Simply Bare. “For us, craft cannabis means going back to basics.”
Here’s how they do it.
Step 1: Choosing a Craft Strain
Because craft cannabis is created in smaller yields, craft producers often experiment with new, regional or specialty strains, or those that require a higher level of care. While any cannabis strain is compatible with craft methods, certain strains require the hands-on treatment. For example, very sticky strains can’t be machine processed as they will gum up the equipment.
Simply Bare has a roster of about 100 strains, chosen for their ability to thrive in their greenhouse and living soil environment (more on that soon!). “We’re currently developing a breeding program that selects strains with enhanced pest and disease resistance, which in turn creates the potential for advancements in cannabinoid production and furthers our sustainability efforts,” says Doig.
Step 2: Cultivating the Crop
Craft cannabis producers use a range of growing methods. Some, like Simply Bare, may favour more eco-conscious methods. The company’s facility in Delta, B.C. strives for net-zero waste and is committed to water conservation, working towards 100% rainwater recycling.
Simply Bare uses a “secret recipe” of hand-mixed living soil that’s made up of a community of organisms — including locally harvested fish waste, kelp and Douglas Fir bark — that work together to break down organic matter, providing nutrition to the plants.
When it comes to pest control, Simply Bare introduces beneficial organisms, such as ladybugs, to deter damaging critters. “We’re careful not to strip anything away or add anything artificial. Instead of artificial pesticides, we enlist the help of nice bugs to eat the not-so-nice ones,” says Doig.
Step 3: Trimming and Harvesting
Key to the OCS’s definition of craft cannabis is that the flower is hand processed. This is where craft cannabis producers can really get their hands dirty.
Simply Bare inspects its crops daily, manicuring by hand to remove smaller leaves, ensuring the buds grow big and full. When the flowers are just right, they’re harvested from the plant by hand (instead of by machine), which allows for a more intact flower and protects the delicate trichomes. The goal is “well-trimmed with a well-balanced density,” Doig says.
Once the flower has been harvested, it’s ready to be dried.
Step 4: Drying and Curing
Patience is a catchword in the craft world. Instead of using trays and high heat to accelerate the drying process, craft producers hang full branches to dry for several weeks in a dark temperature- and humidity-controlled room. The nutrients and cannabinoids flow down to the flower, preserving the aroma and cannabinoid potency, and ensuring proper moisture content.
Once the flower is sufficiently dried, it’s onto curing, which is also done slowly to retain the aromatic and flavourful terpenes. The dried flower is placed in large bags and boxes in a cold room for at least two weeks, allowing the moisture to equalize and the residual chlorophyll and sugars to break down, ensuring a smooth-burning final product.
After it’s been dried and cured, the flower is ready to be packaged or, in the case of Simply Bare and many other craft producers, milled and rolled into pre-rolls.
Step 5: Testing 1-2-3
All legal cannabis products must be tested in accordance with the Cannabis Regulations. Simply Bare tests its cannabis while it’s in the final stage of the curing process to ensure the most accurate levels of cannabinoids and terpenes.
The company uses Health Canada accredited third-party labs to ensure the most accurate and reliable data. Each batch comes with a certificate of analysis, and every ingredient is traceable.
Step 6: Package It Up, Ship It Out
To preserve the delicate trichomes that have been carefully handled up to this point, craft cannabis is typically hand packaged. Simply Bare packs its dried flower in recyclable glass jars that are air sealed to keep the product fresh.
After receiving legally required labelling — which includes the standardized cannabis symbol, brand name, THC and CBD content, health warning message, and required product information, plus the federal excise stamp which shows the product is certified legal — the products are shipped across the country.
As more consumers seek out cannabis produced using a hands-on, traditional approach, the range of craft cannabis products on the market is sure to grow. Look for the OCS craft cannabis badge on your favourite dried flower and pre-rolls.