Choosing the Right Equipment for Your Dispensary or Cannabis Business

By BCB Staff Writer | June 15, 2020

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Equipping cannabis operations with the proper technology can make or break the business.

Those who work in the plant-touching side of cannabusiness know well that equipping cannabis operations with the proper technology can make or break the business. Whether that business is cultivation-, processing-, or dispensary-based, compliance with safety, waste removal, packaging, and business security are all constantly weighing on a grower’s mind.

Depending on what kind of product the end result is, it’s important for distillation entrepreneurs to invest in the proper equipment; extraction equipment and ventilation systems are likely the largest investments a cannabis entrepreneur will make, so choosing wisely the first time is crucial to both the business and the grower’s wallet. It’s always better to have to grow into equipment than not have enough to keep up with demand; this is why larger distillation companies employ multiple of the same machinery. In the event that something breaks, there’s always a back-up.

Figuring out where to source the machinery is important as well. Due to the chemistry-based nature of plant-touching, some distillation operations will actually buy technology from existing chemical processing manufacturers. Along with advanced technology, these well-established businesses normally have better customer service professionalism and higher quality. Do not be nervous to ask to go tour the machinery in the facility before buying; that process of window-shopping is standard for plant-touching businesses. If a manufacturer does not include an owner’s manual with purchase, request one, assembly and cleaning instructions must be defined, and some machinery may require certain certification or training prior to purchasing. Lab layout/site planning is also important for larger businesses or smaller start-ups with less square footage; for example, CBD distillation operations are typically larger than those that focus on THC purification, thus requiring not only larger equipment, but more of it.

 

Depending on what kind of product the end result is, it’s important for distillation entrepreneurs to invest in the proper equipment; extraction equipment and ventilation systems are likely the largest investments a cannabis entrepreneur will make, so choosing wisely the first time is crucial to both the business and the grower’s wallet.

 

To keep up with industry trends, there are online forums, like Grass City, where all aspects of the cannabis industry are openly discussed, and Future 4200, where growers convene to talk new tech, compare grow journals, share pictures, and give advice to beginners and start-ups. The industry is still niche enough for word of mouth to travel quickly and reputation matters when the basics of business cultivation are at stake.

Although it’s unlikely that an entire machine will cease, smaller parts like tubes and pumps do require frequent replacement. Choosing a manufacturer whose customer service is well-established is crucial to eliminating downtime. Some manufacturers will actually assist with professional services such as replacement parts, calculating output volume, maximizing lab space, compliance, and extraction training. 

What equipment is chosen also depends on whether the distillation is focusing on CO2, hydrocarbon, or ethanol extraction; CO2 extraction is the most expensive but the cleanest, while hydrocarbon systems are less monetarily-depleting, but come with a higher risk of fire and explosions. That’s not to say that one process is “better” than another, though, and, for start-ups, investing in a 25-liter CO2 extractor that costs $400,000 may be a bad business decision. Comparatively, starter hydrocarbon machinery comes in at around $20,000, making these staples more affordable for new licensees.

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