Building a better edible

"Digital generated image of popsicles organized into rainbow colored pattern on pink surface," thanks Getty Images.

Enlarge / “Digital generated image of popsicles organized into rainbow colored pattern on pink surface,” thanks Getty Images. (credit: Getty Images)

Lo Friesen reaches for a plastic bag the size of a pillowcase filled with dark green plant matter. “Here we have some more material for our edibles clients,” she says. “Just giant bags of weed.”

Behind her, something is making a soft, regular chirping noise, like a little bird. Friesen turns and gestures at a silver contraption made of pipes and cylinders. “These are our machines,” she says. “This is where the material goes in.”

Friesen is a cannabis extractor in Seattle. Her company, Heylo Cannabis, is part of a whole ecosystem of suppliers, processors and distributors that has sprouted up since Washington state legalized marijuana in 2012. In this food chain, Friesen is somewhere between the plant growers and the retailers that sell to consumers. With the help of the chirping machines, her team separates and distills the various compounds found in the raw cannabis plant—the essence of weed. The result is a kind of oily, maple syrup–colored liquid that gently sloshes in glass flasks and jars in her lab.

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