March is Women’s History Month. To celebrate the contributions of women in the Maryland cannabis community, our Field Marketing Manager Georgia Asmar reached out to the vanguard of women who are leading the industry. Georgia spoke with CULTA's Extraction Supervisor Brittnay Bouton to chat about how she landed in Cambridge and her career growth in our lab department.
Where are you from and what brought you to Maryland?
I was born and raised in east Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains, then moved around a little bit until settling in Colorado in 2006. I met my husband Jay Bouton while living in Denver in 2008. We both worked in the music, restaurant, and cannabis industry in Colorado, and when the opportunity to work with CULTA came up my husband and I took the leap of faith and headed east. We packed our bags in 2018, and headed for Cambridge, MD. We have been here for five years now and absolutely love living close to the beach!
Is this your first job in cannabis or did you work somewhere else prior?
I got my start in the industry by working on a large trim team in Colorado. I had previous experience from our legal medicinal cannabis grow since 2008, so I was able to help with many post-harvest processes like trimming, big leafing, and curing product. Cannabis culture is engrained in Colorado, and when recreational cannabis passed in 2014, many of our friend’s had cannabis grows, so we shared ideas on strains, growing and extracting techniques, and how the flower gave an array of flavors and effects.
Do you and Jay ever have friendly disagreements about which department makes better products?
Not really about which department makes better products, but we do have friendly disagreements about which products we like better. While we both agree that we absolutely love funkier, gassier strain profiles, I love strains that are higher in terpinolene, like Durban Poison, which isn’t a profile that he is a big fan of.
Do you have a background in science?
I do not have a background in science, although I am college educated. However, working at CULTA has been a higher education in itself. I also credit our former Lab Director Michelle Sprawls with helping to educate me on many of the scientific processes of extraction. My passion to let everyone see the healing benefits of this plant has driven me to do additional research on techniques in extraction and has put me where I am today.
When you first started, was it intimidating working with science and expensive hi-tech equipment?
Absolutely! This is my first job processing cannabis on this scale of equipment. I understood some of the basics of extraction, so working with LPG’s (liquid petroleum gasses) were completely new to me. I’ve had some amazing teachers, and with the outlook and positive push in the right direction, I was able to understand and repeat these procedures we currently use today.
What was your starting position at CULTA and how did you end up as an extraction supervisor?
I started as a packager in the lab in 2018 and worked in that department for almost a year. The extraction department had an opening for a technician, and due to my prior extraction knowledge, I interviewed and got the job! I was a technician for two years, a lead technician for a year and half after that, and I was just recently promoted to extraction supervisor.
We are hiring for extraction jobs. What words of encouragement can you provide to someone with zero extraction experience but wants to get their foot in the door?
If your passion for the plant or the science is there, then don’t hold back! Take a shot because it’s easy to talk yourself out of doing something difficult, but with a good support system and a solid team, great things can happen!
What is your typical day-to-day routine at CULTA?
I start my day at 6:30 am in the lab prepping and preparing the extraction room for the day. A safety check is done on all equipment being utilized, and then it’s time to extract some gold! A typical day includes loading pounds of material into micron socks, while standing inside a sub-zero freezer, to extract in our closed loop systems. A typical run lasts 30-90 minutes, during which I’m monitoring pressures in each column. After collecting and purging the extracted oil, we then transfer it over to the oven room team for post-process procedures, like whipping, purging, and getting the product to the desired consistency.
For those who are new to dabbing, what do the different consistencies mean for each concentrate?
So many consistencies! Budders and badders have a brighter, softer, more dense consistency, almost like a cake batter in the mixer, while shatter has a more glass-like texture and appearance.
How does cultivation play a role in CULTA's lab?
The genetics and phenotypes the cultivation staff selects play a huge role in how flavorful and potent our final products are. Fantastic flower in, fantastic concentrate out.
Extraction is heavy on the science. Generally, it's less understood than cultivation. What are the biggest misconceptions about lab products?
The biggest misconception is probably how these lab products are produced. Whether it’s the solvents we use to extract with, or the equipment used, not many people understand what type of environment we work in, in order to produce the extracts we do. It is an extremely safe environment, and we handle all lab processes with care.
Do you prefer working with cured material or fresh frozen material?
Both are amazing to work with and have a place in my heart. Depends on my mood, but I will always love good fresh frozen material. Our cured products have been taking over as my favorite recently, so I guess I love them both!
Can you explain the difference between the products made with cured material and fresh frozen material?
Fresh frozen products have been made from fresh frozen flower, which has been harvested at the peak ripeness and frozen immediately to maintain the flavor and smell closest to the living plant. Cured products are made using material that has been cured for weeks after the plants are harvested, which can give them slightly different consistencies or flavors.
What are some of the products you make, and of those products which are your favorites?
We make a variety of products that it’s really hard to pick favorites! Some of my current rotational “faves” are the Candy cream cured badder, which has a very citrusy, zingy, intense flavor profile. My favorite live product has to be the Rainbow Belts live resin badder, which smells and has a very Zkittles forward flavor profile.
Do you have a favorite piece of equipment to work with? If so, what is it and why?
My favorite piece of equipment, which is the first piece of equipment that I started working with in the lab, is the PXP by Precision Extraction Solutions. This closed loop hydrocarbon system is what produces all of our top-quality extracts and is a true gem to extract with. It’s ability to maintain extremely cold temperatures allows us to extract the specific compounds we desire in a concentrate.
How do you determine quality products from standard products?
From a basic level, look/color, smell, and consistency are the main things we look for. I feel that freshness and high terpene content is what best determines high quality products from standard. We hold a high standard on all the products we create and, if something isn’t right, it doesn’t leave the lab doors.
How will your department change with adult-use cannabis legalization on July 1, 2023?
Our department is ramping up on production now and we hope to offer new exciting products in the near future! Edibles and solventless will also be more of a focus.
It was so amazing to learn more about your experience and get a better glimpse into what you do. Thank you for your time, Brittnay!
I am excited and grateful for this opportunity to show the lab off! Thank you!