“I See Molecules” – A Closer Look at Dr. John MacKay

He will also tell you a story about an elevator and seeing dead people, but that’s just one of the many humorous, poignant, topical, esoteric, off-topic, on-point, and generally entertaining anecdotes you’ll hear during Dr. John MacKay’s Institute of Extraction Technology.  I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Dr. MacKay speak several times at various conferences over the years.  Dr. John and I are both devotees of the CBD Expo by Mace Media which, in my experience, offers the highest quality networking events in the industry.  Want me to prove it to you?  I’ll start with the fact that Dr. John is always in attendance.  

Having enjoyed numerous keynote addresses and panel discussions featuring Dr. John, I was so excited to hear that he developed a full-day extraction class as part of the CBD Expo Tour.  These intensives are purposefully kept to a small group of attendees at every stop.   As we entered the dedicated classroom, we instantly knew that this would not be your run-of-the-mill course in extraction basics.  Every student’s desk had an assortment of materials for the upcoming day’s lessons and experiments.  Dr. John uses mundane items to make the points of extraction.  Note to future students: getting the raisins out of Raisin Bran is separation; getting the frosting off Frosted Flakes is extraction.    Don’t get me started on what’s going on with the M&Ms; it’s complicated.

There were four main objectives of the course, and they seemed lofty to me at first as I scooched the cereal and puzzle boxes out of my way to take notes.  I LOVE #3:

  1. Understanding the different modes of extraction and separation and the hyphenated modes.  Have you heard of Separaction© or Extraporation©?
  2. Applying knowledge of concentration to optimize formulation-centric processing (FCP). 
  3. Return on Investment (ROI for the class) less than 10 working days.
  4. Applying knowledge of Formulation-Centric Processing to Business-Centric Impact (BCI)

Dr. MacKay’s goals for your attendance in the class are that it provides so much immediate value to your business that it costs you nothing.  Everything about the Institute of Extraction Technology is different in the best way, which is no exception.  As a Ph.D. Chemist and patent-holding innovator Dr. John has all the technical bases covered.  A quick perusal of his LinkedIn reminds us that he also has a product development and marketing background.  If you spend any time with John, you’ll quickly find out that he also loves the science of business and entrepreneurship.  That overlap on the Venn diagram is where Dr. John really shines during this course.  He is a student, a teacher, a creator, and an entrepreneur and all of those aspects come to bear on the coursework in a way that results in his commitment to this course paying for itself in 10 working days when you return to your lab.  

Concentrating on Extraction

Dr. John is a consummate scholar.  One of the first things I remember him saying in a conference talk was that he disciplines himself to read one white paper a day.  Years ago, when he suggested it, I thought it sounded like a great idea, and ideation is not execution.  In the years since he has read over a thousand white papers.  The fruit of this dedication to science is evident in any interaction with him.  He is always abreast of what’s going on in the greater extraction landscape, well outside yet completely relevant, to our little niche of botanical extraction.  There was a stack of printed whitepapers for students to peruse, but one was printed for a special purpose.  In attendance at this Institute of Extraction Technology session was another industry powerhouse, Dr. Jerry King.  It was something rather beautiful to see Dr. MacKay ask for Dr. King to sign one of his published papers.  Are you getting the feeling that Dr. john lives and breathes this information, curates a vast private library of documents, and really geeks out over engaging with the science and the science makers?  I hope so.  His commitment to the science, the craft, and the innovators gives him the foundation from which he can build this educational platform.    

Good is not a Number

It is a commonly held principle in quality management that you can’t improve something you can’t measure.  Dr. MacKay drives home that principle through examples and demonstrations that really engage the students to consider not just how to improve but precisely what we are improving and HOW MUCH we aim to improve.  It is the quantification of the data that allows us benchmarks for improvement.   The students taking the course along with me in Indianapolis included three business owners, two full-time extractors, a student interested in pursuing a career in the field, and a couple of guys who weren’t really talking about what they were up to but had FIRE concentrates to share on breaks, so draw your own conclusions there.   My point is the coursework was relevant to all the students in attendance because, more than anything, Dr. John is attempting to teach us how to THINK about extraction.  If we have the right mindset, ask the right questions and seek the data necessary to inform the process, we will be better extractors with more profitable businesses.  Learning how to be an informed student of the process is the first step to continuous improvement in our ventures.

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As quickly as Dr. John zooms out into principles of continuous improvement and quality control, he zooms right back into the micro-level with an incredibly detailed analysis of three main trichome types and their microscopic structures and constituents.  He also spoke to the differences in mushroom structures and entheogen extraction, which perked up all the ears in attendance. 

Dr. John led us through building molecules (all the class materials leave with the students and my molecule kit is my favorite!) of THC and its myriad isomers, and he showed us how Delta9 became Delta8, and it drove home the need for education like this.  Are in-lab classes with extractors and live material important?  Absolutely!  I would argue that in order to best benefit from a functional extraction class, it is important to have a foundation in extraction science like that provided by Dr. MacKay.  It is possible that someone could study and practice and become excellent at rebuilding engines with no understanding of how they work but imagine how much more effective that technician would be with an understanding of the actual processes happening when that motor turns over.  

Being in the Room with Dr. John MacKay

Forget the examples.  Forget the information.  Forget the copyrighted terminology.  Forget the take-home molecule kit-which is my favorite.  The biggest reason to take this course is to be in the room.  I was in a room with less than a dozen students and the full attention of Dr. John MacKay for an entire day.  He knows every student’s name, where they work, and what they do, and he cares about them.  He answered dozens of questions, and every engaged student got their money’s worth in consulting just getting their answers.

Dr. John MacKay - CBD Expo

My absolute favorite moment of the class (other than the molecule building, did I mention I got to keep the kit!?!) was when Dr. John was speaking to column packing for uniformity in extraction and said something like, “That was  an issue I had before I could soak the material” and a student quietly said, “I run an XYZ extractor, and you can’t soak.”  Dr. MacKay replied, “You need to tell your separatory funnel that it is blocked.” To which the student quickly replied, “No, it isn’t; I keep that really clean.  You just can’t soak the material in my extractor.”  To which, the sparkling-eyed Dr. John said, “Your need to have your separatory funnel be told it is blocked, and then the CO2 will be  soaking the material in the column.” It was one of those moments where you quite literally see the light go on in someone’s mind.  This student sat bolt upright in his seat and said, “If my separatory funnel is blocked, the column will soak!” and Dr. john went on to tell him where the setting was to tell the extraction machine that the funnel is blocked and to close the valves for a nice soak.  BOOM!  That hits goal #3 for this student.  That, my friends, is the value.  It is being in the room with a small enough group that you will get the value of the class in your answered questions.  It is having Dr. MacKay’s business card and him knowing your name and answering your email.  It is the opportunity to have lunch and breaks to get to know the other students and network with them.  

In 2022, Dr. John is taking this show on the road with stops in North Carolina, Seattle, Dallas, Las Vegas, St. Paul, Orlando, and Los Angeles.  For $710—see what he did there— you too can become a better extractor, better business owner, and better thinker.  If you’re lucky, he will even show you how to clog your separatory funnel, and it will change your game in all the right ways. 

Check out Extractioninstitute.com for details, and join us at the next CBD Expo event for the industry’s highest-level networking opportunities.

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