Bloom Farms Chief Scientist Michael Coffin never imagined a career in cannabis while growing up in the small, sleepy beach town of Laguna. He knew he loved chemistry, possessed a knack for carpentry and enjoyed exploring the great outdoors. What he would soon learn is that his pursuit of these passions would not only land him in the cannabis industry, but also make him a recent winner of the prestigious ElSohly Award from the CANN (cannabis chemistry subdivision) of the American Chemical Society.
“I never imagined myself in a place where a traditionally conservative branch of science would not only accept, but recognize, work in this field,” Coffin said.
The ElSohly Award is named after cannabis research pioneer Mahmoud ElSohly, Ph.D., who has been running the only DEA-sanctioned cannabis farm at the University of Mississippi since 1980. ElSohly has contributed great amounts of literature and resources to the cannabis community, and his works continue to inspire cannabis research today.
Now Coffin has been passed a cannabis torch, having earned the ElSohly Award for his advancements with cannabis oil extractions.
“I applied for the award with an abstract of some research we’d done at Bloom Farms concerning viscosity of high-potency cannabis oils and how to thin them so they work in vape pen hardware,” Coffin explained. “From the data that was gathered, I was able to set up some analytical expression about the decrease in viscosity of the oils by individual and mixed terpene addition. This allowed us to write a general form of the equation and determine the amount of cannabis-derived terpenes to add in order to achieve the needed viscosity. I’m still surprised that these equations continue to work so well.”
Despite Coffin’s recent honors, his road to glory wasn’t always an easy one. Like any great success story, Coffin’s path has weathered unpredictability, triumphs, tough obstacles (and eventually… sweet, sweet victory).
As a student, Coffin took a special liking to chemistry. Following the recommendation of his high school chemistry teacher, Coffin took off to Portland after graduation to study chemistry at the prestigious Reed College.
“I loved chemistry from an early age, and my high school chemistry teacher truly inspired me. I couldn’t get enough. I was his teacher’s assistant for two years,” Coffin says. “One thing I like most is the hands-on nature of it. Running experiments and assembling glassware has always brought me a tactile pleasure I haven’t been able to find elsewhere.”
After graduating from Reed College in 1995, Coffin chose to forgo an immediate career as a chemist to pursue his love of carpentry. He completed an in-depth carpentry apprenticeship and worked at various cabinet shops while building custom furniture on the side. He soon experienced another big life change; he met his now wife, and they had their first baby.
Seeking solace in the great outdoors, Coffin and his growing family moved to Grass Valley, California, where he bounced between various jobs, including high school chemistry teacher, general contractor and civil engineer. Eventually, Coffin landed back in chemistry, working for an acoustic physics lab called Impulse Devices / Burst Labs.
But the career roller coaster ride didn’t end there. Coffin was laid off from Impulse Devices / Burst Labs, which unbeknownst to him, would send him rocketing into the cannabis world and one step closer to his future successes with Bloom Farms.
“After I was laid off from Impulse Devices / Burst Labs, I explored and almost started a cannabis testing lab to leverage my experience in analytical chemistry into a new and growing field. When national level chromatography suppliers started sending out flyers about their cannabis testing solutions, I realized things had changed in a major way,” Coffin said.
He connected with Bloom Farms in 2015 after responding to a job posting on Craigslist. He managed to score a chemist position with the blossoming cannabis company and began making major moves in the industry.
“I was the first outside hire at the company in early 2015. Talking with Mike Ray a year or so ago at a company event, I took the time to tell him ‘Hey, thanks for taking a risk on me as the first person you hired that nobody at the company knew.’ He responded, ‘Hey, thanks for not quitting and telling the cops where we were,’” Coffin shares.
Coffin has made great strides for Bloom Farms and in the cannabis community and continues to overcome obstacles, breaking barriers and shattering stigmas through his cannabis work.
“The first year at Bloom, I was pretty coy about telling people what I was doing. I told them I was extracting and doing analytical chemistry on essential oils, leaving out the part about exactly what essential oil I was working with. Since the ACS created the CANN subdivision, I’ve been completely out and forthcoming about my day job as a cannabis chemist,” Coffin said.
Today Coffin is settled in Sacramento with his family and heading the labs at Bloom Farms, defining and documenting all of Bloom Farms’ extraction and processing methods.
Where will Coffin be in the next 5-10 years? With such a venturesome track record, it may be hard to predict—but Coffin hopes to be continuing his work with cannabis oils while spending more quality time with his family.
“Professionally, I’d love to continue in the cannabis field in one capacity or another. I’ve always entertained the fantasy of a boutique extraction lab where I could have the equipment and latitude to explore cannabis science,” Coffin says.“Personally, I’d love to get more time with my family, see my kids through college and ride my bike as much as I possibly can. I would love to have the time to get a rescue dog in my life as well.”
We couldn’t be prouder of our Chief Scientist’s work and his well-deserved recognition from professional peers. Congratulations, Michael Coffin!