Testing Cannabis Products, A Needed Conclusion
Testing Cannabis Products, A Needed Conclusion
Proper laboratory testing is crucial in all industries where consumable products are produced for Humans and or animals. The cannabis industry is no exception, cannabis faces a difficult scenario which is attributed to the lack of current regulations regarding testing and distribution. We know that without testing, people get sick and when people get sick, the Government wants to incorporate a way to prevent sickness, which usually results in testing as Poncie Rutsch explains in her Quality-Testing Legal Marijuana: Strong But Not Always Clean article: “Last May, after people began getting sick from edible marijuana products, the state of Colorado began requiring all products to be tested.” This is one of many examples where testing integration is imperative.
Brief Cannabis Background
There are two major cannabinoids (chemicals that exist in cannabis which have an effect on our bodies): tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THCa) and cannabidiol carboxylic acid (CBDa), as well as a plethora of minor cannabinoids. These two major cannabinoids have been the subject of much debate in the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century. The debate boils down to what THCa does when heated or allowed enough time to pass, THC a will experience a degenerative chemical reaction to form THC which is an illegal molecule in the American Federal Theater, classified as a Schedule I Drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration which gave us a definition from their website of what it means to be a “Schedule I” drug:
Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:
Heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4- methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote”
Regardless how the individual feels about the argument, it is important to detect if there is THC and or CBD in a consumable product because of not only the legality, but also the effects of THC. One of the reasons for THC’s illegality is because of its psychoactive nature, it makes you “high”. Below is a chart that was published in the Wall Street Journal which highlights the areas in the brain Cannabis affects.
Reading the article, we discover that THC has an effect on many parts of the brain which you may or may not wish to experience based on personal preference and or the legality of the state you currently reside. If you DID want to experience these effects because of your personal preference and you reside in a state in which medical and or recreational cannabis is recognized as legal, it is known that different concentrations of THC yields more or less intensive results, it would be imperative to the individual to know if there is THC in their product, and a percentage, relatively fast thus testing for the major cannabinoids is imperative. If you did NOT want to experience this phenomenon of getting “high”,
it would be imperative to know if there is THC in the product you have and thus testing for the major cannabinoids is imperative.
Testing for Cannabinoids
Now that there is a brief understanding of why testing for major cannabinoids is important, we need to understand how that happens, how does one test for cannabinoids in their product? There are actually many ways this can be done, the first and most accurate measurement of testing is using chromatography (a process in which a chemical mixture carried by a liquid or gas is separated into components as a result of differential distribution of the solutes as they flow around or over a stationary liquid or solid phase – Merriam Webster), more specifically: high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC), and or convergence chromatography (CC). These chromatographic methods are the most accurate because of a few reasons.
To achieve a successful test:
A graduate level degree is needed (usually a PhD) to read the results from these machines and prepare the standard operating procedures. Below is a chromatography chart created by Restek.
These machines must operate in a controlled laboratory environment.
These chromatographic machines and methods are the most advanced on the market and can cost multiple hundreds of thousands for the machine, not to mention the ancillary equipment such as a spectrophotometer (to read the data) and in the case of supercritical fluid chromatography which needs a CO2 (if you are using CO2 as your mobile phase) recycler to be able to continue using CO2.
Above is an Agilent 1260 Infinity HPLC-Chip/MS System
These procedures are in-depth, which is a good thing because it allows for accurate readings, the negatives for this form of detection has a long list. Probably one of the most important reasons why this method is questioned is because there are many laboratories that do the exact same testing in this nation and around the world, this is a good thing, however the issue arises when there is no standard operating procedure for the industry; this fatal insurrection results in laboratories preforming tests differently from other laboratories and the result is different readings. If you are consumer and or grower of cannabis where it is legal, and you send three samples of the same material to three different labs, you will get three different results. This is not the only issue, prices may be too expensive for the individual for example: if the consumer purchased a small amount of cannabis from a legal state, a usual laboratory chromatography test can cost multiple times more than what the consumer paid for the cannabis; not only this, but the wait time can also be an issue, especially for growers of medical marijuana (where in some states, testing is required but may take weeks to achieve and this results in plant material sitting around and losing freshness before it can be sold) and industrial hemp (where farmers must be under a certain percentage of THC or the entire field of industrial hemp will be removed by the government). Most of these people cannot wait around, but as described before, they need results.
There exists a method of detection which can be done inexpensively, fast, and by the consumer. This method is a modified chemical beam test which, when activated, provides a color the consumer can compare to a color chart that will show whether THC and or CBD exists in a product, and if it does, this detection will give an approximation based on the actual percentage inside the product. This is the CB Scientific Test4THC and Test4CBD detection kits found at http://www.test4kits.com these kits will not give an actual percentage, but a color approximation and is very easy with just three steps, anyone can detect what is inside their product.
For the growers and shop owners, CB Scientific joint ventured with a Canadian laboratory which provides an actual percentage test for: cannabinoids, pesticides, and heavy metals called the uPrep test. This test uses the previously discussed chromatography methods but is much quicker because of how the process is done. Also, this laboratory is attempting to create a standard operating procedure for testing cannabis in Canada by working with the Canadian government to do so. If it is adopted, we may see the law perpetuated in America. Also available from the above website.