By John MacKay
By now, it is a foregone conclusion that incorporation of analytical testing technologies is a requirement for cannabis cultivators and product producers alike. Most importantly, qualitative and quantitative testing is required to meet state regulations to ensure that cannabis product producers consistently deliver safe, high-quality consumables. Additionally, mastery of analytical testing technologies can provide growers and processors with invaluable information about their crops and processing techniques that can drive efficiency improvements and provide competitive business advantages.
But does it have to have a Ph.D. bungeecorded to it? Why can’t everyone run it, including the investors when they visit the facilities? They should be able to do a spot check of the results at every stage of the workflow. They should be able to test the leaves, test the curing plants, test the extracted oils, test the products made from the oils, and their products in the dispensaries or stores.
Testing during various stages of the process can help to optimize growing conditions, increase harvest yields, accurately profile active compounds, efficiently extract compounds of interest, identify and remove contaminants. Modern analytical technologies like High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Gas Chromatography (GC), Mass Spectrometry (MS), Supercritical Fluid Chromatography (SFC), Infrared Spectroscopy (IR) and others are just a few of the valuable tools that are employed by scientists in on-site laboratories or by 3rdparty testing labs.
But, those are not the only choices for the investors to use. For example, there is thin layer chromatography, there is low pressure chromatography, there are some simple products with test kits using spectroscopy that provide basic potency results. There are simple kits that look at basic indicators of pesticides contamination. But there is NO excuse for NOT knowing at every stage if they are managing a facility producing a safe product and a process that is not losing money. Remember the famous saying: “Believe in God, everyone else bring data.”
Let’s take a brief look at some of the many analytical tests that growers and producers can employ, from cultivation to final product. Information derived from these tests will help them to optimize their process, consistently deliver safe, high-quality products, and achieve business success.
R & D: Analyze how growing and processing conditions affect the quality and yield of materials, such as verifying the cannabinoid profiles of young plants and optimizing the drying, decarboxylation and extraction processes.
Production Monitoring & Quality Control: Determine the optimum time to harvest, verify that the extraction is complete, monitor compositional changes during processing, and document product potency.
Contaminant Testing: Detect, identify and quantitate potential harmful compounds, including mycotoxins, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, growth regulators, and heavy metals, like lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium,andchromium in soil.
Growing and Harvesting: Increase crop yield and quality. Generate cannabinoid/terpene profiles to determine the optimal production yield and quality attributes.
Post-Harvest Testing: Monitor the effects of the production process, check the moisture content, and confirm the levels of the active compounds and absence of non-compliant pesticides on the plants.
Extraction: Determine the optimal extraction process that will deliver CBD-rich cannabis oil from the plant entirely, quickly, andcost-effectively. Isolation and purification techniques following extractionserve to remove unwanted compounds and providequantitatively purematerials.
Quality Control of Finished Products: Properly identify materials, assess the composition of materials and extracts, determine strength and purity, and provide compliance results and documentation for product labeling.
Check the technical literature frequently to see the latest technologies and their application inthe cannabis industry.