What makes cannabis potency analysis different from other testing done on cannabis? It is the only test for which there is no “pass” or “fail” outcome but rather the result determines the monetary value and optimal use of cannabis.
As the legal cannabis industry gains legitimacy on an international level, new regulations are changing the marketplace. While the regulated sale of cannabis creates myriad business opportunities, those same regulations lay the groundwork for new and increased regulatory scrutiny. Many of the testing requirements of cannabis are fulfilled by laboratories (e.g., residual solvents, heavy metals, pesticides) but in-house testing is becoming more popular with cannabis companies. Forward-thinking businesses are increasing in-house testing to refine their products, increase quality control, and create an extra line of defence to comply with ever-increasing regulatory requirements.
Today, the HPLC is considered the “gold standard” for testing cannabis potency. Yet, THC and CBD measurements vary widely across testing laboratories using HPLCs. Moreover, there is no universal cannabis potency testing protocol to enable standardization. There have also been reports, particularly in the United States, that licensed laboratories bump up potency results to satisfy customers.
The HPLC does not offer a practical and efficient solution to meet the growing demand for in-house testing solutions along the cannabis supply chain. The capex and opex costs linked to the HPLC pose a challenge to most industry players. Beyond the high cost of an HPLC device, testing requires a skilled lab technician to operate, complex sample preparation, use and disposal of hazardous materials, interpretation of results, all while the sample itself is destroyed.
In the best-case scenario, the HPLC is effective for single flower accuracy but it is not viable for reaching analytical conclusions related to batch consistency challenged by the flower’s heterogenous nature; no two flowers are the same. HPLC testing is not efficient for high frequency on-line testing and for providing results in real time for decision making on the spot, whether it be for R&D, QA or transactional support.
NIR spectroscopy (NIRS), however, offers a viable alternative. It is non-destructive since it tests samples in the solid phase leaving flowers intact, it is easy to use, quick, affordable, accurate when combined with the right data science, no special skillset is required to operate, there are is not residual hazardous waste and its small footprint enables portability.
GemmaCert sees a rising demand for new spectroscopy-based solutions, understands that in-house testing will become increasingly popular with cannabis companies and the sooner rather than later point-of-sale testing will prove standard for business-to-business cannabis transactions. GemmaCert’s technology is best positioned for transactional and comparative purposes, offering in-the-moment information that a third-party laboratory cannot. As a result, GemmaCert is on track to become the field leader for in-house testing in the cannabis industry.
1. Understanding the natural and technological challenges of testing cannabis potency
2. Introduction to NIR spectroscopy as a reliable solution for advancing cannabis quality assurance