With a growing number of states legalizing both recreational and medical marijuana, there now exists a more pressing need for reliable and comprehensive cannabis testing to ensure product quality and customer safety. While most people associate cannabis testing solely with cannabinoids, cannabis testers must also analyze terpenes, residual solvents, heavy metals, and pesticides. Aaron Riley, a cannabis expert, hopes to educate readers on the importance of cannabis testing within the industry and how different harmful substances are tested.
THC, CBD, CBN
Cannabis tester’s primarily cannabinoid interest resides in CBN, CBD, and THC potency. When cannabis shows a poor potency of cannabinoids, it often means the product’s quality has deteriorated due to age or ineffective storage. Aaron Riley explains cannabis testers use primarily two potency analysis tests within the industry, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gas chromatography (GC) with flame ionization.
Terpenes are defined as the aromatic compounds found in plants. Terpenes are attributed to the creation of scent characteristics in a variety of plants such as lavender and pine; however, they are commonly associated with cannabis plants due to the abnormally high concentration of terpenes within the plant. In addition to creating a scent profile, terpenes have also been associated with a more enhanced “high” experience and numerous medical benefits.
Residual Solvents and Heavy Metals
When cannabis materials such as edibles and oils and are produced, the extraction process will often utilize solvents such as acetone, propane, butane, and isopropanol. These solvents, however, are incredibly harmful to cannabis users’ health and must be absent from the final cannabis product.
Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and mercury lead can enter a cannabis plant through contaminated soil. Like all other edible plants, cannabis must be tested for heavy metals to prevent metal poisoning and other health complications. Fortunately, the techniques and testing methods used for pesticide analysis within the food industry can be directly applied to the heavy metal analysis.
As cannabis requires a warm, moist environment to grow, the plant will often attract aphids, mold, and spider mites. While it is illegal for cannabis growers to use pesticides and fungicides against these dangerous pests, many cannabis growers will still elect to use harmful chemicals in an effort to save their product. Cannabis testing agencies must now create a system to test for a wide range of pesticides as any cannabis sample containing just 0.1 ppm of pesticide can be harmful. Even the most robust testing panel, Oregon’s 59-pesticide panel, will need to be expanded to ensure thorough testing.