Analytical Testing for the Cannabis Industry: Consumer Safety vs. Regulatory Requirements

Christopher Hudalla, ProVerde Laboratories, Inc., Maryland, USA

The cannabis industry is currently one of the fastest growing industries worldwide.  This growth is fueled by recent revelations of the benefits of cannabinoid therapies for many health conditions.  One challenge that has emerged is the ability to ensure consumer safety, providing accurate dosing and products that are free from potential contaminants.  Analytical testing is a necessary component to ensure patient/consumer safety for products that are being consumed both medicinally as well as recreationally.  Yet, most jurisdictions have minimal or no regulations in place to require analytical testing. In regions where analytical testing is mandated, there is little synchronicity between requirements from one region to another.  In an effort to address this, several organizations have begun to develop and validate methods that can be used as a basis for this testing.  These methods not only encompass testing for the active phytochemical constituents (cannabinoids and terpenes), but also for potential contaminants including heavy metals, residual solvents (VOCs), pesticides, mycotoxins, and microbiological contaminants.  The methodologies that are being used to meet these testing requirements include a wide variety of chromatographic techniques in addition to mass spectrometry and variety of approaches to address microbiological contaminants.  Standardization of these methods for the industry will give regulators the resources they need to include sensible requirements for regulation and legislation that is being crafted to monitor and control the use of cannabis within the medical and adult-use markets.

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