The cannabis industry is booming. From medical programs to over-the-counter hemp products, consumers have more options than ever. In 2020 alone, the cannabis industry generated over $21 billion with sales only expected to grow. However, as more products enter the market, so are the reports of inconsistencies in quality and potency. Newer products like hemp-derived Delta 8 THC also pose risks for consumers as synthesizing the compound could introduce harmful solvents and chemicals without adequate testing or regulation.
As the gold standard for medical marijuana in Texas, transparency is very important to us. To ensure that our fellow Texans are receiving only the best medicine, we have equipped our analytical testing laboratory with over $1 million worth of advanced instrumentation.
Today, we’re giving you an inside look into that laboratory, led by our Director of Quality, Jennifer Blossom.
Jennifer began working in the Compassionate Use Program in 2017. Before that, she worked in the environmental laboratory industry, first as a chemist and later as a quality manager. Coming from a background in ISO 17025 accredited laboratories, her goal is to make data of known and documented quality. This requires keeping careful records and performing quality control checks each day to ensure our instruments are giving accurate data.
“Our industry is still so young and there’s a lot of work to do.” said Blossom. “We are currently participating in a cannabis quality assurance program through NIST (National Institute of Standards & Technology) where they provide hemp samples for blind testing. During the first exercise we were one of 93 labs that participated throughout the US. NIST is the gold standard for measurements and I’m really excited to be working with them to improve testing standards for the entire industry.”
So what do we test medical marijuana for exactly? Here are a few of the steps that we take to ensure quality, consistency and purity in our medical marijuana from seed to sale.
Medical Marijuana Potency
We know our patients expect a high-quality medicine that is consistent batch over batch. Potency testing not only allows us to certify that we are complying with state regulations, it also allows us to demonstrate that every batch contains the listed amounts of THC and CBD.
The potency of cannabinoids CBD, THC, CBN, CBDA and THCA are tested throughout our operations from cultivation, extraction, distillation and in our final product formulation. We use High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and regularly calibrate to verify accuracy.
The Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) vaporizes the sample and fragments (bombards it with electrons) to measure its mass to charge (m/z) ratio of ions. From this, we’re able to produce a “fingerprint” unique to each compound.
Next, we test medical marijuana for contaminants which include:
- Residual Solvents: Such as ethanol, which is used in the extraction process
- Pesticides: We do not use any pesticides at TOCC and are able to demonstrate this through testing.
- Metals: The big four metals we test for are lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. This is a very important test for consumers because cannabis is a bio-accumulator, meaning it is very effective at absorbing chemicals and contaminants from the soil. In fact, cannabis is sometimes used to remediate soil when there has been contamination. We encourage Texans to look for metals testing as it is not always clear where cannabis is sourced from and some parts of the world have higher concentrations of metals in their soil.
- Microbiological Contaminants: Including yeast, mold, E.coli and Salmonella. This allows us to demonstrate that our products are made in a clean and sanitary environment.
We understand that patients depend on us to get it right so they can access the benefits of medical marijuana without any shortcuts in quality. After all of the medical marijuana testing is completed, we produce a Certificate of Analysis (CoA). You can view the CoA for any batch on our website.
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