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Opinion of Industry: All Laboratories Results on Cannabis are “Wrong” so Why Bother?

01 Jun Opinion of Industry: All Laboratories Results on Cannabis are “Wrong” so Why Bother?

I can’t have a conversation about medical or recreational (adult use) marijuana that doesn’t turn to the terrible results by the analytical laboratory results within 10 minutes.

A common statement I hear is, “I sent the same sample to three different labs and got vastly different results. Which is right?

Personally, I suspect that there were at least three different results. The three labs just had to report one answer, but how many had vastly different results, and, they had to pick the one they determined the most accurate number.

If this is a fact, then why are companies being told that they must test at an independent lab? And, where does this typical conversation bring us?

Besides expressing their total frustration with all labs, there’s also great suspicion about where the money has gone that they pay for these suspect results. On a side note, it is interesting that I don’t typically hear about a specific person working for a lab being called out, but rather, the consumer blames the entire laboratory as a whole like it is a living species.

Are ALL results wrong? Well, yes, it is a fact. That is why analytical chemists adhere to the “laws” of statistics and report margins of error. This is further supported by the publicly announced results of most recent tests of labs of just standards in a vial; they were different by at least 25 percent.

That is ALARMING. It had nothing to do with sample preparation or complex samples — it was just a simple amount of compound in a vial.

So, time to give up? NO!

This dark cloud will move away and the sun will come out when the issues are identified and solved.

An industry focus on cannabis testing protocols

The first reason is that in the past six months, volunteers of major professional chemistry organizations have become proactively involved in defining protocols for cannabis testing. They come from every facet of testing and validation experience.

It really is an astonishing occurrence that many of the professional chemist organizations are forming committees of people wanting to fill the void and determine the best protocols for the analysis of testing needed in the cannabis market. This is beyond just the four or five major cannabinoids on labels, but rather as many as can get standards as possible and determine a single procedure that all labs will be judged by.

But it is also about pesticides, residual solvents, metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, molds, as well as the biologicals. Some of the organization include:

  • American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS, www.aocs.org);
  • Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC, www.aoac.org);
  • American Chemists Society (ACS, http://www.acs.org);
  • Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL);
  • American Society of Pharmacognosy, (ASP, http://www.pharmacognosy.us/); and,
  • Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS, http://www.CannabisStandards.com).

There are more than this, of course, and they are working together with large and small efforts.

This demonstrates the change in just the past six months. Professional chemists with decades of experience in developing methods and procedures are determined to bring standards and protocols by which labs will be judged as qualified to test the products in the Cannabis Industry.

Labs are working to self-regulate themselves

Secondly, and even more remarkable, is that many of the labs serving this industry are so determined to provide the most accurate and precise results to the consumer that they are beginning to get together to self-regulate themselves.

Why is this remarkable? Rather than holding their methods and procedures secret, they are openly sharing. It is important to them to explore the cause of apparent disparate results.

Is it the sample preparation? Is it the calibration standards? The handling of the sample throughout the process? Are there some measurement of weighing, liquid measurement, pH, purity of solvents and gases? It is the calibration of the instruments doing the analyses? Or perhaps is it the qualifications of the humans doing the work? And, each of these questions could be contributing an incorrect answer just a little bit under or over accurate answer.

A drive to build consumer confidence

Thirdly, some labs have placed themselves through the difficult third party qualifications like ISO 17025. This provides the consumer the confidence that a third party has approved the lab’s SOPs to the strictest standards.

These all bring to the consumer the confidence that they are getting a result that is an accurate and precise representation of the sample that they brought to the lab. So, the industry has a lot to look forward to in the next six months. Stay tuned as these volunteers dedicate their time and experience to making a real difference.

I hope you extract the best from your day.

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