• Why is Medical Cannabis Tested?

Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

Why is Medical Cannabis Tested?

Mar 13 2022

Like other pharmaceutical products, medical cannabis is a highly regulated industry. Testing plays an important role in helping companies develop new treatments and ultimately, ensuring consumers enjoy a safe and effective product.

Below, we take a closer look at some of the most important reasons why medical cannabis is tested.

To determine potency

Cannabinoids - naturally occurring chemical compounds produced by the Cannabis sativa plant - are what give the flowering plant its physiological and psychoactive properties. More than 100 active cannabinoids have been isolated from the plant, each interacting with the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors to deliver its own unique pharmacological effects.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the most widely recognised cannabinoids and is what produces the psychoactive “highs” associated with cannabis. In comparison, Cannabidiol (CBD) is not a psychoactive and is instead coveted for its medicinal and pain relieving benefits. This makes it the main cannabinoid of interest for medical cannabis scientists.

Analytical methods such as Gas Chromatography (GC) and High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) are useful for detecting, isolating and quantifying cannabinoids. Results are used to determine the potency of a product and ensure it delivers the desired medicinal results.  

To detect contaminants

Cannabis is a natural product and as a result, has the potential to take on contaminants. Analytical testing is used to detect a wide range of contaminants in medicinal cannabis, including heavy metals such as copper, lead, mercury, arsenic and tungsten. Traces of pesticides can also be present in cannabis, with techniques such as HPLC, GC/MS and LC/MS used to detect traces of chemicals used to deter insects such as aphids, corn earworms, hemp russet mites and Eurasian hemp borers.

To meet regulatory requirements

The medical cannabis industry is strictly regulated by national and international bodies. Like other pharmaceutical drugs, products must undergo in depth testing and analysis before they’re offered to consumers.

In the USA the National Conference of State Legislatures outlines the definitions of medical cannabis as determined by different states. For example, in Alabama medical cannabis must contain THC content of less than 3%. In Idaho, state legislation requires medical cannabis to be “composed of no more than three-tenths percent (0.3%) tetrahydrocannabidiol by weight” and to contain “at least fifteen (15) times more cannabidiol than tetrahydrocannabidiol by weight” and finally, to contain “no other psychoactive substance.”

Laboratory testing ensures medical cannabis manufacturers can meet these regulatory requirements and continue to offer legal therapies to patients.  

Find out more about the rapidly growing medical cannabis industry, including additional information on the physiological and psychological benefits of the plant, in ‘Medical Cannabis - Testing, Analysis & Identification.’


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