While there are several cannabis testing methods that are have been used traditionally, the most exciting development in the field of cannabis testing has been the emergence of newer techniques such as high-performance liquid chromatography or HPLC, and gas chromatography or GC. Cannabis testing is a growing industry with the advent of legalization in Canada and many U.S states. It is critical that one uses high quality testing equipment to derive accurate results – to produce quality and achieve health safety standards. So, let’s learn about some of the cannabis testing equipment
Cannabis testing equipment can be used to extract natural cannabis compounds from raw plant materials, test their potency, and look for pesticides, residual solvents, heavy metals, moisture, and microbes, among other things. Equipment for cannabis include:
- The equipment for extraction includes Mills, grinders, homogenizers, solvent evaporation systems such as rotary evaporators, process-scale evaporators, and more.
- Cannabis analyzer instruments use HPLC, UHPLC, LC-MS, and GC-MS systems.
- GC or GC-MS systems use residual solvents to look at them.
- LC/GC and MS/Electron Capture Dissociation systems are used for pesticide testing.
- Inductively Coupled Mass Spectrometry or Atomic Absorption Spectrometry systems are used to look for heavy metals.
- Microbes: Incubators, qPCR systems, MALDI-MS systems, and so on.
- Moisture analysis- Moisture balances
Mass Spectrometry equipment can detect pesticide residues, terpenes, and cannabinoids. The challenge is to test the Cannabis products for aflatoxins B1, B2, G1, G2, and Ochratoxin as regulatory bodies require this test and require compliance. Mass Spectrometry instruments can be used to get more accurate results when looking for very small amounts of these mycotoxins. It can also be used to get more reliable and robust results when looking at pesticide residues and terpenes.
As is the case with any agricultural product, the moisture content of cannabis is critical. However, cannabis can be preserved for weeks or even months after harvesting until it reaches a dispensary. It may be sensitive to germs and pollutants during this time period, such as fungi with excessive moisture or molds with too little moisture.
If you buy marijuana, you’ll have to get it tested for moisture content. The results of that test will have to be written on the sample’s analysis certificate. Moisture analyzers are a simple and repeatable way to measure water content.
When you need to measure very small amounts of weight, accurately you need an analytical balance. When you use an analytical balance, the pan on which you measure is inside a transparent enclosure with doors. This way, dust doesn’t enter and the air currents in the room don’t affect the balance’s operations and readings. This device, which is called a draught shield, keeps the balance stable.
The one problem afflicting the cannabis industry, traditionally has been the lack of adequate testing and quality control. As the US and Canadian cannabis market is now regulated and growing, the safety and quality control levels have increased tremendously. Gas Chromatography GC is an effective way to test for residual solvents and other bacteria to adhere to the mandated health safety standards.
Gas and liquid chromatography both need a “mobile” and “solid” phase, which are both packed into a column. An inert gas (argon, helium, or nitrogen) moves cannabis extracts through a column in a gas system.
When you use gas chromatography, you can only use it to observe substances that aren’t very stable, like secondary cannabinoids and terpenes. However, unlike liquid chromatography, this method uses a detector called a flame ionization detector that makes the extractions break down (ex: transforms THCA into THC). Gas chromatography is the most common method used in cannabis labs today, even though it does take time and is an expensive test.
Liquid chromatography, like gas chromatography, also needs a column, a mobile and stationary phase, and a detector. Because it’s called “liquid chromatography,” it works with liquid samples. Furthermore, in an LC-MS system, instead of being exposed to a flame, the system uses UV light to look at the different compounds. LC-MS isn’t very useful on its own in the field of cannabis testing. It’s usually used with a variety of other instruments.
Near-infrared spectroscopy is a new tool being used in cannabis testing facilities. It’s a common way equipment used for research in the pharmaceutical, medical, and chemical industries, but not yet common in cannabis industry. Near-infrared spectroscopy may be better at analyzing the chemicals in cannabis plant than gas chromatography.
Near-infrared spectroscopy looks at how light moves through a sample in the near-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Every substance looks a little different in this range of 700 to 2500 nanometers, which makes it easier to analyze complex samples. Near-infrared technology was compared to gas chromatography in a study. According to the study, this new analytical method is an easier, more robust, and more precise method than the standard methods for testing cannabis products.
Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometry
As more and more states legalize the use of medicinal or recreational marijuana, there is a need to make sure that the products are of high quality and safe. So, cannabis testing regulations mandate the need to detect metals that could be poisonous if they are ingested or inhaled. The ICP-MS method is often used for quantitative analysis because it can measure many different elements at the same time, is fast, and is very durable.
Over the past few years, we have seen incredible growth in the Cannabis industry. As recreational marijuana has become legal in some states in the USA, it is expected that other states will follow soon. Consequently, the need for reliable cannabis testing and processing equipment will keep growing. To enable producers to optimize their yeild while ahering to regulatory safety standards.