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Quality Control of Medical Cannabis and Cannabidiol: Weighing Applications in the Laboratory

CBD Testing Laboratory
CBD Testing Software LabX

 

CBD Testing: Quality Control of Medical Cannabis – Tests and Analytical Methods

CBD and medical cannabis products go through rigorous quality control testing to ensure safety and efficacy for consumers. Some of the most common tests are outlined below.

 

Pesticide Residue Testing

Pesticide residues that remain in medical cannabis products present a risk to the health of the consumers.

  • Identify and quantify pesticide residues
Pesticide residues can be identified and quantified using liquid or gas chromatography together with mass spectrometry (LC-MS and GC-MS).
  • Precise solutions
Accurate standard solutions are required to qualify and quantify over 100 different pesticide residues.
  • Highest accuracy with gravimetric liquid dosing
Create highly accurate solutions with an Excellence level analytical balance and the liquid dosing module that delivers the precise amount of solvent for the actual dosed amount of substance.
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Heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium, can be absorbed by cannabis plants from the soil and can be harmful to human health.

  • Determine the presence of heavy and trace metals
Common analytical methods include atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS), inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).
  • Accurate samples and solutions
Accurately weighed samples and precisely prepared reference standards are prerequisites for these analysis methods.
  • Avoid hidden errors by eliminating electrostatic charges
Avoid one of the biggest hidden sources of weighing errors with the XPR analytical balance's static detection and elimination system.
Total Yeast and Mold Count (TYMC)

Moisture in cannabis may encourage the growth of naturally occurring bacteria, yeasts and mold, creating microbiological contamination.

  • Perform microbial enumeration tests
The Total Yeast and Mold Count test (TYMC) assesses the number of microbial colony forming units per gram of sample.
  • Culture media
Appropriate culture media must be formulated perfectly to correctly promote microbial growth, requiring all ingredients to be accurately weighed.
  • Accurate formulation in just one container
Conveniently weigh out all your ingredients into one container on your XPR precision balance. Save your recipes on the balance and benefit further from guided processes and automatic recalculations.
Moisture Content Determination

When cannabis moisture levels are too high, microbial growth occurs, raw materials behave differently during processing, and product shelf life is affected.

  • Manage moisture from start to finish
Moisture content is measured in the raw cannabis materials, throughout the manufacturing process, and as a part of final quality control.
  • Accurate sample preparation
The standard analytical method is Loss on Drying (LOD) which requires accurately weighed samples to determine the moisture loss when the sample is dried.
  • Using a Moisture Analyzer for fast results
Test many samples simultaneously using a drying oven and an Excellence or Advanced level analytical balance. Or, for fast results of individual samples during manufacturing, a moisture analyzer delivers results in just a few minutes.
Pesticide Residue Testing

Pesticide residues that remain in medical cannabis products present a risk to the health of the consumers.

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Heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium, can be absorbed by cannabis plants from the soil and can be harmful to human health.

Total Yeast and Mold Count (TYMC)

Moisture in cannabis may encourage the growth of naturally occurring bacteria, yeasts and mold, creating microbiological contamination.

Moisture Content Determination

When cannabis moisture levels are too high, microbial growth occurs, raw materials behave differently during processing, and product shelf life is affected.

Quality Control of Medical Cannabis

CBD Testing Application Video
Mycotoxin Screening

Mycotoxins are by-products of fungi like yeasts and molds which can be harmful to people and animals.

  • Determine mycotoxin contamination
Common analytical methods include gas chromatography (GC) and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
  • Homogeneous samples
Correctly prepared homogeneous samples and accurate standard solutions are required for mycotoxin screening and associated extraction and clean-up procedures.
  • Accurate sample preparation
With readability as low as 2 micrograms, XPR analytical balances enable you to weigh samples as small as 6 mg in accordance with USP.
Cannabinoid Potency Analysis

Cannabinoid potency must be declared to enable consumers to correctly manage the amount of medical cannabis administered.

  • Measure potency accurately
Cannabis potency testing is usually carried out via gas chromatography (GC) and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
  • Precise samples and solutions
GC and HPLC require highly accurate standard solutions with specific concentrations. Precisely prepared samples ensure accurate potency determination.
  • High accuracy with gravimetric liquid dosing
Create highly accurate solutions with an Excellence analytical balance and the liquid dosing module without the need to use volumetric flasks.
Residual Solvents / VOCs

Solvent residues remaining from cannabinoid extraction processes can cause headaches, nausea, allergic reactions and more.

  • Confirm solvents are removed
After evaporation processes, solvent residues are tested for using gas chromatography with a flame ionization detector (GC-FID) or headspace gas chromatography with a mass spectrometer (HS-GC-MS).
  • Precise samples and solutions
Accurate standard solutions are essential for all chromatography techniques. Samples must be weighed accurately when determining tiny residues.
  • Flexible weighing and accurate concentrations
Excellence analytical balances provide accurate weighing results and are easily upgraded with the liquid dosing module enabling the preparation of highly accurate concentrations.
Terpene Profiling

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are responsible for a plant's smell and even flavor (e.g. rosemary).

  • Identify the cannabis plant strain
The terpene profile, together with the cannabinoid profile, identifies the plant strain and can be determined via gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS).
  • Accurate standard solutions
To qualify and quantify terpenes and aromatic compounds using chromatography techniques, it is essential to have precisely prepared standard solutions.
  • Semi-automated reference standard preparation
The liquid dosing module delivers exactly the right amount of solvent for the dosed amount of substance, providing a level of accuracy unmatched in manual processes.
Mycotoxin Screening

Mycotoxins are by-products of fungi like yeasts and molds which can be harmful to people and animals.

Cannabinoid Potency Analysis

Cannabinoid potency must be declared to enable consumers to correctly manage the amount of medical cannabis administered.

Residual Solvents / VOCs

Solvent residues remaining from cannabinoid extraction processes can cause headaches, nausea, allergic reactions and more.

Terpene Profiling

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are responsible for a plant's smell and even flavor (e.g. rosemary).

CBD Testing - Optimize Your Lab Productivity

FAQ – Medical Cannabis and CBD


1. Cannabis, cannabinoid, CBD, hemp and marihuana are all widely used terms, but what is the difference?

The cannabis glossary below will help provide some clarification on the various terms used:

  • Cannabis
    Cannabis is a flowering plant originating from Central Asia and belongs to the Cannabaceae family of plants. There are three main varieties that are used for the manufacturing of recreational and medical goods: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis.
  • Cannabinoids
    Cannabinoids are substances that occur naturally in the cannabis and hemp plants. There are over 100 different types of cannabinoids, the most notable of which are:

Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid

Tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC), the cannabinoid known for cannabis's psychoactive properties

  • Hemp
    Hemp, otherwise known as industrial cannabis, is a variety of cannabis that contains less than 0.3% of THC (by dry weight). Hemp is used in the manufacturing of medical cannabis due to its lack of psychoactive properties.
  • Industrial Cannabis / Hemp Products
    Industrial cannabis (CBD) products are made from hemp. Hemp plants are also grown for their fibrous stalks that are used in the making of textiles, clothing, paper, building materials, paint, insulation, body care products etc.
  • Marihuana / Marijuana
    In contrast to hemp, marihuana contains more than 0.3% THC (by dry weight). In fact, marihuana typically contains up to 25-30% THC. Marihuana is used recreationally for the psychoactive and euphoric effects it can have on the consumer. Marihuana plants are shorter and bushier than hemp plants, with most of the THC being found in the cannabis flowers.
  • Medical Cannabis Products
    Medical cannabis products are cannabis and cannabinoids that are prescribed by physicians for their patients. They are plant-based medicine products from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica species with three major active compounds: THC, CBD, and CBN. Dosage forms of medical cannabis products include oils, tinctures, powders, tablets, gel capsules, edible products including baked goods and sweets/candy, creams, patches, pastes and more.


 

2. Where are medical cannabis products legal?

In many countries around the world, cannabis is illegal, whereas medical cannabis is legal. However, the laws vary and are constantly changing. The laws are complex and industrial cannabis used for making CBD products can only be grown by licensed producers. Laws also apply to manufacturers and retailers of CBD products. Further advice can be found on the following Wikipedia page. However, consumers should learn about legality prior to the purchase or consumption of CBD or cannabis products by checking local regulations from appropriate official sources.


 

3. What are the regulations regarding testing CBD products?

With its legalization gradually expanding, use of medical cannabis is becoming more and more widespread. While consumers want to be assured of the safety and efficacy of the products they are consuming, there is currently no "gold standard" for the analysis of medical cannabis. However, the following can be referred to for more guidance:

  • American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP): "Cannabis Inflorescence Monograph" (2014)
  • AOAC International: "Standard Method Performance Requirements for Quantitation of Cannabinoids in Dried Plant Materials" (2017)
  • FDA: "Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)" (2020)


 

4. What is a certificate of analysis (COA) for cannabis or hemp CBD products?

Once a laboratory has completed tests on a cannabis sample, it details all the results in a certificate of analysis (COA). This will include the chemical make-up and potency of the cannabis sample as well as its safety, ascertained via tests such as those mentioned above. The COA can also be used to verify that the CBD product is advertised correctly. Any reputable CBD manufacturer will have their products tested by an accredited laboratory as a way of verifying product quality, and end consumers should look out for confirmation that rigorous testing has been undertaken. 


 

5. What are the rules regarding selling CBD products to consumers?

As previously mentioned, consumers should learn about legality prior to the purchase or consumption of CBD or medical cannabis products by checking local regulations from appropriate official sources. Consumers should look for evidence on the product packaging that the CBD or medical cannabis product has been rigorously tested. Furthermore, for direct sales to consumers of CBD and medical cannabis products based on weight, retailers must use a balance certified as 'Legal for Trade'. Legal for Trade balances are sealed at the manufacturer's site. The seal provides proof that the workings of the balance have not been tampered with so the consumer can be assured of receiving an accurate amount of the CBD product. The seal can only be removed and replaced by officials during balance calibration. METTLER TOLEDO's JET and JE balances are available as legal for trade instruments.


 

6. How can I be sure that my balance meets the accuracy requirements of my CBD tests?

It is important to be aware of the performance of your balance in relation to your CBD applications to understand if it meets your accuracy requirements, meaning a balance may be suitable for one application but not for another. To ensure your results are accurate, you must always be sure to weigh within the 'safe weighing range' of the balance. The upper limit of the safe weighing range is the capacity of your balance, so you need to ensure that the maximum weight you want to weigh is lower than the capacity. The lower limit of the safe weighing range is determined through a combination of the balance minimum weight, your process tolerances and the application of a safety factor. (The minimum weight of a balance is determined at point of use by a service technician and the safety factor varies according to the criticality of your application). The smallest weight you want to weigh must not be less than the lower limit of the safe weighing range. For more information on the safe weighing range, download our free guide "Safe Weighing Range Ensures Accurate Results".


 

7. How can CBD test data be handled more efficiently?

METTLER TOLEDO's proprietary laboratory software, LabX, offers comprehensive data management. LabX automatically saves all weighing results and takes care of all calculations. Not only does this save you a considerable amount of time, manual recording of weighing results is no longer required and transcription errors are completely eliminated. All data is saved in a secure centralized database, hence ensuring the traceability of your CBD weighing results. Results are easily accessible for further analysis and for transferring to other laboratory instruments and systems. Customized reports can be generated at any time. LabX offers centralized management of users, tasks, and up to 30 connected METTLER TOLEDO instruments.

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