The Technology Behind Safe, Legal Cannabis

Jan 14, 2019 | Blogs, Food / Beverage | 0 comments

The Third in a Three-Part Series

Part 1: Cannabis is Legal in Canada – How Did We Get Here?  
Part 2: Canada’s Focus on Cannabis Quality and Safety Intensifies 

Welcome to the third in a series of blogs from the cannabis team at SCIEX, designed to bring you up to speed and put you in the lead of the recently legalized cannabis market in Canada.

‘Protecting public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis’ is high on Health Canada’s agenda. In the last blog, we explored the tests involved in ensuring legal cannabis is safe, here we will examine the technology behind these tests.

What the Analytical Testing Lab Needs to Know
Whether cultivation, processing, analyzing or selling, anyone planning to operate in the market must be a cannabis license holder under the Act. Legal cannabis products must be produced within the rules of the law and undergo rigorous testing before they can be made available to the public.

Regulatory standards for cannabis testing are expected to evolve, and it would be fair to say that the cannabis testing landscape is not only uncertain, but it is complex. Here’s a quick rundown on where things stand at the time of writing this blog:

  • Laboratories certified for analytical testing must conduct all tests using validated methods on every lot or batch of cannabis to ensure regulatory requirements are met
  • There are already rules for testing in place for medical marijuana, but these are expected to become more comprehensive and stringent – watch this space
  • Testing depends on the cannabis product class, but will typically include potency, terpenes, pesticides, and contaminants such as heavy metals, solvents, and mycotoxins
  • While there are industry-wide rules and standards, different provinces and territories will set their own legislation action limits or acceptable maximum residual levels
  • Complex analytical characteristics of the plant mean labs need to quantify many residues with dirty matrices and handle sample variation depending on the cannabis product class
  • There simply aren’t enough labs to keep up with the volume of samples and the demand for testing services is expected to rocket

With the challenges outlined above, the question is:

What Techniques Best Suit These Testing Demands?
Labs need the right instruments and methods to stay ahead of regulation, keep up with demand and deliver fast and reliable results – better than the competition. We believe this can be achieved with the most advanced technologies that offer high-throughput validated methods for accurate results, with complete workflows that combine tests into a single analysis.

The industry is now turning to instruments that are proven in more established applications, such as food and pharma, and have already been applied to cannabis testing with great success. High-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is one of these technologies.

Cannabis has historically been monitored by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) requiring complicated sample preparation with derivatization and relatively long sample run times. LC-MS/MS has now emerged as one of the most reliable and robust high-throughput analytical methods available, tackling the demands of cannabis testing head on.

How We Can Help
SCIEX offers everything licensed analytical testing labs, regulatory laboratories, and licensed producers need to perform a wide variety of tests to Health Canada standards while cutting tests down to record time.

We have pioneered standardized testing methods that enable you to overcome the complex analytical nature of cannabis in regulated markets. Best-in-class LC-MS/MS technology has been applied to potency, terpene, pesticide, and contaminant analysis, allowing you to match all chemical residues to the lower possible limit, within a single instrument. Users experience superior selectivity, sensitivity, and ruggedness without extensive sample preparation.

To help your lab meet demand and get ahead of new regulations, we have put together an exclusive free cannabis testing info kit packed with useful information, including methods and solutions to common screening challenges.

Fill out the form on your right to download the info kit, and take the first step towards fast, accurate, and compliant cannabis testing.


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As an ever-expanding group of chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) require novel techniques to monitor their current and historical presence in the environment. Concerns over exposure to PFAS chemicals continue to grow, with some having known toxic characteristics and the potential effects of others remaining unknown.1 In addition, while PFAS are one of the most persistent synthetic chemicals to date, most of them hardly degrade in the environment.2 So, how long do traces of PFAS last in our environment? Two tools used to help answer this question are active samplers and passive samplers.

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