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Cannabis is a flowering plant in the family of plants that also includes Hops and Hackberries.  Three species of Cannabis are generally recognized: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis.  Cannabis originated from Asia and has been cultivated for over 10,000 years.

Cannabis is also known as hemp or Marijuana. Cannabis has long been used for industrial products that are made from cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber, seeds and oils.   The Cannabis plant produces a set of chemicals called "Isoprenes".   Among these chemicals are "Cannabinoids" that give Cannabis its desirable properties as a medicine and "Terpenes" that give Cannabis its smell and flavor in addition to medicinal properties.

Each plant acts as a unique little chemical factory, producing 489 different chemicals including 70 Cannabinoids of 10 different types, Nitrogen Binding compounds, Amino Acids, Proteins, Enzymes, Sugars, Hydrocarbons, Alcohols, Aldehydes, Ketones, Acids, Esters, Lactones, Steroids, Terpenes, other Phenols, Flavonoids, Pigments, Vitamins and pure elements.  The plant's ability to produce different Cannabinoids and Terpenes depends on the plant DNA, its environment and how it is processed.  Therefore it is difficult to obtain a consistent Cannabis product.  Testing helps in the development of consistent plants and plant properties.

Cannabinoids exhibit special properties in the human body.  Humans have evolved with a set of Cannabinoid "receptors", and that "endocannabinoid system" is the primary regulatory system for all our organs including the heart and brain.  

Some Cannabinoids, such as Tetrahydocannabinol or THC cause a psychoactive, intoxicating or euphoric reponse from the body.  

Other Cannabinoids, such a Cannabinidiol or CBD do not cause psychoactive, intoxicating or euphoric reponse from the body.   

In recent years, there has been a greater interest in Natural Medicines and a wider Social acceptance of Cannabis as a medicine.  41 states have medical marijuana programs depite a federal ban on this plant.   The Government has made a formal effort to separate Industrial Hemp from that Cannabis used as Medicine, but this is specifically to restrict the use of the intoxicating THC cannabinoid and promote agricultural development.  

Further formal research is needed on the benefits of Cannabis and this can only come from decriminalization of this plant.  

 

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Cannabis is a unique plant in that it produces a set of chemicals called Isoprenes.  Isoprenes include both "Cannabinoids" and "Terpenes".   Cannabinoids are the compounds that give Cannabis its benefical medical properties.  Terpenes also have beneficial properties but also give the plant its aroma and flavor.

Each Cannabis plant acts like a tiny chemical factory producing isoprenes.  The plant's own DNA, Environment and how it is processed determine how much of each type of Cannabinoids and Terpenes it produces.  These factors cause a wide variability in the plants composition and properties.

The only way to know the cannabinoid concentration or potency, is to do chemical testing with analyzers.   The generally accepted method for testing cannabis potency is High Pressure Liquid Chromatography.   Chromatography is a method of separation and measurement.  But before we can do the Chromatography, we have to extract the cannabinoids from the sample.  This extraction is done with solvents.  

Measuring contaminents (like microbials, pesticides etc..) in Cannabis also involves separation of the contaminants from the  sample.   More on this topic in a later blog post.

 

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When doing any kind of product testing, it is most important to get a representative sample of the batch or lot produced.  We will quickly review three types of products: Whole Flower, Tinctures/Oils and Edibles.  

Whole Flower is typically sampled using a composite method and/or a randomized method.  The composite method involves grows with many plants.  A different portion of a plant from various randomized distributed locations in the grow is assembled into a "frankenplant" that is then homogenized.   The tote method involves taking a sample, from various locations in the tote or bin used to store the product, after curing.

For liquid samples, it is most important to get a homogenized mixture.  Cannabinoid oils tend to separate and homogenization is necessary to get the correct dosage per package.  Here it is best to test multiple packages from the batch.  Take one bottle from the start of the run, one in the middle and one at the end of the run to see how homogenous your process is.  Taking a sub-sample from a bottle will only give you limited information about the dosage of the entire batch.

Edibles need to be sampled as a Retail Unit.  It is the same as with liquid samples, however, that homogenization of the product may need to be studied with multiple random position tests.  

Sampling is a critical step in the testing process.  Please contact our lab with any questions you may have about sampling.

 

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Below are the typical and minimum client sample sizes for the different tests, sample types or matrices we test here at the lab.

Typical Samples often are retail package sizes or amounts the client feels is representative of their batch.

Minimum Sample size is the minimum sample we need to do a test.

Samples are homogenized, subsampled and homogenized again before testing.

Extracted Sample Size is the sub-sample we need to do a test per our validated Standard Operating Procedures.


Potency Testing: 11 Cannabinoids
Flower Matrix:  Typical Sample Size 3.5 Grams, Mininimum Sample Size 1 Gram

Tincture-Extracts-Oils Matrix: Typical Sample Size 10-30 millilter Bottle, Minimum Sample Size 1 milliliter

Edibles Matrix: Typical Sample Size 1 Retail Sale Package, Minimum Sample Size 1 Sale Unit 

Vape Cartridges: Typical / Minimum Sample Size 1 Vape Cart  100milligrams or 1mililiter

Isolate, Distillates,Concentrates: Typical Sample Size 1 gram Minimum Sample Size 0.5 grams

Statistical Sampling and Regulatory Samples will require much larger sample sizes than what is stated here.  Please contact the Lab for more information.

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When submitting samples for testing, we reccomend the USPS, UPS or FedEx.   If you samples are perishable, such as Fresh Flower or Edibles, we reccomend shipping them overnight with a ice pack or dry ice, available from most Walmarts in the Southern USA.  

Please pack your samples in a secure container, such as vacuum sealed or ziplok bag, or a glass eyedropper bottle or a small box.  Place your container in a plastic bag and then ship using the carrier's supplied packaging.  The USPS (Post Office) has many sizes of Priority Mail boxes for free and the smaller one will get here in two business days for $7.90.

Sometimes samples are viscous (like honey) and can be difficult to homogenize before sampling.  Take note of any separation of the sample before your package it and do what you can to mix it very good.  Contact the lab if you need sampling supplies or any further info on packing samples for testing.

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We’ve all seen the little glass dropper bottles lining the shelves of a nearby dispensary or health food store. Easy to purchase and use, tinctures offer a tried-and-true mode of cannabis consumption that has been around since long before the days of legalization. A dropper or two of a liquid tincture placed under the tongue is a solid sub-lingual delivery mechanism that can lead to quick absorption and lasting effects. But what exactly is in a tincture? Let’s take a look. Tinctures have been used in ancient and modern herbalism for centuries and are, at a basic level, an alcohol extract of an herb. The two necessary ingredients to any tincture are thus alcohol and an amount of the botanical from which to derive an extract. In the case of cannabis tinctures, this means the most basic ingredients are alcohol and cannabis. Ethanol, or grain alcohol, is the most common base for a tincture, but the extract can also be done by soaking plant material in oil or in vegetable glycerin under normal ambient conditions. A saturated MCT oil, such as coconut oil, is a common carrier for this type of tincture. 

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"NEHA carries online food safety training resources for the food safety professional at all levels of their career. The online courses are appropriate for both industry and regulatory professionals. NEHA strives to continuously add content that is based on the latest scientific knowledge and adult learning principles.

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https://www.projectcbd.org/science/endocannabinoid-system-and-biology-wellness
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CBD, one of the more than 100 chemicals in cannabis, is emerging as a popular wellness ingredient. The plant extract, often consumed as an oil under the tongue, is now the featured ingredient in high-end products including coconut oil, body lotion, face serum, olive oil, jam, bath scrub, cold-brew coffee, sports salve, lip balm, infused water, gummy snacks and dog treats. Products' prices vary but may cost about triple what their CBD-less counterparts do.
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