The Future of Cannabis Testing

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Let’s talk about Cannabis testing right now. In Colorado, the most popular methods of testing are Gas Chromatography and Liquid Chromatography. Both of these methods essentially take the entire product and force it through a teeny tiny tube filled with material that separates out the individual molecules either in gas or liquid form. It’s a good way to get accurate quantitative measurements of individual chemicals in a sample. The downside of these methods is that they’re destructive, expensive, require trained scientists to prepare and run samples, require transportation to a licensed laboratory and therefore, take a long time.

That’s a problem. It’s a problem because producers need fast data to make in-process  decisions about a product with such wide variety.

Enter Sage Analytics. I got the chance to meet this company in Boulder, Colorado last week. I like this kind of company because they’re offering solutions to the problem of slow, expensive and destructive testing. Their proof-of-concept product, the Luminary Profiler, uses Near Infrared Spectroscopy to test samples of dried, ground cannabis or extracts. That means that their device can detect concentration of THC, CBD and CBN using optical spectroscopy which is faster, easier and cheaper. This type of testing could be used for badly needed in-house process quality control.

The potential for this kind of technology is very exciting to me. It’s exciting because it can be tailored to only measure the factors important to industry. Things like cannabinoid content and moisture content. I was told that there’s even potential for testing residual solvents or pesticides.

Being able to quickly test materials in-process allows manufacturers to build quality into products before they get released. They could also perform many tests in a single batch to get a sense of what kind of variety they’re dealing with. Quick and easy testing of moisture content could revolutionize the curing process. Moisture content of cured bud might even be dialed in and standardized!

The most exciting thing about this company is the way they’re anticipating the needs of industry. For example, their desktop luminary isn’t very portable and isn’t useful for testing buds while they’re still growing. Anticipating the need, Sage Analytics is developing the “Nomad” testing system. The Nomad will be portable and will detect through a fiberoptic cable that can be put anywhere on the plant before or after harvest.

I can hear the naysayers now “If this won’t replace licensed laboratory testing, then what good is it?” And you’re right…kind of. It’s true that you’ll still have to test samples at a licensed laboratory, but this technology could give your company scientific control over its own product quality. It could also add value to those independent test results by putting them into the context of your own Quality Management System. The in-house and independent data will both reinforce that system. I recommend keeping an eye on Sage Analytics because this company is on the cusp of disrupting the way we think about marijuana quality control.

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