Quality Control

Quality Control

Quality control tests are performed throughout the growing and production processes to characterize raw materials, such as testing for cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) content or the absence or presence of pesticides, mycotoxins, solvent residues, heavy metals and other contaminants. Stability tests are performed to document and support shelf life claims while finished product testing is critical for quality assurance and accurate labeling.

Mycotoxins: Like many other agricultural crops, cannabis plants are susceptible to contamination by mycotoxins during cultivation, storage or processing.  Mycotoxins are a group of carcinogenic toxins produced by certain species of fungi and mold. Mycotoxins can be identified and detected in the field or lab at the parts-per-billion level using immunoaffinity columns coupled with fluorescence detection, HPLC, or liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) techniques.

Pesticides: Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, growth regulators and other products are used to either protect crops from pests or help increase yields. Most are harmful if ingested and the safety risk for inhalation is largely unknown. Most states regulate the type and amounts of pesticides that can be used. Pesticide tests using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS and LC-MS/MS) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC=MS and GC-MS/MS) techniques are used to identify and quantify these substances.

Heavy Metals:  Toxicity occurs when a plant is grown in soil that is already contaminated with heavy metals. The heavy metals are then taken up by the plant and toxic if ingested. Analysis by ICP-MS identifies trace level contaminants such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and others.

Quality Control References

Kowalski, J., Dahl, J.H., Rigdon, A., Cochran, J., Laine, D. and Fagras, G., 2018, Evaluation of Modified QuEChERS for Pesticide Analysis in Cannabis, Evaluation, 1(2).
McPartland, J.M. and McKernan, K.J., 2017, Contaminants of concern in Cannabis: Microbes, heavy metals and pesticides In Cannabis sativa L., Botany and Biotechnology (pp. 457-474). Springer, Cham.
McKernan, K., Spangler, J., Zhang, L., Tadigotla, V., Helbert, Y., Foss, T. and Smith, D., Cannabis microbiome sequencing reveals several mycotoxic fungi native to dispensary grade cannabis flowers, (2015) F1000Research, 4
McLaren, J., Swift, W., Dillon, P. and Allsop, S., Cannabis potency and contamination: a review of the literature, (2008) Addiction, 103(7), pp.1100-1109
Citterio, S., Santagostino, A., Fumagalli, P., Prato, N., Ranalli, P. and Sgorbati, S., 2003, Heavy metal tolerance and accumulation of Cd, Cr and Ni by Cannabis sativa L. Plant and Soil, 256(2), pp.243-252
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