Cannabis Testing Should Highlight Actual Usage & Product Concentration

According to Marijuana Business Daily, the regulatory bodies for hemp and marijuana throughout the United States are shortsighted in the requirements for testing contaminant levels for cannabis and cannabis-derived goods.

Image of x-rays of a lung
Image from Marijuana Business Daily

The expectation is that the contaminants are detected, quantified, and then eliminated in the supply chain in the event that the level of contamination is high or surpasses the specifications levels.

But, there are times when the components of cannabis products are deemed “safe” and within specifications but they could still carry risky or even fatal consequences.

This is also the case for concentrates, which are employed to create vapor.

Supra Research and Development in Kelowna, British Columbia, was appointed in the year 2021 by Oregon Liquor Control Commission to offer an insight into the vaping-related lung injuries (EVALI) issue in the years 2019 and 2020.

They studied the effects of byproducts and products that were subjected to temperatures high enough to be that was consistent with the mechanisms for vaporization.

Understanding the requirements for processing concentrates as well as the potential for residual solvents Supra was a reference to USP (467) residue solvent specifications and concentration limits for specific solvents.

The samples were prepared by encapsulating them within hermetically sealed glass headspace vials. They heated the samples at a certain temperature for 5 minutes, then returned the sample to ambient temperatures after which they tested the sample using an analytical method for residual solvents employing headspace GC/MS.

Supra researchers incrementally increased temperature. They found that when the temperature climbed to 300 Celsius, “almost all materials … fail,” which means the USP (467) of the solvents that remained were above the limits of specification.

Based on data analysis the team concluded that the temperature of 240 Celsius is the “highest temperature at which any device for vaporization should set to” …” and said that terpenes and cannabinoids were successfully evaporated at temperatures of 180 Celsius without any thermal loss.

The Supra research revealed the ineffectiveness of three important components that led in the EVALI crisis:

  • Vitamin E Acrylate (tocopherol Acetate) failed in 240 Celsius.
  • Squalane is a moisturizing component that is thermally degraded to create acetone, methanol and formic acid, and acetic acid.
  • Squalene is a terpene, which is hydrogenated by squalane and is found in small amounts in cannabis. It is utilized in the cosmetics manufacturing industry to act as a moisturizing ingredient. As squalane begins degrading at around the temperature of 240 Celsius and squalene starts to decay at around 180 Celsius.

The issue with the outcomes is that, in the absence of any other substances, squalene and squalane are generally considered safe (GRAS) however, when exposed to extreme temperatures such as when they are heated to vaporize or to melt, their thermal degradation could result in dangerous and even dangerous outcomes.

Louis Levey is the Content Success Manager and Founder at No Strings Content. He's passionate about helping cannabis businesses use content to attract, educate, and convert audiences. His hometown is Boca Raton, Florida, but he currently lives and works remotely in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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