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Did you know that cannabis was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia between 1850 and 1942 as a treatment for labor pains, rheumatism and nausea? This is what the history of medicinal cannabis tells us. [1] Nowadays, further research into the benefits of cannabis is teaching us why Mother Nature put the green plant on our planet. It’s not just our knowledge on cannabis that is increasing but also, the potency of this healing herb.

In fact, many reports [2] demonstrate a significant rise in cannabis potency, with one particular study published by Mehmedic et al., 2010 [3] indicating how cannabis in today’s market is almost triple the strength of the cannabis that was available two decades ago.

With such variation in pot potencies, it is crucial that you understand the strength and composition of cannabis products prior to buying them. Thanks to cannabis potency testing, this is possible.

What is cannabis potency testing?

Potency analysis is a process that all medical and recreational cannabis-based products must go through before being stocked on store shelves. Testing is usually conducted inside independent laboratories to assess the strength and terpene profile.

During the testing process, products undergo screening for pesticides, fungi, insects, bacteria, heavy metals and residual solvents, which ultimately minimizes the risk of contamination. The main focus of cannabis potency testing, however, is to identify particular cannabinoids.

Since the cannabis plant comprises over 500 chemical compounds [4], it is crucial to test for primary active constituents, such as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabinol (CBN), Cannabidivarin (CBDV), Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC) and Cannabigerivarin (CBGV).

Why is cannabis potency testing important?

Aside from the fact that cannabis potency testing enables buyers to make informed purchasing decisions, precise testing is also vital for medical cannabis patients who necessitate specific therapeutic responses. Every consumer’s biology is distinct and so, the way in which cannabinoids react with the brain and body may differ from person-to-person.

Studies have revealed a consistent increase in cannabis potency over time and in particular, the THC content of herbal cannabis around the globe. [5] As a psychoactive compound, Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC) may produce undesirable effects if consumed in excessive quantities, proving the importance of cannabis potency testing.

How is cannabis tested for potency?

Each state has its own testing requirements but in most cases, the main testing procedures remain the same – Gas Chromatography (GC) and Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). [6]

Let’s take a look at what each method entails:

Gas Chromatography (GC) – GC involves heating the cannabis product to separate individual components. Unlike HPLC, GC does not detect THCA or CBDA directly.

High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) – HPLC uses instruments with an ultraviolet wavelength detector to identify cannabinoid potency by direct analysis. This method does not involve heat-catalyzed reactions.

Plant genetics, growing conditions, the curing process and trichome development are some factors that may influence cannabis product strength. Seeking out a supplier who offers potency reports, such as those provided with FLÏ syringes, will ensure the product is free of pesticides, solvents and microbiological contaminants.