The Need for Cannabis Standards

We are in the middle of a robust global cannabis economy; the global cannabis market is projected to grow from $28.266 billion in 2021 to $197.74 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 32.04%.  Cannabis is the most commonly used psychotropic drug in the United States, after alcohol, and according to the United Nations, 158.8 million people use marijuana globally.  Recreational use has been legalized in 18 states in the USA for adult use and another 36 states allow it for medical use.  While we have learned a lot about the health effects of Cannabis, but we have a long way to go.

A study in 2021 revealed that there were more than 400 distinct chemical compounds in Cannabis including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and lipids.  The main focus of research has been on the cannabinoids, as this class of compounds activate a variety of brain receptors. Cannabis also contains more than 150 terpenes which can also produce a range of therapeutic and mood-altering effects.  One of the biggest issues is that there are a limited number of  cannabis standards (only 17 commercially available cannabinoid standards, and 20 or so available terpenes) in which to identify and determine the constituents of product samples. This could be why state-accredited laboratories are only required to test for potency in a limited number of these compounds.

Cannabis Standards

Cannabis Measurement Challenges: Need for Standardization

Cannabis or hemp samples contain a huge number of chemical constituents which will likely co-elute in a chromatography spectrum creating analytical errors and inaccurate quantitation. Current methods used for potency testing use a calibration curve with cannabis standards and quality control (QC) samples which lack any plant matrix components and are error-prone.

Another huge challenge is the quantity and variety of available Cannabis matrices (flower, cannabis infused products, oils, edibles etc.) that need to be analyzed.  These matrices require normalization to correct for differences in the total sample amount to assure accurate measurements of individual compounds.

The Cannabis Standards currently available usually have a natural-abundance isotopic-balance and cannot be used as internal standards, only as external calibrants.

IROA-based Cannabis Standard Measurement Workflow

The IROA-based Cannabis Standard Workflow is based on a (96 atom%13C) calibrated Cannabis Standard which contains all cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, etc. typically found in cannabis products.  As an internal standard it ensures measurements are accurate and consistent within and across testing laboratories.  Isotopically-labeled internal standards suffer the same matrix-induced ion suppression, source-modification, or chemical transformation.  The Cannabis Standard Workflow provides for complete verifiable compound identification and quantitation (suppression-corrected), and normalizes samples against one another (corrects for inherent sample variations, e.g. from dilution, or size).  For additional information and background information on this workflow, please refer to TruQuant.