As marijuana is legalized in states around the country, regulations for how pot is labeled and sold is becoming an issue that requires scrutiny. Marijuana edibles in particular are becoming increasingly popular with a whole variety of products on the market now from pot-laced gummy bears to pastries. The problem is that buyers are having a difficult time estimating exactly how much THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, they are actually consuming per edible. This is leading to the somewhat uncomfortable experience of ingesting more THC than desired. Warning labels containing more accurate THC levels in products could greatly help the blossoming edible marijuana industry.
Only 17% of Warning Labels are Accurate
Currently marijuana edible products have warning labels that contain a dosage of THC levels in milligrams to indicate how much is in the product. Unfortunately, tests show that only 17% of these labels are actually showing the correct level of THC in the product. Most of the time there is much more than what is being calculated. The process used to test THC levels is called high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). This is the test used in crime labs, medical labs, food labs, and more. It’s fast, easy, and usually very accurate. But ingredients that are often in marijuana products, such as sugar, fat, gelatin, etc. hide THC when they are liquefied for HPLC testing. This is the reason HPLC tests are turning out incorrect THC level measurements. There are also labs that refuse to measure levels because of what the sugar, fat, and gelatin does to their machines.
Devising a More Accurate Way of Testing THC in Edibles
Scientist Melissa Wilcox of Grace Discovery Sciences and her colleague Jahan Marcu, PhD as well as chief scientist at Americans for Safe Access have been working on a way to remedy the situation and get an accurate THC reading. They propose adding a couple of new steps to the marijuana edible testing process that will allow the sugar, fat, and gelatin to accurately separate from the THC. The steps involve first freezing a sample using liquid nitrogen or dry ice and pulverizing it. This makes it easier to get all the THC out of the solvent. Then all of the chemical components can be separated by running the solvent through a flash chromatography column. This allows the filtering of sugar, fats, and gelatin that gum up the HPLC machines. At this point it can be tested using the HPLC machine and an accurate result can be found.
More Samples Means More Accuracy
Another factor to consider is that many manufacturers of marijuana edible products are independent, often creating products in their own kitchen. This means that there may not be an even mix of THC throughout a batch. Some products may end up with more, some with less, even though they are from the same batch. Testing a few samples from each batch would allow for an average THC level to be estimated for these types of products.
This new testing process can revolutionize the industry for producers of marijuana edibles. Accurate warning labels will allow more people to trust and enjoy their experience of eating edibles. Child proofing marijuana edibles is also another precaution being looked at so children and adults alike are not ingesting the THC laced goodies by accident. All in all, the industry is developing safer processes as marijuana is legalized across the country.