Barriers in Cannabis Research and Analysis

The world of cannabis is at an important moment. After decades of criminalization, the drug has been subject to a wave of legalizations, in various locations around the world and within the United States, for both recreational and medical use. But this new era of legal cannabis has resulted in several fields being left to play catch up. In the United States, many state’s laws are now out of step with federal legislation and the rapid pace of change along with the legal discordance between individual states means there is a lack of standardization in cannabis production and testing that is ideally needed to ensure safe cannabis use and foster an environment for medical research.

Pittcon 2019, taking place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 17-21, will take a look at these pressing issues within the industry while highlighting how recent advances in analytical technologies can help assist and advance the rapid developments in this field. Demonstrating the wide range of parties with interest in this space, the conference will bring together chemists, systems engineers and patient advocates along with representatives from the leading companies delivering tools to meet the growing demand for cannabis analysis.

Challenging times

While there has been a rapid change of pace in cannabis laws, those who wish to see access to cannabis expanded or conduct medical research on the drug may find themselves frustrated. In particular, in the United States, the previously mentioned conflict between state and federal laws can come between scientists and their ability to legally obtain marijuana for research. This impediment to research means that although medical cannabis is legal in many states, there is not a large body of evidence to support its use for a number of medical conditions.

For the field of cannabis production, the increased demand and emergence into the mainstream has created a need for standardized procedures throughout the process from “seed-to-sale”, to ensure consistent, safe and high-quality product.

The role of analysis

One major concern with the emergence of legalized cannabis is the necessity to verify what is actually present in a particular cannabis product. This includes the profile of the cannabis, such as its strain, potency and aromatic profile, as well as ensuring the absence of potentially harmful contamination like heavy metals, pesticides and residual solvents. Here, analytical methods have a clear and critical role to play.

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For example, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a useful method for analysis of cannabis samples and can be used to rapidly determine factors such as location, strain and quality. At Pittcon 2019, Andrew Fornadel from Shimadzu Scientific Instruments will describe analytical workflows using ICP-MS for the detection of heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead, which can accumulate within cannabis plants and be harmful to health. Jack Henion from Advion will also show the utility of single quadrupole mass spectrometry for detecting pesticides in cannabis samples.

Safety first

Particularly in the medical cannabis arena, safety is a major issue that needs to be addressed. If cannabis is going to gain traction as a therapy to be used alongside conventional medicine, then it will need to undergo the same rigors as pharmaceutical drugs to ensure patient safety. At Pittcon 2019, you can hear from Lori Dodson, deputy director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, who will explain how her organization have developed regulations for the production, dispensing and testing of medical cannabis and the challenges they have faced along the way.

Where next?

A major focus of the cannabis analysis program at Pittcon 2019 will be on the call for greater standardization across the industry. Katherine K Stenerson of Merck will outline workflows that can  used for some of the most common tests performed on cannabis: potency, pesticide residue and terpene profiling, The conference will also introduce the patient perspective, with a talk from Tracey Ryan, a mother who became involved in medical cannabis research after sourcing the drug for her daughter who was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor as a baby.

The cannabis analysis program at Pittcon 2019

Pittcon will be taking place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania March 17-21, 2019. In addition to the talks mentioned above as part of the symposia program, the Pittcon expo will be attended by all of the major companies operating in the analytical space. Confirmed exhibitors include Shimadzu, Bruker, Phenomenex. Advion and Merck (previously known as Millipore Sigma). Given the pace of change in this industry, there is no better time to get up to date with the latest developments in the field of cannabis analytical research, and no better place to do it than at this year’s Pittcon.

References

About Pittcon

Pittcon® is a registered trademark of The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization. Co-sponsored by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon is the premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science.

Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult. Pittcon donates more than a million dollars a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.

Visit pittcon.org for more information.


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Last updated: Mar 14, 2019 at 11:42 AM

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