Different strains of hemp can vary in their composition. The relative number of cannabinoids they produce depends on the type, age, variety, harvest time, growth, and storage conditions. For ‘controlled cannabinoids’, levels of THC and the tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THC-A) are determined in a matter of seconds. This process involves a Fourier transform near-infrared spectroscopy (FT-NIR).
However, another method, known as ‘liquid chromatography (LC)’- and LC coupled to mass spectrometry (LC-MS) allows for the accurate quantification of primary cannabinoids. This includes THC, THC-A, CBD, and CBD-A, found in extracted and chemically synthesized CBD.
This technology allows quality determination, even with the most volatile components of the CBD extracts. Still, the limit of detection (LOD) or limit of quantification (LOQ) of each technique is necessary to ensure the legal requirements for psychoactive cannabinoids are consistently met.
This is because contaminants can be easily produced during the cultivation process. They may also come into play with storage, transportation of the plant, and the synthesis and extraction/purification process. It’s so easy for hemp to collect harmful compounds from soil, water, and fertilizer; like heavy metals and pesticides. Not only that, mycotoxins can occur with fungal contamination if the plant isn’t properly managed.
While these contaminants might only be found in trace levels, too much exposure can still present a safety risk to end-consumers.
Technologies that could easily detect toxic elements like arsenic, mercury, and lead are typically available in food quality laboratories- thus, there needs to be a way for both small and large-scale CBD producers to access this technology and ensure the quality, safety, and sustainability of their CBD health products.