Cannabis Potency Testing

Cannabis Potency Testing

Cannabis potency testing is extremely important. Companies need to comply with state regulations for accurate cannabis potency labeling, and also rely on potency testing results when formulating cannabis infused products and edibles. However, there is always much concern around cannabis potency testing because different laboratories can return differing results. When cannabis testing is performed by experienced staff, using validated procedures and instruments this should not be a concern though. This article will provide you with insight into Juniper Analytics cannabis potency testing procedure. We test cannabis with integrity so we can provide transparency and reliable results.

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Oregon Cannabis Potency Testing by HPLC-UV

Cannabinoid potency is determined using HPLC-UV. HPLC stands for high performance liquid chromatography, and UV refers to ultraviolet radiation. This equipment measures a compound’s absorption of light at different wavelengths. For cannabis flower potency testing, moisture content also needs to be determined in order to provide the most accurate results. HPLC-UV is ideal for testing cannabinoid potency because it offers fast, easy, validated, and reliable results.

hplc cannabis potency testing
An HPLC Instrument by DataBase Center for Life Science (DBCLS), CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At Juniper Analytics, our potency testing service screens for ten different cannabinoids:

  • THCa
  • Delta 9 THC
  • Delta 8 THC
  • THCV
  • CBDa
  • CBD
  • CBN
  • CBGa
  • CBG
  • CBC

What is Total THC?

When cannabinoid potency results are provided, it will include the individual cannabinoid levels. We will also report the “Total THC” and total cannabinoids. “Total THC” means the sum of the percentage by weight of THCa multiplied by 0.877 plus the percentage by weight of THC. Total THC is important because most THC is in the form of THCa until it is decarboxylated.

What is Total Cannabinoids?

Total cannabinoids are the total amount of all cannabinoids in the sample. For example, if your total THC is 18%, your total cannabinoids may be 19.2% since the “total cannabinoids” are the sum of all cannabinoids in the sample (not just THC).

Overview of Oregon Cannabis Testing Requirements

For more details on Oregon cannabis testing requirements, you can view the OLCC Sampling and Testing Metrc Guide. Be aware that requirements change and we are reporting these as of January 2022. Be aware that OLCC is expected to make updates this summer.

  • Compliance testing is required for licensed producers/processors who grew/processed cannabis products and/or for licensed wholesalers
  • Sampling must be performed by staff of a licensed and accredited cannabis testing laboratory for compliance testing
  • Compliance test results are reported to the appropriate state agency and made available to the client
  • R&D testing can be performed at the request of anyone over the age of 21, can be sampled by anyone, and results are not reported to state authorities, with the exception of R&D pesticide testing in concentrates/extracts
  • Marijuana must be tested for potency, pesticides, water activity and moisture content
    • The batch size is 0.5% of batch weight, and is limited to 15 pounds
  • Marijuana concentrates and extracts must be tested for potency, pesticides and residual solvents
    • The batch size is dictated by size of processed lot
  • Inputs into an infused product or edible must be tested for the compliance requirements and final infused product must be tested for potency
  • By performing a Control Study, less testing is required for future batches made using the same SOP (edibles, infused products, extracts and concentrates)

What is Full Compliance Testing in Oregon?

Full compliance testing is required for all cannabis products intended for sale in Oregon. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) requires all marijuana items to be sampled according to ORELAP cannabis sampling protocols and tested according to OAR 333-007-0300 to 333-007-0490 and OAR 333-064-0100 to 333-064-0110. As mentioned above, R&D testing for cannabis is not reported to state authorities (with the exception of R&D pesticide testing in concentrates/extracts), but compliance testing is reported. Full compliance testing has defined parameters for batch size, sample size, and who can perform sampling. When it comes to cannabis potency testing, compliance testing ensures that products meet Oregon cannabis potency limits.

OAR 333-007-0210 Table 1: Retail Adult Use Cannabis Concentration and Serving Size Limits

Type of Marijuana ItemMaximum
Concentration or
Amount of THC
Per Serving
Maximum Concentration
or Amount of THC in
Container
Cannabinoid Product – Edibles
5 mg50 mg
Cannabinoid Product – Topical
N/A6%
Cannabinoid Product – Tincture
N/A1,000 mg
Cannabinoid Product – Capsule
10 mg100 mg
Cannabinoid Concentrates or Extracts
N/A1,000 mg
Cannabinoid Products Other than
Edibles, Topicals, Tinctures
Capsules, Suppositories or Transdermal
Patches and Not Intended for Human
Consumption
N/A1,000 mg

Juniper Analytics Cannabinoid Potency Testing Process

Once the sample arrives at our laboratory, we begin by checking the sample in. It is prepared for analysis by extracting the cannabinoids from the sample. Depending on the type of cannabis product, different solvents will be used to accomplish this.

full compliance edible testing oregon

Sample Preparation for Cannabis Potency Testing

Much attention needs to be paid when preparing a sample for testing. It is important to homogenize samples fully so the result is accurate. For example, if we have an 8 gram sample of cannabis flower, we won’t need to extract all of it. However, the amount taken from the 8 gram sample needs to represent the batch as a whole. If we were only to put the frostiest tips of the buds in our sample, that could lead to higher potency results that don’t accurately represent the whole batch. And if we were to include stems and leaves or only take lower buds we could have results that are inaccurately low. Part of being a lab that believes in integrity is ensuring that we are testing samples that truly represent the whole batch.

Cannabinoid Potency Analysis

Once we extract the cannabinoids from a sample, we filter out impurities. Finally, the sample is prepared for HPLC-UV analysis by diluting it according to our validated lab method. Once the sample is run on the HPLC-UV instrument, a chromatogram is produced. This is a graph with peaks along it that correspond to the different cannabinoids. A Juniper Analytics analyst reviews the chromatograms to make sure that they are accurate and then reports the results to Confident Cannabis.

When it comes to potency testing for CBD isolate, THC isolate, or other isolates like CBG or CBN, we face a challenge because the sample needs to be diluted significantly in order to be within the range that the HPLC-UV equipment can read and calculate. With any analysis there is an acceptable margin of error which takes into account slight variances from balances and analytical instrumentation throughout the entire analytical process. This margin presents a unique challenge for isolate testing because a producer might be shocked that their isolate tests at 98.5% potency instead of 99.9% potency. However, this lower value could be due to the measurement of uncertainty.

For example, if a CBD isolate was 99.9% pure and we had a calculated measurement uncertainty of +/- 1% (which takes into account the tiny variances using balances, pipettes, the analytical instrumentation itself, etc.) then you could expect to see results anywhere from 98.9%-100.9%.

What to Look for in a Cannabis Testing Laboratory?

Retail and medical cannabis testing rules are the responsibility of The Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Any cannabis product or cannabis flower sold at retail dispensaries must be sampled and tested according to those rules. When it comes to choosing a cannabis testing laboratory, you must have testing done at a lab that is accredited by ORELAP and licensed by OLCC.

In addition to accreditation and licenses, a cannabis testing laboratory should be transparent about their testing and sampling practices. Laboratory methods should be validated and equipment needs to be calibrated according to schedule. Cannabis testing laboratories should make their quality manual available to you upon request. You may be asked to sign a non-disclosure before viewing it, but this manual will outline the laboratory’s operations and how they comply with necessary regulations.

You’ll also need to consider cost and turn around time of testing. At Juniper Analytics, we utilize cutting edge scientific methods, the brightest minds in the industry, and an unmatched dedication to detail. Our cannabis testing services offer quick turn around, affordability, and results you can trust. Customer service is key and we offer responsive communication to ensure clients don’t feel left in the dark.