A test for pot potency from UBC Okanagan

Researchers develop faster test for cannabis quality.

With pot legalization on its way, producers are increasingly looking for quick and accurate means of determining the potency and quality of their plants.

Researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus have developed a new method of measuring phytocannabinoids—the primary bioactive molecules in cannabis—that will lead to faster, safer and more accurate information for producers, regulators and consumers alike.

“There is growing demand on testing labs from licensed cannabis growers across the US and Canada who are under pressure to perform potency testing on ever-increasing quantities of product,” said Matthew Noestheden, PhD chemistry student under Prof. Wesley Zandberg at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “Traditional tests can take upwards of 20 minutes to perform, where we can do it in under seven. It will save a great deal of time and money for producers with enormous greenhouses full of thousands of samples requiring testing.”

READ MORE: MARIJUANA IMPAIRMENT TESTING IS HAZY

Noestheden says that not only can he test the substance in record time, but he can also test for a virtually limitless number of phytocannabinoid variants.

“Most people are familiar with THC as the primary bioactive compound in cannabis. But in reality, there are more than 100 different phytocannabinoid variants, many with their own unique biological effects,” said Noestheden. “The problem is that it’s very difficult to differentiate between them when testing cannabis potency.”

Noestheden says his method was designed to be rolled out in labs around the world. Having worked with Rob O’Brien, president of Supra Research and Development, a cannabis testing lab and industry partner of this study, Noestheden now hopes his new method can be put straight to good use by helping researchers connect variation in phytocannabinoids with the pharmacological effects of various cannabis products.

The study was published in the journal Phytochemical Analysis with funding from MITACS, the University Graduate Fellowship and the Walter C. Sumner Memorial Fellowship.

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