Poison bottle with skull and crossbones

The Dangers of Synthetic THC

Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana, spice, and K2, are synthetically engineered chemicals made to mimic the effects of marijuana. There is, however, one very critical difference – unlike plant-based, natural marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids can lead to hazardous side effects, and in some cases, they can even be toxic.

Some of the severe side-effects linked to the use of synthetic cannabinoids include:

  • Tachycardia or rapid heart rate
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

Poison bottle with skull and crossbonesOne case involved 130 New Yorkers being hospitalized after experiencing severe adverse symptoms caused using K2. This is barely the tip of the iceberg compared to over 8,000 emergency room visits reportedly caused by the drug in New York City between 2015 and 2016, despite the drug being declared illegal in 2012.

The chemical has even been linked to several deaths, leading the CDC to warn against the drug on their website, advising people to avoid it and call for emergency assistance immediately if they have taken it.

study performed by Dutch researchers seems to confirm this severe view of synthetic cannabinoids. The study tested the effects of recreational synthetic cannabinoids and found that the active ingredients were far more dangerous than those found in natural cannabis products.

The study found that participants were left with an increased heart rate and performed poorly on motor skill and cognitive assessments. Additionally, participants showed more significant levels of impaired cognitive tracking, confusion, and memory loss and experienced an impaired sense of reality and identity.

The reasons posited for this is that while THC found in natural cannabis affects the brain’s same receptors, synthetic cannabinoids bind more strongly to these receptors and therefore cause a more potent reaction.

While many people may feel this has nothing to do with them, as they only use natural cannabis products, a Dutch organization that monitors and educates on drug use has recently reported finding natural cannabis products laced with synthetic chemicals.

Unfortunately, this puts even natural cannabis users at risk of experiencing the dangerous side-effects of synthetic products. It is almost impossible to tell whether synthetic chemicals have been added to the product. The only way to know for certain is by testing the product yourself.

Lab testers often don’t test for synthetic chemicals, so the safest route is to go for in-house testing. While this does not provide a 100% guarantee, it is your responsibility to minimize your customers’ risks and provide them with a quality product.

Canopy Growth And The Need For In-House Testing

Canada’s leading cannabis product producer, Canopy Growth, was embroiled in a media scandal recently. Canopy Growth was reported to Health Canada’s Cannabis Compliance Directorate by a rival cannabis producer and accused of mislabeling products.

The cannabis producer was accused of falsifying the THC levels in their products after 18 different batches of products were labeled as having a flat 20% THC potency rate. The statistical likelihood of so many batches of cannabis products containing identical 20% THC rates is extremely low.

Cultivation of cannabis. A hand in a white rubber glove holds a sheet of marijuana.

Cannabis in Canada

For Canadian cannabis consumers, the most significant incentive for purchasing a cannabis product other than price is potency. The minimum perfect potency preferred by Canadian consumers is 20%, meaning that growers aim to get their plants to achieve potency levels of at least 20%.

Currently, Canada’s licensed producers have over one billion grams of cannabis product held in storage due to low quality or insufficient potency. Over US$8 billion worth of products have been discarded for lack of quality and low THC level.

Each batch of product is required by Canadian law to be labeled accurate THC and CBD percentages. However, the cannabis regulations in Canadian law do not set THC or CBD variability limits for dried flower products. There are standards for the labeling of the potency of edibles and extracts. Health Canada claims that this is due to the potency levels of different parts of the plant and different batches having variations of potency levels.

Canopy Growth’s Response

Canopy Growth’s spokesperson released a statement claiming that only strains that meet the potency standards set for that particular product will be sold. Products are expected to meet this potency threshold after being tested by independent, third-party labs and in-house. In short, Canopy Growth state that they will only release products onto the market once they have met the company’s standard for potency in both an in-house test and a test performed in a third-party lab.

The Need for In-house Cannabis Testing

Canopy Growth’s claims that their product has met the standards of in-house and independent testing and doubts presented by the statistical unlikelihood of so many batches achieving the minimum ideal threshold for cannabis potency illustrates the benefits of in-house testing.

Canopy Growth has adopted in-house testing in an effort to maintain a high standard of quality on their products and ensure that the best batches reach their consumers. Additionally, turning to in-house testing minimizes the risk of errors or failing to comply with potency regulations and minimizing wastage by determining potency levels early in the growing and production process.

Marijuana plant leaf

The Evolution of the Cannabis Industry

In 1996, the modern-day cannabis industry was forever changed when medical cannabis was legalized in California. In the years that followed, cannabis legalization became a global phenomenon and spread to other countries and continents. Today, over 50 countries have legal cannabis programs and 6 countries have also legalized use for adults.

Marijuana plant leaf

Era 1: The Infancy Years

During this period (1996-2018), many industry players were driven by a passion for cannabis and its therapeutic benefits which were widely based on anecdotal evidence. Unfortunately, these industry forerunners were generally ill equipped to handle high growth businesses and were focused on secrecy, in addition to having little to no understanding of the need for regulatory compliance.

Investors lacked the necessary knowledge to perform effective due diligence. Additionally, they failed to understand that as with most mainstream agricultural crops, the cannabis flower would inevitably turn into just another commodity.

Era 2: The Adolescence Years

The era we are currently in began in 2019. This era has been defined by increasing regulatory oversight, intensified competition, and continuous product development. This has been overshadowed by short-term opportunists and market speculators entering the market. Capital access has played a significant role in a company’s abilities to grow and become a competitor in the market, and flower prices drop as a result of competition and oversupply. Venture capital and private equity groups with at best limited expertise in the cannabis industry are backing large-scale operations.

However smart investors are on the lookout for new ventures to add true value to the market, in particular in technology-driven companies which service the industry. These technology companies can ride the upward trajectory of the product and have higher profitability than cultivation-based operations. In the words of Mark Twain: “During a gold rush, it’s a good time to be in the picks and shovels business.”

This era is likely to continue until cannabis is legalized on a federal level in the United States, which could happen during the first term of the Biden Administration, although nothing is guaranteed.

Era 3: Full Maturity

Once cannabis becomes legalized at a federal level, the industry will enter the era of full maturity, which will be defined by the wide legalization of cannabis for adult use. Therapeutic/well-being uses will likely be supported by new scientific evidence, and a new wave of pharmaceutical drugs may enter the market after years of research and clinical trials.

International trade will be facilitated and corporations will be the major players of the industry, as is the case in the pharmaceutical and food industries. Playing a major role in supporting the industry’s capital needs will be professional institutional investors, and cannabis will become just another commodity.

Maximizing yield will become a focus and economies of scale will be critical. Focus will also be shifted to cannabis quality assurance and an increase in productivity and throughput, and more value will be placed on brands.

GemmaCert Product Line

NBA Freezes Cannabis Testing for the 2020-21 Season: What About the Next One?

The NBA recently announced their decision to no longer test players for cannabis use during the 2020-2021 seasons. Previously, the NBA has waived the need for drug testing due to the need to limit contact with players during the pandemic, while trying to manage the already complex rules set in place for the shortened season. The announcement that the NBA would once again skip testing for cannabis use may hint at significant changes in the future of sports and drug testing.

Basketball and hoop

Players and Pain Management

Cannabis is already well known for its medical benefits and its ability to help people treat chronic pain, and NBA players are supposedly no different, reportedly using cannabis for pain management and to counter inflammation. Despite the heavy penalties previously given for cannabis use by the NBA, it is estimated that 50%-80% of players have used cannabis to treat the health conditions mentioned above. Additionally, while cannabis is a drug, is far from a performance-enhancing one, and does not give an added advantage to athletes who use it compared to any other painkiller.

One NBA veteran pushing for greater acceptance of cannabis in the world’s leading basketball league is Al Harington. Harington had used CBD in 2012 while rehabilitating a knee damaged by multiple botched surgeries. Since then, not only has the former basketballer become a vocal advocate for medical cannabis, he has also started a company to produce and market medicinal and recreational cannabis products

What the Industry Can Do to Further Cannabis Acceptance in Sports

To make medical cannabis less stigmatized and to allow the NBA, as well as other sports leagues, to adopt long-term pro-cannabis policies, scientific research into treatment safety and efficacy must be promoted by the cannabis industry.

Until December of 2018, the federal government classified CBD as a “Schedule I” substance, making performing studies of it extremely complicated. While studies done on animals or in conjunction with other active substances found in cannabis, such as THC, do exist, it is difficult to draw any conclusive evidence from them that CBD alone can be used to treat pain in humans.

In order for medical cannabis use to gain further acceptance in sports, the cannabis industry must take matters into its own hands. Industry leaders must undertake the responsibility of performing or at least encouraging high quality, long-term tests performed on humans, from which conclusive results can then be drawn from. Unfortunately, there currently seems to be no shortcut for making cannabis a mainstream therapeutic treatment in the 21st century.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

THC Limit for Hemp Eradication Raised to 1%

In accordance with the wishes of farmers and the hemp industry, the USDA has raised the THC levels which trigger hemp eradication to 1% from the 0.5% which it was previously. This change was intended to come into effect on the 22 of March 2021; however as it was released by the office of outgoing President Trump’s administration,  this new rule will likely be frozen by the Biden Administration. This is standard for a presidential transition, when new rules and revisions issued by the outgoing administration are often frozen and reviewed.

When the Farm Bill of 2018 was passed, hundreds of growers and other industry stakeholders were opposed to the 0.3% THC limit which was mandated. This limit is extremely low, seems random, and is not based on a scientific source. Any crop which exceeds this limit is considered “hot” and must be destroyed by farmers.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

The authorities are finally willing to recognize the struggle farmers face battling the many factors beyond their control which can cause an increase in total THC levels. These factors include seed genetics and climate, which can contribute to a crop surpassing the negligent violation threshold for THC.

Additionally, raising this threshold to 1.0% reduces the risk of producers incurring negligence violations without increasing the risk of non-compliant material reaching channels of commerce.

Despite the convenience the new rule offers to cannabis growers, it does create an issue for international trade, as in Canada and the EU the threshold remains at 0.3%. This makes the export of American hemp to these markets impossible.

The new rule will also require that the total THC of a crop, which includes accounting for the potential conversion of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) into THC, is reported and used to determine the THC content of a hemp sample.

Today, GemmaCert has customers in 30 countries. About 25% of them grow hemp and use their GemmaCert device to avoid harvesting a “hot” crop. This ensures that growers don’t waste valuable time and resources on crops which will eventually need to be destroyed. It also saves them the costs of destroying the crop, as well as the loss of profits from not being able to sell the hot hemp. GemmaCert gives hemp farmers the much-needed ability to test their crop in the time running up to the harvest and to monitor an increase in total THC and total CBD. Additionally, farmers can even use it to determine optimal harvest time for their crops. With GemmaCert, farmers are able to measure total THC down to 0.2%.

Cannabis Testing

What Does the Biden Administration Really Mean for Cannabis?

Cannabis reform is firm on the legislative agenda with the Democrats back in the White House and controlling both Houses of Congress. The extent of these reforms, however, remains uncertain. So, what can we expect during the next four years?

As a Senator, Biden had a “tough on crime” reputation during the ‘80s and ‘90s. But time has made a difference. During the Presidential campaign, Biden made it clear that his administration would view cannabis reform positively. Yet, we need to be realistic. There are much more urgent and serious issues on the President’s desk to deal with right now. Cannabis is not a top priority.

A federal legalization of medical cannabis is possible, but not for recreational adult use. The 117th Congress is more likely to advance a federal decriminalization of cannabis and a modest rescheduling. It will still be up to state legislatures to decide what happens in their jurisdictions beyond that. In this context, it is important to note that also during this election numerous counties and states voted for legalization of medical and recreational use of cannabis. In total, 15 states have now either enacted or have voted to enact adult-use legalization laws, while 36 states have either enacted or have voted to enact medical marijuana access laws. This will undoubtedly impact political decisions down the line.

New leadership is also expected at the FDA. This should usher in the long-awaited acceptance of CBD as a dietary supplement with very limited health claims. A new piece of legislation has been introduced to this effect, but it could take some time before the bill passes. In any case, federal recognition of CBD as a supplement will further erode legislature opposition to cannabis and boost favorable public opinion even further. We can also expect more openness to medical cannabis research by academia and healthcare institutions without fearing federal sanctions for doing so.

The Biden administration is expected to support increased industrial hemp cultivation since the plant, as identified by the USDA, can siphon off carbon from the atmosphere. This sits well with Biden’s determination to advance an eco-friendly economic and global agronomic policy focused on carbon capture, sustainability, and plant-based economics.

In conclusion, under the Biden Administration cannabis reform will move more slowly than what many would like to see and too quickly for those still opposed. There will be a gradual easing up on restrictions, backed by ever higher levels of public support, fueling even more industry growth. But right now, there are more urgent issues requiring the President’s attention in the Oval Office.

How to Choose the Right Cannabis Testing Lab?

The need for the cannabis industry to fully adopt in-house is recognized; it is necessary to allow for real-time decisions to be made in the field. Despite this, cannabis businesses will still need to use third-party labs to meet mandatory regulatory compliance so it’s not a cast of which is better – in-house vs. lab testing. Unfortunately, although there are thousands of growers, there is a shortage of labs. Many of the labs available are small and poorly equipped and testing is often done by technicians with very little experience. Some labs have even been known to artificially inflate potency results in order to give higher THC values in order to raise the crop’s market value as well as to deceive consumers into purchasing the product.

Several companies have put aside any concern for customer safety and preferred to focus on short-term profits. These companies seek out labs that allow them to pass all compliance tests regardless of their actual results. This is known as lab shopping, which refers to seeking out a lab that is easy to work with.
The lack of consistent standards for testing means that labs can often end up with different results.

Inaccurate results can put the value of your crop at risk. You can manage this issue by following two parallel tracks. The first track involves ensuring you have a way of conducting your own testing in-house so that you can cross-check the results with those you receive from the lab. The second track you should follow is to make sure you do your due diligence and select a credible lab which will work best for your business. This includes ensuring the lab is certified to perform cannabis testing. The lab should also have ISO 17025 certification, which testifies to the lab’s professionalism.

Other steps you can take to make sure you’re selecting a qualified lab are to inquire into the experience and qualifications of the staff. The staff should be trained scientists who hold a minimal qualification of a bachelor’s degree. When you talk to them, take the opportunity to evaluate their expertise and knowledge of cannabis regulations.

Ask to see example Certificates of Analysis, and make sure to read the fine print, particularly regarding their margins of error. If these are unavailable, ask them to disclose this information. Additionally it’s best to always see what industry peers have to say about the lab.

Finally, a simple Google search is often enough to find any problems the lab may have had in the past. Beware of labs which have been previously penalized by the authorities for tampering with their results.

At the end of the day, in order to build your business into a strong and profitable one, you must first gain your customer’s trust by ensuring their safety. Choosing the wrong lab can jeopardize your customer’s health and the trust they place in your business.

What you should know before treating your pet with CBD?

Use of CBD to treat a variety of animal maladies has been on the rise. It has been used to treat anxiety and certain skin conditions, and some studies claim it can even be used to decrease arthritis pain and control seizures. It’s available in a variety of forms such as oils, capsules, topical lotions, and dog treats.

A report by the Brightfield Group indicates that the pet CBD category grew 946% in 2019 alone. Not only is this an area of the market which has experienced substantial growth, it is a market which continues to show signs of further development. According to a new report by Grand View Research, the global CBD pet market size is expected to reach USD 399.2 million by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 40.3%.

Treating Your Pet with CBD

Despite the growing market, vets are still reluctant to prescribe CBD to pets due to the limited amount of peer-reviewed research available. Even among the few studies which have been completed, the sample sizes were small, meaning that no certain conclusions could be drawn.

It is important to remember to never give an animal any form of medication unless prescribed by a professional, in this case a vet. Animals may have a different reaction to a substance which is safe for humans, such as in the case of chocolate for dogs or onions for cats. Make sure to only give your pet CBD products which are made especially for the treatment of animals.

When a vet does prescribe CBD for treating an animal, as with humans it is recommended to start the dosage low and slow and see how the animal reacts. Based on the reaction, dosage may then be appropriately adjusted.

The Risks of an Unregulated Market

One of the most important factors to be aware of when using a CBD product to treat your pet is the risks inherent in using products in a young and unregulated market. As with human products, not all the products marketed as pet CBD actually contain CBD. As there are no federal government-mandated market regulations set in place for pet CBD at the moment, and the market has become flooded with products which contain barely any traces of CBD.

These risks simply indicate the importance of being able to test CBD products and determine their contents before we give them to our pets. A market sorely lacking any form of regulation means that having access to a reliable and quick method of testing your product has become even more vital.

Cannabis Products: Is There a Future for the Flower Bud?

What is the Largest Selling Cannabis Product Type?

Dispensaries, coffee shops, pharmacies, and clubs from around the world offer consumers a varied selection of cannabis products. This selection of choices allows patients and consumers the opportunity of having multiple ways to experience cannabis use such as edibles, vapes, tincture, concentrates, topicals, and more. Despite the range of options, the biggest seller remains the cannabis flower, as for example in Canada visualized below.

Cannabis Benchmarks Two Pie Charts: Total Sales Revenue by Product Type & Proportion of Total Grams in Product Type

Why the Cannabis Flower Remains the Industry’s Biggest Seller

Black Women smoking a cannabis joint on her bed

There are plenty of reasons the cannabis flower remains the top selling product in the industry. One of the reasons is that the flower is one of the least expensive forms of cannabis, making it one of the best options for those on a tight budget.

Another point is the wide diversity of flower variety, which gives patients and consumers plenty of choices and maximum flexibility when it comes to finding the product which works best for them.

The cannabis flower is also the easiest form of the plant to experiment with and find the correct dose. Inhaling cannabis products leads to the quickest onset, usually within around 5 to 10 minutes, in contrast to edibles which can take up to 60 minutes to kick in. With edibles, this delayed affect may make it tempting to take more soon after the first dose which can lead to taking too much.

For users looking for rapid relief, especially for those suffering from acute pain, inhaling is the ideal method to achieve fast results. This means that when experimenting to find a dose, the effects will be felt almost immediately, allowing consumers to gradually increase their dose every few minutes until the correct level has been reached.

Additionally, the cannabis flower has evolved to a point of cultural significance. At this point, it has grown to have its own language, humor, etiquette, art, literature, and music. This cultural significance means it cannot be easily replaced.
Representing around half the reimbursed market in Germany, this statistic increases when private prescriptions are taken into consideration. Cannabis flower sales have also heavily dominated the cannabis market in 2020, despite the current pandemic and related respiratory system concerns.

What Does This Mean for the Cannabis Industry?

Cannabis flowers are known for natural inconsistency and potency variance. Contaminants, such as mold, are likely to grow on flowers which are too wet. Therefore, supply-chain stakeholders, from seed to sale, need to make sure the cannabis flowers they grow, pack and sell are labelled correctly and safe for transport and storage. As the market matures and competition intensifies, consumers will purchase flowers from the brands they trust most expecting safe, consistent, and effective products each time. The winning brands and profitable businesses will be those with standard operating procedures, applying in-house testing for quality management and profit-making decisions, to know what they are growing, packing, and selling, particularly for whole flowers which are here to stay.