Intro to In-House Testing For Cultivators

Dr. Curt Livesay is a crop advisor certified through the American Society of Agronomy with a Ph.D. in research methods from the University of Iowa. In addition, he holds two professional certificates from the University of Vermont, one in cannabis plant biology and another in cannabis science and medicine. Dr. Livesay consults for hemp and cannabis cultivation clients across the U.S. and South America:

  1. He will discuss the importance of in-house testing for cannabis cultivators.
  2. He will summarize the difference between a real quick overview of state-mandated testing versus in-house testing and why he thinks cultivators should be doing their testing and not just sitting around and waiting for the state-required results. He will also address some of the challenges associated with in-house testing, including the variability of the sources inherent to the testing process. And that’s true, whether we’re talking about in-house or the state mandatory, state-regulated testing.
  3. He will cover some of the current options for in-house testing of cannabis.
  4. He will give you his recommendations for what he believes to be the best option.

Transcript:

Avi Rosenbaum:

Good morning or good afternoon. Thanks for coming on. I am Avi Rosenbaum head of sales here at GemmaCert. Thank you for coming on our introduction to in-house testing for cultivators webinar. Some of you may know me, others may not. We going to just give a quick intro to Dr. Curt Livesay, who will be presenting for us tonight and then I will take it from there. So Dr. Curt Livesay is a crop advisors certified through the American Society of Agronomy with a PhD in research methods from the University of Iowa. He’s also a licensed pest consultant certified through the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Dr. Livesay owns Dynamite Ag, a sales and consulting firm, working with diverse growers and crops in over 20 states. Holds two professional certificates from the University of Vermont, one in cannabis plant biology and another in cannabis science and medicine. He consults for hemp and cannabis cultivation clients across the U.S. and south America. So I’m going to hand it over to Curt now and let him take it away.

Curt Livesay:

Thank you, Avi. Welcome everybody. I appreciate you all taking the time to tune in today, as Avi said, my name is Curt Livesay. I’m going to be discussing today with you, the importance of in-house testing for cannabis cultivators, and over the course of my presentation today, I’m going to summarize the difference between a real quick overview of state mandated testing versus in-house testing and why I think cultivators should be doing their own testing and not just sitting around and waiting for the state required results. And I’m going to address some of the challenges associated with in-house testing, including the sources variability, inherent to the testing process. And that’s true, whether we’re talking about in-house or the state mandatory, state regulated testing. I’m going to cover some of the current options for in-house testing. And finally, I’m going to give you my recommendations for what I believe to be the best option would be.

Curt Livesay:

And I’ll give you a teaser on that it’s a GemmaCert. So in case you hadn’t figured that out already, but we’ll talk a little bit about that. So I didn’t know how much of an intro Avi or whoever was going to give me, so I’m going to fly through just these first few slides, and I want you to know that the things I’m going to show you now, again, are not to brag, but just to give you some idea of who I am, who you’re listening to and why on earth you might want to take what I’m saying to heart. As Avi I did do my PhD. I graduated from the University of Iowa in 2012. My PhD it’s a combination of research methods and also interpersonal communication. So full disclosure, no, it’s not soil science or plant health or whatever.

Curt Livesay:

But what I learned through my experience in my PhD program really was how to conduct research, and then also how to communicate that research, which I find there’s a real dearth of that in a scientific community. So I feel very blessed to be able to research and be excited about the things that I’m, but then also share that with all of you and with others as well. As he said, I’m also a certified crop advisor through the American Society of Agronomy, what happens or what happened was when I finished my PhD program, I realized I didn’t want to stay in the university setting forever. And I grew up on a farm in the Midwest United States. And so I went back to agriculture and having gone all the way through my educational program, I realized not that there’s anything wrong with sales, but I was uniquely qualified to be able to research and learn and then share that info.

Curt Livesay:

So I wanted to be able to bring more value to my clients and customers than just a sales relationship. And given that education, I thought that was important to get the additional accreditation of the certified crop advisor. In 2017, we moved to Washington State and shortly thereafter I started consulting or actually in ’17, I started consulting full-time for a couple of cannabis cultivation facilities out here in Washington, and they needed a licensed commercial pesticide consultant because as part of the state requirements out here, you need to have some certifications like that. So I went ahead and did that just to get more value than I thought I could bring to them.

Curt Livesay:

So a little bit of background on me and what I’ve done in full disclosure. Again, I don’t come to the cannabis industry with a background in cannabis per se for full disclosure to this day, I’ve never smoked cannabis. We’ve done experimented with edibles to see what that was like sort of recreationally and medicinally. My wife is a nurse practitioner, so where she’s at with the smoking thing. That’s not maybe her preference. So like I said, I’ve brought a different perspective, I think, to cannabis as an outsider coming into the industry. And I did start consulting in cannabis six years ago. So we’ve been at this for quite a while. I spent two years doing that. Full-time where that was just my entire job. And I did serve as the director of agronomy services for a publicly traded company for those two years.

Curt Livesay:

And that was actually when I discovered GemmaCert. I really fell in love with the company because as an outsider, this topic I’m talking about today is literally the reason why I found them. So I was working with this group and I said, “Why are we not doing in-house testing? Why are we just sending this off to the lab and hoping and praying that it works out the way that we want it to?” And so I went on this search and this journey and this quest to find exactly what GemmaCert said offered. And so I just, like I said, I fell in love with the company, with the technology and started working with them right away because I was so impressed with what they brought to the table in terms of the ability to test in-house. I’ve also, I know we’re talking about cannabis largely, but that to me comprises not only the recreational, what we would consider traditionally marijuana, but also medical cannabis and also the hemp as well.

Curt Livesay:

Cannabis sativa L covers all of that. And so I’ve done some work in hemp as well in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, New York and Columbia, South America. So I have clients in both the recreational and medicinal cannabis space and then also in the hemp space as well. I’ve written a few articles for the Cannabis Business Times, and I actually did a webinar for them in 2019, I have some pretty strong opinions on some things, especially when it’s grounded in science. And so the webinar we did was moving beyond the sativa indica myth. And I’m going to talk a little bit about that today, because I do think that is relevant to some of the problems inherent in testing that we’re going to discuss. As Avi said, I do have two certificates from the University of Vermont, one in cannabis science and medicine, and one in cannabis plant biology as well.

Curt Livesay:

And I currently actually serve as the scientific reviewer for the medical marijuana research license for the State of Washington. So Washington created an entire ecosystem where you can apply for a research license, and it’s a separate system from the whole recreational thing that they’ve got going on out here. And so if someone wants to apply for that, basically they submit their application and I review that and then make my recommendations to the Liquor and Cannabis Board as to whether or not that’s a valid, and there’s a whole lot of state stuff that goes with that. But point being, I really focus on the science of cannabis and I promise this is the only self promoting thing I’m going to do this whole time Avi. And guys, just to let you know, but I am excited about this.

Curt Livesay:

I did publish a paper recently with Dr. Michael Jenkins, who was a friend of mine. We published this earlier this year on the photosynthetic performance and potency of cannabis grown under both LED and HPS lights. And so there’s my selfish thing. Check out that paper. We’re really excited about that. And hopefully we’ll have some more coming down the pipeline here before too long. So, like I said, I bring all this up, not to brag, but to give you some context, as far as how I approach cannabis and why I’m going to have maybe the perspective that I do as an outsider to the industry and as somebody who really desperately wants to see us bring some more scientific validity to the industry. And that’s on both the state testing level, which I have done a previous webinar with GemmaCert about that, but then also for in-house testing, which we’re going to talk about today.

Curt Livesay:

So there’s a couple of types of testing. And then, like I said, I’m going to fly through the intro part of this on the compliance side, because it’s not the focus of today’s message, but I want to do a little compare and contrast so that you can understand what are the similarities or differences between when I have to send something off to the state for the state requirements versus what are we going to do in house and why would we do it in house? So the state required compliance testing and always, at least in Washington, I shouldn’t say always requires an independent third party certified labs or labs that are certified through the state. And the results of those tests are used for not only the regulatory compliance, but also labeling. When you put the package, hey, it’s 18% THC and 4% CBD, that goes on the package and that’s what’s going to be sold in the retail store.

Curt Livesay:

In-house testing is a little bit different. This is where we the results of in-house testing, we’re using it for things like making business decisions, quality control. And I would also submit to you, we should be testing in-house before we send off for compliance testing to make sure that we’re getting the most accurate results for the end user. So I’ll explain more about that as we go. As far as the required testing goes, these testing requirements are going to vary somewhat from state to state. And with that said, everybody has some seed to sale tracking some testing requirements. And since I live in Washington State, I’m just going to use this as an example. We have fully legalized adult use or recreational cannabis here which again, is to clarify that the federal government does call that marijuana. So if I use that term, that’s adult use recreational, but it is all cannabis.

Curt Livesay:

And according to what Washington State Law a producer has to submit four random samples that are one gram each for every five pound lot produced. The law lays out the following requirements for cannabinoid testing in section of WAC, which is the Washington Code 314-55-101. And I should tell you what you’ve got here. This is a picture I got. This is not my image. This is from edrosenthal.com. And this is a hypothetical example. So like I said, this is not an actual picture that I took of a lot, and this may not even be five pounds, but I’m a visual learner. So I wanted to share this visually. So here’s what that WAC says. “Licensees must collect a minimum of four separate samples from each marijuana flower lot of up to five pounds. They may collect more samples than the minimum, but not less. The samples have to be a roughly equal weight and not less than one gram each. The four separate samples must be taken from four different quadrants of the flower lot. A quadrant is the division of a lot into four equal parts.”

Curt Livesay:

So as you can see, that’s what I’ve done here. Sort of hypothetically divided this into four lots. Dividing a lot into quadrants prior to collecting samples has to be done in a manner that ensures the samples are collected from four evenly distributed areas of the flower lot. And it may be done either visually or physically. Each sample is supposed to be pulled from a different quadrant of said five pound lot, which is why, again, I’ve drawn circles around individual buds. And so again, this is just a hypothetical example of what that looks like. If you want to be fully compliant, Washington State, this is how you’re supposed to do it. I literally just read you the WAC on that.

Curt Livesay:

The problem with this, though, with the logic behind this is there’s this underlying assumption that there’s a certain level of homogeneity among the target population. In other words, that the buds are similar enough for a random sample to be truly representative. So if you pulled this one up here in the upper left, right? The assumption is that represents this whole quadrant at the very least. And this one down here in the lower left represents this whole quadrant and so on and so forth. And then the further assumption is that each of those four quadrants represents the whole lot. Okay. But as I’m going to demonstrate here very shortly, that’s not a safe assumption. This it’s not like we’re doing a liquid solution. And we’re testing for nutrients. Like that’s when I say my background is I grew up on a farm and I bring an outsider’s perspective.

Curt Livesay:

I’m an agronomist by trade, that’s really what I do. Like I said, I have a ton of experience in corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa. I work with some banana growers in Nigeria. I have a diverse crop background. And so one of the things that I specialize in is plant fertility and nutrients. And so if you have a liquid solution of nutrients, theoretically, if you go and you pull a pipette out of that liquid, you’re going to get a representative sample because all of that liquid is theoretically the same or theoretically homogenous. But you’re looking at individual flowers here, folks. So this lot is made up of individual flowers. It’s not like it is a uniform lot.

Curt Livesay:

So the assumption that any of these individual flowers represents the whole lot to me is a really scary assumption because the data that’s available in peer reviewed scientific literature that I’m about to show you, doesn’t actually support that assumption. So this is sort of, to me, the big starting point of the big crux really of why it’s so important for cultivators to be conducting their own in-house testing prior to sending this off to the lab. Remember I told you that one of the things I study is earlier, we need to be testing this before we send it to the lab, because then you know if what you’re sending is truly representative of the rest of that lot. And then that’s how you’re going to build that brand loyalty because you’re in consumer is going to know, “Okay, well this says 15% THC, they didn’t get something that was 28% THC and just had them couch locked for a week.”

Curt Livesay:

That is you need a consistent end consumer experience to build a brand. That’s a core belief to and tenant to my approach in cannabis. And in order to do that, we have to back that up and follow all those underlying assumptions. And where that leads us is right here with what you’re looking at. We have to choose flowers that are truly representative for what we’re going to be labeling. So to me, that’s, I think a very compelling place to start as far as why we need to be doing in-house testing. But if it’s not enough, let’s move on and talk about this. Why would we want to test in-house? Well, the whole concept of in-house testing is super common practice across a lot of industries, whether it’s food, pharma, et cetera. So much so that as I was prepping for this, I didn’t even know this existed. I’m ashamed to admit that.

Curt Livesay:

But the QA Magazine is Quality Assurance Magazine, folks there’s an entire industry dedicated to just quality assurance across all these different types of industries. As you can see your hazelnuts down here, you’ve got food with burgers and there’s just all these different things where all these other industries understand that in-house testing quality assurance is a big deal. Why on earth would we not be doing that in cannabis? Especially when you’re doing something and God forbid, that’s medical, you’ve got to have that consistency, and you’ve got to understand what it is you’re putting out there for your end customer. So knowing the concentration of your active ingredients and I’m in a way over simplify this.

Curt Livesay:

I understand there’s hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes. We’ll get to that in a few minutes, but I’m going to really dumb it down to, let’s say, if we’re only focusing on hey, THC and CBD, and that’s where we want to stop. Knowing THC and CBD alone in your cannabis flower, that you’re about to send off can help you make better business decisions and can lead to better therapeutic outcomes for your patients and can lead to a better, more consistent result for an experience for your recreational customers as well.

Curt Livesay:

And again, for me, it mostly it’s going to help cultivators choose buds that are truly representative of their lots. So I guess I want to sum it up like this, and this is a screenshot I took from a 2017 article right down here. I try not to have too many slides with too much texts. Because then you read them and you don’t listen to me, which is what you’re doing already. So I’ll get there real quick. The results of the food and safety quality tests that are running your in-house lab will have a significant impact on decisions that are made across your operation. Either assuring safety and quality are up to spec or inciting recalls or formulation changes in either case, it is critical that current relevant methods and technologies are regularly used to assure the accuracy of the results while also maintaining an efficient cost-effective rate of testing.

Curt Livesay:

And I just look at that and I’m like, that really sums up why you would want to test in-house. And again, I think probably maybe more relevant to cannabis than even any of these other industries given what we’re trying to accomplish. So let’s talk about some of the challenges then what are the problems inherent to in-house testing? Well, I’ve already alluded to this already, and that is no two cannabis flowers are the same, and that has been demonstrated time and time again. So what are some of the factors that go into making different cannabis flowers have different cannabinoid levels? I’m so glad you asked. If you’ve seen any of my webinars before or heard me speak before, this is my hierarchy that I’ve created. So I tend to show this a lot, but these are the factors that determine cannabinoid levels in a hierarchical breakdown in my mind of sort from most important to maybe I don’t want to say least important, but in terms of the degree of impact they have on the process, I think it goes kind of like this.

Curt Livesay:

First the genetics of the crop and genetics matter in at least two ways, first, although there will always be some degree of variability and cannabinoid levels. Look, at the end of the day, the plant’s genetics are ultimately going to determine the upper and lower end of their potential. For example, a chemovar that’s got a genetic potential to reach 20% THC is never going to achieve 50% or produce 50% THC levels. It’s just not genetically possible. The there’s a cap as far as how much it can produce based on the genetics. Secondly, and infinitely more important as it relates to cannabis is the fact that cultivators and some of you know this, and if you don’t, I hope I’m not opening Pandora’s box here, but at least in Washington, cultivators can change the name of chemovar or strain. And that is the only time I’ll use that word through this entire presentation, because we can open that box or that kind of worms at the end if you want, but they can change the cultivar or strain name on a whim.

Curt Livesay:

That means that there is absolutely zero guarantee that white widow is really white widow, whatever that may be. So if you’re buying white widow in Washington State, that could be a completely different genetic than the one you got in Colorado, than the one you got in Florida, than the one you got in Missouri. There is absolutely zero guarantee that they have anything to do with one another. So that’s why I actually include the Phylos sticker here. I know that there are very strong opinions in the industry for and against Phylos. So whether or not you’re using Phylos, I don’t care, but my point is look, we’ve got to get to a point as an industry where we have some centralized a genetic data bank, where we can point to it and say, look, this really is, this chemovar based on the genetics, this is what we’re going to get because that’s the only way the end user is ever going to get a consistent response or consistent result.

Curt Livesay:

That’s the only way that a medical patient is going to get a consistent therapeutic result with what they’re doing. Because right now, I mean, folks, I literally emailed… I did a freedom of information act request. I think it’s called a foyer or whatever. I did a freedom of information request to Washington State, and I requested every instance in which a cultivator in the state of Washington has gone in and changed the chemovar name. And they literally, I have this email. They literally said “We don’t track that.” And my mind was blown and I was really upset about this. I was like, “What on earth do you mean you don’t track this?”

Curt Livesay:

Because you can go into the computer system. You can change the name of a given genetic and call it whatever you want. So guess what your white widow is not selling. And blue dream is you can go in and change it all the blue dream now for the love of all things. Good. And holy, please don’t do that again. If you didn’t know about this, I don’t want to mislead you or lead you astray here, but the point I’m making in all this is genetics really super-duper matter. And it’s something that we’re not regulating well enough. It’s something we’re not tracking well enough. So that’s one of my big soap boxes and bunny trails. I tend to go down when I bring this up. Secondly, moving on after the genetic factors are counted for the next most important thing is the environment.

Curt Livesay:

And actually as this relates to hemp, if you read the 2018 final interim hemp rules that they released back in 2018/2019, I actually have to really give credit to the USDA because they very wisely refused to certify any hemp seed because they acknowledged right there in the document that had given hemp genetic, grown in Washington and can produce a very different cannabinoid profiles than if it’s grown in Missouri, for instance. And if you look at I mean, there’s not a ton of research available out there, but the research that is available like published university data, a lot of it demonstrates the differences in environmental impact, whether we’re talking, VPD or just straight up humidity elevation matters, light. There’s so many, all these environmental things that come into play, even the nutrients, right? Like the nutrient regimen that you’re feeding your plants, all of that can have an impact on ultimate cannabinoid profile.

Curt Livesay:

Next is flower selection. And this is where I’m actually going to focus for the rest of the presentation because it gets to the point that I made a few slides ago and it’s really relevant to in-house testing. And that is the assumption. That there’s these laws that a lot as homogenous enough to pull a truly statistically valid representative sample. And that’s just not the case. And I’ll demonstrate that here in a second. And I want to talk about the two major sources of variability from flower selection. And that is intra-chemovar, which is within a given genetic and then also intra-plant or within a given plant, how there’s a gradient. And again, those of you who are familiar with cannabis research probably already knew this. So forgive me if that’s a little bit basic, but I think it’s important.

Curt Livesay:

And that is there’s a gradient of a cannabinoid profile across the plant that we need to be aware of as well. And then finally there are some differences attributable to different analytical methods and or instrumentation that different labs using different equipment or different standard operating procedures. I’ll touch on that briefly, but I’m not going to go super in depth on that because that’s, I feel like it’s more of an argument for the lab folks to have than it is really relevant to cultivators, but just know that there are some differences attributable to the lab methodology as well. So let’s talk about, I’m going to flush out more about how, what I call the genetic debacle and what impact this has on when we’re trying to determine or pick flowers that we’re sending off. So the idea of, again, the given chemovar or the given strain, whatever is a really dated and meaningless concept in my humble opinion.

Curt Livesay:

Because again, if you call it Blackberry Headband, that’s great, somebody else could have something that’s completely different and they call it something else. And even to the point of like, if we’re talking sativa versus indica, which I referenced that earlier with the webinar I did for Cannabis Business Times this study right here, I don’t know if it’s Schwabie or Schwalbe, but Schwalbe and McGlaughlin study demonstrated that look, we can get cannabis genetics. This is a structure analysis. They can get cannabis genetics to group into two basically distinct groups. So I’m not saying there aren’t two distinct groups, but I’m saying that given the problems with naming that we’ve discussed, those two distinct groups do not line up literally in any way, shape or form with what people traditionally call sativa or indica.

Curt Livesay:

And Dr. Ethan Russo, who I think is one of the most brilliant scientists out there as it relates to cannabis has said before that whatever we know about sativa and indica, whatever those may have been once upon a time, it in no way, shape or form relates to modern visually discernible morphological characteristics. So if it’s a wide fat leaf or a thin narrow leaf, none of that matters in terms of getting the genetics to line up. And so what this is in this particular study or piece of research you’re looking at is these are a bunch of different plants that were all called Durban Poison.

Curt Livesay:

And you’ll notice that like in Durban Poison, most of them were fairly similar down here in terms of the percentage one genetic we’ll call it per genetic profile one, a genetic profile two. Because again, I won’t use the sativa or indica on that. But then you have this outlier, that’s a totally, it was still called Durban Poison, but it is totally in no way, shape or form related to the others. And then if you get down here to girl scout cookies, look how variable this is where you’ve got. I mean, it’s all across the board. And I think as you look at this, the problem in my mind is the ones that tend to become really popular. Like girl scout cookies was really popular here a while ago. There is a financial incentive for cultivators to change the name of something that’s not selling well to the name of something that is because they can make more money on it. They can sell it right then. And that again is a massive problem in the industry.

Curt Livesay:

Well, how are you going to build longterm brand loyalty if your customer doesn’t have a consistent experience? So again, maybe your white widow, isn’t the same as the white widow next to it on the shelf. But here’s the thing, here’s where I think that we can start to turn this around. If you can provide a consistent experience across time, which is to say you accurately label your products, you have a better chance of getting that customer back. So maybe your Durban Poison is the outlier. Maybe it’s not like all these other Durban Poisons, but if your customer can come back and say, “Man, I know I really liked that experience that I had there.” Then they’ll keep coming back to you. And they may not like another Durban Poison on the shelf or vice versa, but in my opinion, the best value proposition you can add to the customer is like, “Hey, you may not like our Durban Poison, but if you do like our Durban Poison, it’s going to be the same from time one, to time two, to time three, to time four, et cetera.”

Curt Livesay:

So it’s that consistency of experience. And again, the genetic variability that’s out there, you can’t control what everybody else puts on the shelf. You should be able to control what you’re putting on the shelf under your brand. Let’s move on and talk about intra-chemovar variation then. Because past research indicates that flower differences are due to a lot of different factors. So this is a figure taken from a 2010 study conducted by Knight and colleagues in New Zealand, which by the way, I have to tell you, I have the coolest and most fun job on the planet. This research, in fact, I’m going to end this and I’ll come back to it here real quick. But this is the Knight study right here. This was published in the Forensic Science International journal. Basically the academic argument behind this was look, cannabis is illegal in New Zealand. And so it’s like a, he, he, he we’re going to grow weed so that we can help people help law enforcement better understand what cannabis is capable of doing.

Curt Livesay:

It’s literally like a bunch of nerdy academics. And I say that with a total love and admiration and putting myself in that group, it’s like, we get to play in this forbidden little jungle, because while it’s not legal here, but we can grow it and help law enforcement out. So it’s a funny academic justification for an argument in my humble opinion. But it is cool research. It’s like you’ve got these scientists growing cannabis trying to figure out what’s going on. So this is one of the charts from that research. And what it shows basically is that these are different. You would call each of these different phenotypes. So this is one genetic. So say it was all again, Durban Poison.

Curt Livesay:

These are individual plants within that same genetics. So these would be different phenotypes of a given genotype. Within that, you see some consistency across the flowers that were here were anywhere from eight to 11%. So that’s pretty tight. That’s not too terribly bad, but you move out here to plant five. And now this sample was like 4% THC. And this one was like 14. Well, oops, that’s a pretty big variability issue going on there. Or what I like to do is do a comparison of say plant number three. So if you average all of these out versus plant number four, you’re going to get a dramatically different result that’s going to be your guaranteed. And so you’re basically, you’re guaranteed analysis that goes on the package. That’s going to go sit on the shelf. So what I’m trying to demonstrate here really is that plants from the same genetic are not all going to produce the same.

Curt Livesay:

So this leads to the next point, which is, and I’m alluding to it here, which is intra-plant or within plant variability as well. This is a really fun study that I got to read published by Namdapha and colleagues in 2018. And what this is, is this is demonstrating and again, I think common knowledge in the industry are fairly common, but this is a gradient of cannabinoid production across the plant with your inflorescences or your buds closer to the lighting source, producing higher levels of cannabinoids. So basically the upper third of the plant, which you see over here from there, as you move down to the middle, there was a 24% reduction in total cannabinoids produced. And in full disclosure, I don’t remember what this metric is over here. I don’t know if it was parts per million or whatever it was because obviously it’s not percentage.

Curt Livesay:

But there’s a 24% reduction from the upper to the middle. And from the upper to the lower is an 82% reduction. And I’m going to go back a slide, you see this right here, right? So this sample from this bud varies dramatically from this sample. This bud and at the same plant. So there’s massive differences within a single plant, even based upon where you pull the sample from. And so I hear a lot of industry knowledge where people are like, “Oh, you always want to pull from the middle third, you always want to pull the upper most the top coal or whatever.” And what I’m saying is if you really want to provide a consistent, truly representative bit of data to the retail stores that you’re selling to, then you need to be grouping those buds, the similar buds, or like buds need to be grouped together and then pull your samples that way.

Curt Livesay:

Because going with the top of the plant mixed in with the middle mixed in with the lower is going to provide a seriously inconsistent bit of data because wherever you pull that sample from, it can be wildly different from the rest of the plant. So again, it’s a lot, I’m talking fast because I get excited about this. I’m happy to take questions and explain this more in depth when we get to that point here. So if you’ve got questions, throw it in the Q and A, or raise your hand or whatever, but to me, it really matters where we’re pulling the sample from, and then what we do with that. And I’ll talk more about that here shortly. Next, I want to address some other concerns though, as far as issues or challenges within our sampling. And that is that cannabis is a pretty complex plant.

Curt Livesay:

I mean, it’s an awesome, super cool thing, but it’s super complicated. And again, I understand there’s more than what I’m just going to show here, but you’ve got, “Your major or primary cannabinoids that everybody cares about, or at least is talking about when there’s actually hundreds of cannabinoids.” And then you throw one on top of that, you’ve got a whole bunch of different turpines that everybody is looking at. So it’s a very complex plant. There’s hundreds of active compounds, and that causes some issues in terms of a consistent experience for the end-user as well. So all too often, I think given these challenges, we end up comparing apples, to oranges, even state labs use different testing methods. And I’m going to talk about some of the difference testing methods that are out there.

Curt Livesay:

And again, I’m not ripping on that company. I’m not promoting the company that I’m gonna show pictures from, but I’m just telling you, we need to be making sure that we’re talking, using the same language, comparing apples to apples, kind of a thing. So how can we take all this and, and make decisions within house testing? Well, for me, I look at this and I say, look, if I had a way, and I do, by the way, again, teaser, spoiler alert to GemmaCert. If we had a way like a GemmaCert, where we could test very frequently and basically you amortize the cost of the machine out over your test because there is no cost per test. So that makes each individual test cost list. If we can take something and the more we use it, the cheaper it becomes, why wouldn’t you use it more often?

Curt Livesay:

And we can use that to do cool stuff. We can optimize the growth, we can know when to harvest. What if I’m, well, I think this is a 10 week chemovar of our variety, but maybe it’s a 12 weeks. So what if we let it grow an extra two weeks and we pull our samples and we can test them in house, in a non-destructive fashion, which by the way is like the biggest, most important part of this I’m going to get to her shortly. But if we can do this non-destructive sampling method, we can figure out how to optimize our growth, because we’ll know when to harvest. Because of that unrelated leak, we can maximize profitability, we can determine what is the right pricing? And well, maybe all of my top colas are going to fetch a premium because they’re all at 25% THC and all the lower bud is coming in at 14.

Curt Livesay:

And because of where I’m at in my market, that needs to be sold for less. But that way nobody’s getting to my customers, aren’t getting ticked off because they see some colas in the bag. And then all of a sudden they open it up and they get a whole bunch of small buds in there. And they’re mad about it. We can assure quality and invoid compliance testing surprises. In other words, you should know what your test result is going to be before you send it off to some independent third party. And you can do that when we have a non-destructive sampling method. We can support our R&D with frequent testing and quick results. In short folks, in-house testing can help you make better business decisions. So what are your current options available for cannabinoid testing? Again, I’m not promoting or knocking Agilent is just, if you Google cannabinoid testing, Agilent’s the first thing that comes up. They kind of own the space.

Curt Livesay:

And so you’ve got your HPLC systems, your LCMS, these are what the labs are basically going to use. HPLC systems with your ultraviolet detectors. Those are the most commonly used equipment for potency testing. They use chromatography, which chromatography just means separation. This again comes from Agilent by the way. So I’m not making this up. I’m also not smart enough to give you this super in-depth scientific analysis. I’m literally telling you here’s what Agilent claims about it. So with chromatography we’re separating the mixture of cannabinoids in the sample and the amount of each cannabinoid is going to be determined by what they do is they shine a UV light on the separated compounds. And then each each cannabinoid absorbs UV light to a different extent, depending upon how concentrated it is in what they’re reading or in the matrix.

Curt Livesay:

So therefore the quantity of each cannabinoid within the sample is determined by just looking strictly at how much UV light is being used. It’s super cool. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s also nuts expensive, and it’s time consuming. And it is destructive. Contrast that with LCMS, which again is another common thing. Some states have preferences on LCMS or HPLC, but this is also common as well in hemp and cannabis. It’s a liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. So mass spectrometry, it gives you a result by separating and measuring the mass of different molecules within a sample. So different cannabinoids are going to have different masses. And then that’s how you can quantify your results that way. It’s basically, it’s using a non-selective UV detector and it’s really sensitive and it has a scale that weighs the ion. So again, super accurate. And as I mentioned before, not to expensive.

Curt Livesay:

So if you look at what are my options here, what are the time? Again, this from Agilent is a deal from their website. It’s going to be expensive. It’s going to be super complicated. It’s very labor intensive. They also, by the way, have to use solvents as reagents, which can be very dangerous. There can be a lot of human error in this. If you don’t have somebody who is onboard and really knows how to run the machine, you open yourself up for a lot of human error. It’s slow, we’re talking 20 minutes potentially up to 20 minutes per sample. And the big thing for me is folks it’s destructive. And I want to talk about that. What is the difference between destructive and nondestructive sampling and why does that matter?

Curt Livesay:

Okay. So destructive sampling means we’re going to take that, bud. We’re going to crush it up or grind it up or do whatever. And then we’re going to go way out the cannabinoids, right? Like we were talking about with the LCMS. Well, that’s all well and good, but I don’t know I’m enough of a skeptic, even being a scientist. I have a problem with that. Think about the circular logic inherent here in something that uses a destructive sampling. How do we know if something is accurate, if it’s using a destructive sampling method? Well, we use a standard. Okay. So we’re comparing this to a known standard. Well, how do we know that that known standard is what it is? Well, we did that through a destructive sampling method. Okay. But wait a minute, do you see the circular logic here? So our destructive sampling method is calibrated based upon a known standard that was calibrated based on a destructive sampling method.

Curt Livesay:

So I’ve always had a little bit of hesitation with that, and it’s not a hill I’m going to die on, I guess. But I will say this, why would you want to use a destructive sampling method for in-house? And knowing that all that list I just gave you is nuts expensive. Anyway, leave that to the required independent third-party state, mandated certified labs, leave that to them to do all that stuff. Let’s use a non-destructive sampling method for in-house testing, because then we can take what we get and we can correlate that, right? We can make a spreadsheet where here’s what the GemmaCert says. We send it that same bud off to the lab. Here’s what the LCMS says. And over time we start to really dial that in which, for the record GemmaCert’s done that, I’m pretty sure I’ll let them take the specific questions.

Curt Livesay:

Because I’m not that familiar on the backend science side. I’ve just been a user of the product. And I love what I’ve seen, and I’m sure that Avi or a guy can talk about the science behind how they’ve done this. But my point is use a non-destructive sampling method for in-house, because then you can take that bud and send it off and then they can destroy it. But you’re going to come up with a very, very calibrated comparison. And you’ll know, before you send it off to the lab, what is the result going to be? I just, I don’t know. When I was growing up, I went on a vacation with my family, one time to the Southwest and there was this book and we were done by the Grand Canyon and we bought this book.

Curt Livesay:

It was called Don’T Squat with Your Spurs on: A Cowboy’s Guide to Life. So you can see that it had some interesting things in there, but one of the little bits of life advice was “Don’t take another man’s bet. He wouldn’t be betting if he didn’t know something you didn’t.” And it’s like, that’s a good point. I’ve also heard other people say, “Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.” Especially when you’re doing a presentation or something like that. The point here is never send off a sample that you don’t already know what it’s going to come back because that’s a really good way to, and I’ve actually seen this happen for the record. I had a client that did this one time. They sent off a sample, no idea what was going to come back. And it came back so low that it ended up just destroying the profitability on that lot.

Curt Livesay:

And there’s no way of knowing if that was truly representative or if that was just a function of the fact that they chose poorly in terms of which buds they chose to be representative of the lot. So look, here’s what it comes down to for in-house testing, here’s the checklist approach that I would take from a scientific standpoint, here’s what you need. It needs to be accurate and it needs to be non-destructive, we’ve already addressed both of those things, because again, we can correlate GemmaCert results with their independent third party lab results. And we can do that because it’s not destructive. From a practical standpoint, for you the user, it needs to be affordable and easy to use. And I’ve already talked to you about this.

Curt Livesay:

The more you use it, the more affordable it becomes because there’s no cost per test. In fact, the cost of the machine becomes less expensive over more tests. And then for both, so I should have probably put arrows here, both scientifically and practically, fast, portable, and eco-friendly make everybody happy. So why would you not want something that checks all those boxes? And for me, that’s what GemmaCert does. It makes in-house testing simple, this thing, for those of you who’ve never seen it. This is about the size of a coffee pot. And it uses NIR near-infrared spectroscopy and image analysis with motion mechanics and machine learning, and it automatically calibrates and it has cloud-based processing. And again, Avi and Guy can answer. I’m sure all the technical questions on it. I’m just the nerdy scientist who gets excited about things that work.

Curt Livesay:

And that’s what I’ve made my whole career out of doing is helping clients find solutions to problems that work and are affordable and they provide results. And to me, that’s exactly what the GemmaCert can do. You can take multiple scans of a cannabis sample to overcome that natural heterogeneity. So in other words, it scans it from like multiple, or you can turn it and scan it from multiple angles. So you will know before you send it to the lab with a high degree of certainty, you will know what those results are going to be. There’s a zero cost per sample. You can use it to distinguish between hemp and cannabis. In fact, I’ve even had some hemp clients I’ve pushed towards this because I know that they’ve GemmaCert’s built up their CBD database very, very well.

Curt Livesay:

Again, eco-friendly portable, you plug this into the wall and you can just run and run and run and run and run it. You can operate it by a smartphone. And the thing is you can test whole flowers or crude extract, biomass trim, it can do a lot. And I know that they’ve got customers and clients in over 40 countries now. So like I said, I’m a huge fan of it. Hopefully the stuff that I have gone over with you today has given you some insight into the overall testing process. If I sound biased, forgive me please. But like I said, I’m a huge fan of the product. I’ve seen really, really awesome results with this. And I really like where they’re headed as a company. I like the technology.

Curt Livesay:

I don’t know what all guys willing to share as far as stuff they’re working on, but I can tell you they’re working on cool stuff. That’s coming down the pipeline. So yeah, I just I like the product. I like the science behind it. And I think that this can be a solution really, honestly, that every cultivator and every producer can and should be using, it’s because of the affordability and because of the consistency it provides. And look at the end of the day, like I said, I come to this as an outsider. I bring a little bit of a unique perspective, but I feel like what I ultimately represent for those of you on the cultivation side is I represent where your market can grow. Right? I’m the guy that, like I said, I’ve never smoked flower, but I’ve done edibles, but there’s a lot of people that have had that like, “Ooh, cannabis is the forbidden fruit or it’s the stigmatized thing,” but it’s becoming less stigmatized. It’s becoming less forbidden, it’s becoming more mainstream.

Curt Livesay:

And when that happens, the people that you can expand your market to are people like me, people like the soccer mom, right? Who are looking for a way to relax people like the boomers who are now looking at it for medical purposes and all of that potential market expansion needs and wants and desires a consistent experience because there’s a little bit of fear and trepidation about it as well. And the way in my opinion, that you can provide that to that end user is knowing your product. And you can know that product with the GemmaCert. So there’s the work cited page. And I showed you a couple of studies. If any of you want those analysis, one of those studies feel free to look those up, otherwise Avi. Hopefully that covers what you wanted me to cover. And like I said, I will turn it back over to you now at this point.

Avi Rosenbaum:

Curt, thank you so much. It was great. And thank you everyone for attending and we’ll be in touch.

Curt Livesay:

Thank you guys. Appreciate it.