Science 3 min read

Chocolate Causes Inaccuracies in Cannabis Potency Test Results

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Testing for cannabis potency is problematic when the edible in question is chocolate. Now, researchers are trying to figure out why.

After recreational marijuana was first legalized in Washington and Colorado in 2012, several other states soon followed. This led to an increase in cannabis-infused edibles like cookies, gummy bears, and chocolates in the market.

Aside from meeting the increasing demand for these edibles, manufacturers now face the pressure of a cannabis potency testing. This is more important due to the reported increase in emergency room visit following the legalization.

The project’s principal investigator, David Dawson, Ph.D. said:

“If an edible cannabis product tests 10 percent below the amount on the label, California law states that is must be relabeled, with considerable time and expense. But it’s even worse if a product tests 10 percent or more above the labeled amount — then the entire batch must be destroyed.”

Since cannabis products take many forms, accurate testing has always been challenging. Edible cannabis products are infused in a variety of foods. The composition of these foods,  also known as a matrix, can affect the potency testing result.

The difficulty increases further when the cannabis product in question is chocolate. Dawson and his colleagues at CW Analytical Laboratories cannabis testing lab in Oakland decided to explore the reason.

Cannabis Potency Test for Chocolate

For the test, the researchers prepared chocolate samples and studied the effect of altering the preparation conditions. These include the amounts of chocolate and solvent, pH and type of chocolate, on the concentration of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) – the primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis.

They then performed their measurement using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

The result surprised Dawson and his colleagues. One-gram of cannabis-infused chocolate in the sample vial appeared to have THC potencies and more precise values than 2 grams of the same chocolate in the vial.

Dawson noted:

“This goes against what I would consider the basic statistical representation of samples, where one would assume that the more sample you have, the more representative it is of the whole.”

Based on these findings, the researchers believed that some other component of the chocolate was suppressing the signal for Δ9-THC. They called it the “Matrix Effect.”

Now, Dawson and his colleagues are performing various tests to isolate the chocolate ingredient that’s responsible for this effect. These include spiking a standard solution of Δ9-THC with varying amounts of cocoa powder, chocolate bar, white, and baker’s chocolate, then observing how the HPLC signal changes.

Our best lead right now is that it has something to do with the fats, which makes sense considering that Δ9-THC is fat-soluble,” Dawson says.

The researchers will present their findings at the American Chemical Society Fall 2019 National Meeting & Exposition.

Read More: Startup Announces the World’s First Automated Cannabis Farm

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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