Welcome to Cannabis Analysis

Sep 24, 2018
Abstract / Synopsis: 

In this first installment, the author introduces himself and the goals for the column, including the importance of establishing chemical analysis in the cannabis industry, helping those new to chemical analysis with easy to understand explanations of important concepts, and serving as a repository for new and interesting developments in cannabis analysis for those working in the field.

I am thrilled to be given the opportunity by the editors of Cannabis Science and Technology magazine to write this regular column for them and for you. The purpose of this column, entitled “Cannabis Analysis,” is to discuss analytical chemistry as it pertains to the cannabis industry. Our industry makes products that people use for recreational and medicinal purposes, similar to the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. In those industries chemical analysis plays an important part in insuring the safety, efficacy, and profitability of products. It needs to perform the same role in the cannabis industry. One of my goals for this column is help analytical chemistry serve that need.

Because of the history of illegality of cannabis and cannabis products, analytical chemists did not become extensively involved in this industry until recently. This means there may be people in the cannabis industry who perform chemical analyses or interpret chemical analysis results who might not have a technical background and might find themselves struggling as a result. This column is for you. I intend to explain the basics of analytical chemistry as it applies to cannabis. My goal then is if a nontechnical person picks up an issue of Cannabis Science and Technology they can read my columns to gain the understanding they need to make sense of the technical content in the rest of the issue.

However, this column is not just for newbies. Seasoned scientists will benefit from reading this column because it will give them a refresher on important basic topics, introduce them to instrumental techniques they might not be familiar with, and become a place to discover new applications.

Who Am I?

What gives me the right to write a column on cannabis analysis? Let me introduce myself. My experience in analytical chemistry goes back decades. I earned my PhD in physical chemistry from Dartmouth College, and my thesis research involved fundamental research using infrared (IR) spectroscopy. I have worked at several different companies, including instrument companies, as a research scientist and applications chemist. I continued my work in IR spectroscopy, but also broadened my scope by becoming familiar with other types of spectroscopy and the many and varied types of chromatography. For the largest part of my career, I ran an analytical chemistry training and consulting business. I have published a number of peer-reviewed scientific articles, and written three books on analytical chemistry (1–3). I am also an experienced scientific columnist. For several years now I have written a regular feature in Cannabis Science and Technology’s sister publication Spectroscopy magazine called “Infrared Spectral Interpretation Workshop.” If you want to learn how to interpret IR spectra, that column is a good place to start.

My experience in the field of cannabis analysis is more recent, but no less in depth. Shortly after recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado a colleague of mine asked, “Hey Brian, can you use mid-infrared spectroscopy to determine THC in buds?” It took awhile for me to figure it out, but the answer is yes (4). Since then I have been focused on the application of mid-infrared spectroscopy to the analysis of cannabis-containing materials and have found that it can determine cannabinoid and terpene profiles in cannabis bud, trim, oils, extracts, shatter, resin, rosin, wax, sugar, hashish, and kief (5–8). To commercialize my discoveries, I founded and am the Chief Technical Officer of Big Sur Scientific, manufacturers of the BSS 2000 cannabis analyzer. It is a general purpose quantitative mid-infrared spectrometer of unique design that is small and portable.

As you can see, my degree, background, and experience in analytical chemistry, combined with my research in cannabis analysis, make me a good candidate to write this column.

  1. B.C. Smith, Fundamentals of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 2011).
  2. B.C. Smith, Infrared Spectral Interpretation: A Systematic Approach (CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 1998).
  3. B.C. Smith, Quantitative Spectroscopy: Theory and Practice (Elsevier, Boston, Massachusetts, 2002).
  4. B.C. Smith, M.A. Lewis, and J. Mendez, “Optimization of Cannabis Grows Using Fourier Transform Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy,” PerkinElmer Inc. Application Note, Waltham, Massachusetts, 2016.
  5. B.C. Smith, Terpenes & Testing Magazine, Nov/Dec(6), 48–51 (2017).
  6. B.C. Smith, Terpenes & Testing Magazine, Jan/Feb(7), 34–40 (2018).
  7. B.C. Smith and J. Strull, “Determination of Cannabinoid and Terpene Profiles in Cannabis Bud and Trim by Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy,” Cannabis Science and Technology, in preparation.
  8. Big Sur Scientific website: www.bigsurscientific.com.
  9. United Stated Food and Drug Association website: https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm611046.htm.

Brian C. Smith, PhD, is Founder, CEO, and Chief Technical Officer of Big Sur Scientific in Capitola, California. Dr. Smith has more than 40 years of experience as an industrial analytical chemist having worked for such companies as Xerox, IBM, Waters Associates, and Princeton Instruments. For 20 years he ran Spectros Associates, an analytical chemistry training and consulting firm where he taught thousands of people around the world how to improve their chemical analyses. Dr. Smith has written three books on infrared spectroscopy, and earned his PhD in physical chemistry from Dartmouth College.

How to Cite This Article

B.C. Smith, Cannabis Science and Technology 1(3), 10-12 (2018).