Martha Hernández, a scientist at CloudLIMS, discusses the challenges of working in the cannabis industry, navigating quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) expectations, and her upcoming lectures at the upcoming Cannabis Science Conference West.
In this interview, Martha Hernández, a scientist at CloudLIMS, discusses the challenges of working in the cannabis industry, navigating quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) expectations, and her upcoming lectures at the upcoming Cannabis Science Conference West. Hernández will present “How to Automate QA/QC Workflows in Cannabis Testing” and “Be Lab Ready: USDA’s Hemp Testing Rules Have Changed.” Hernández is a clinical chemist with a master’s degree in pharmacy. She has rich experience in analytical chemistry, clinical research, and forensics.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become interested in the cannabis industry?
Martha Hernández: I am a chemist and have spent my entire career specializing in different areas of analytical chemistry. I was an analyst in a third-party laboratory that developed and validated analytical methods for bioequivalence studies. Later, I worked as a quality control expert in the analytical area and as a monitor in clinical trials. My interest in the cannabis industry was born when I was a part of a team of forensic chemical experts. In the team, I started working from day one as a specialist in narcotics and drugs and continued the job for five years. This position allowed me to develop expertise in gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS), Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR), high performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC–MS/MS), inductively coupled plasma (ICP)-MS, and other analytical techniques for the separation, detection, and quantification of different molecules such as cannabinoids. I studied and analyzed them and realized the medical and industrial importance of cannabis.
Can you tell us about CloudLIMS and your work with them?
Hernández: CloudLIMS is an ISO 9001:2015 certified informatics company. CloudLIMS offers a zero upfront cost, in the cloud, software as a service laboratory information management system (SaaS LIMS). CloudLIMS is purpose-built for cannabis and hemp testing and extraction laboratories. They offer a range of complimentary services, including unlimited instrument integration, custom certificate of authenticity (CoA) templates, unlimited technical support and training, automatic product upgrades and hosting, integration with seed-to-sale software, and automatic data backups. CloudLIMS helps manage data, automate workflows, and follow regulatory compliance such as ISO/IEC 17025:2017, good laboratory practices (GLP), good manufacturing practices (GMP), 21 CFR Part 11, as well as state and local regulatory guidelines.
CloudLIMS gives me the opportunity to bring my experience to different areas and deliver talks, present scientific posters, author articles, lend my expertise in product development, and network with other industry and thought leaders.
At the 2022 Cannabis Science Conference West, you talk is titled “How to Automate QA/QC Workflows in Cannabis Testing.” Can you provide some insight on what you will be discussing?
Hernández: Yes, in this talk, I will discuss the importance of automating quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) workflows in cannabis testing labs. Whether a lab is an in-house testing lab within a cannabis extraction facility or a third-party testing lab, it must have adequate QA and QC measures in place. LIMS can drive automation in cannabis testing labs and provide an ideal framework for meeting stringent quality and testing requirements by automating QA/QC workflows and ensuring the accuracy, validity, and reproducibility of test results.
What issues affect your work in QA/QC regarding cannabis?
Hernández: We work with cannabis testing labs to ensure that our product helps them meet all QA/QC requirements and automate QA/QC workflows. This is challenging because the workflows and requirements keep changing over time, and many times, from one lab to another. Hence, we have built a configure tool that is flexible and adaptable.
Do the varying regulations from state-to-state cause complications when you test cannabis?
Hernández: We do not test cannabis; however, our customers do. Our customers are from different states all over the country. They have diverse testing and reporting requirements since regulatory requirements vary from state-to-state. In several states, regulations require cannabis testing labs to be ISO/IEC 17025 accredited to operate. ISO/IEC 17025 is a widely recognized indicator of technical competence for cannabis testing labs. Some states where ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation is not mandatory, labs voluntarily apply for accreditation to demonstrate their technical competence, standardize their operations, and assure the quality of their test results. A LIMS can help cannabis testing labs meet QA/QC measures that go beyond the requirements in their state and meet standards such as ISO/IEC 17025. Moreover, our product helps customers submit reports to the state tracking systems using integration mechanisms, to meet compliance for seed-to-sale tracking.
What is it like being a woman in the cannabis industry? What challenges do you experience as a female scientist in the cannabis industry?
Hernández: Being a Latin woman in this industry is challenging; however, I think that is the reality in almost every industry. In Latin America, there is great inequality regarding the permissiveness of women's participation in science compared to men. Considering that the cannabis industry is relatively new and male-dominated in Latin America, I would need to push myself harder to present myself as a competent and reliable professional.
What advice do you have for women aspiring to get involved in the industry?
Hernández: The industry is growing in leaps and bounds, and we must take advantage of this opportunity and make our presence felt. Get involved in what you are passionate about and then get trained, educated, and aware. Go reach for the stars!
What would you like to see change in the cannabis industry, specifically towards QA/QC, in the next five years?
Hernández: I would like to see standardization of cannabis testing methods to bring harmonization in the testing methodologies. Furthermore, I would like to see automation of QA/QC protocols and operational digitization so that cannabis testing labs can comply with the highest quality standards with minimal manual intervention. Additionally, I am hoping to see federal legalization of cannabis, just like hemp, that will make regulatory needs equal for all states across the US and will open additional opportunities
What are you most excited to learn at the Cannabis Science Conference West?
Hernández: I am very excited to learn about the latest advances in psychedelic science and attend the Canna Boot Camp. I am also looking forward to meeting cannabis industry experts and hearing their talks in person. I am also excited to see cannabis and hemp testing labs, understand their pain points, and showcase what CloudLIMS can do for testing laboratories that in turn serve growers, dispensaries, and research scientists in the field.
Please join Martha Hernández at the Cannabis Science Conference West on Thursday, May 19 from 3:30 to 4:00 p.m. in the Analytical Track for her talk “How to Automate QA/QC Workflows in Cannabis Testing” and Friday, May 20 from 2:00-2:30 p.m. in the Hemp Track for her talk “Be Lab Ready - USDA’s Hemp Testing Rules Have Changed.” To register and view the agenda visit: www.cannabisscienceconference.com/