Cannabis Science: Taming the Wild West

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Cannabis Science and Technology, March/April 2018, Volume 1, Issue 1

Welcome to the first issue of Cannabis Science and Technology! I am beyond excited to be the editor-in-chief of this new publication, which will focus on educating and sharing knowledge with the analytical science community about all scientific aspects of cannabis. As the push continues to legalize cannabis in some form in more and more states, there is an important need to address the analytical challenges that go hand in hand with cannabis testing, quality control, and sample preparation. Questions ranging from which technique to use to how to handle the varying state regulations, and concerns about consumer safety, dosing, and legal matters are all topics we plan to address in this publication. Many refer to the cannabis industry as the new “wild west,” but it is my belief that analytical science will help bring order to (or tame) the “wild west” and help raise cannabis to a position of legitimacy in the science, medical, and legal communities.

Before I delve into the great content in this issue, I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself and how this magazine came to be. I worked on the analytical chemistry publications LCGC North America and Spectroscopy for the past 10 years, spending the last seven as the managing editor. During that time, I worked very closely with Laura Bush, the editorial director of those brands. She has been a very supportive colleague and mentor to me over the years. Without Laura this first issue would not be possible, and I would like to thank her tremendously for taking the editorial lead in creating this start-up and organizing the content for our first issue before I was promoted to the editor-in-chief position.

I would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Josh Crossney, of JCanna, Inc. and the Cannabis Science Conference, who partnered with us on this magazine. Through this collaboration, we have built the foundation for what we hope will be a long-standing publication. Josh is also a contributing editor and will have a feature in each issue called “Cannabis Crossroads.” Here in our first issue, he interviews the founders of EVIO Labs and discusses the specific challenges faced by accredited cannabis testing laboratories. 

Edibles are a complex matrix to analyze because of the various forms they can come in and the other components involved in the samples. In this issue, Kevin A. Schug, of the University of Texas at Arlington, and his colleagues take a look at different edibles based on their composition, and discuss various sample preparation strategies that may be appropriate for analyzing the different products. Metals testing is another hot-button topic in the cannabis industry that Andrew P. Fornadel and his colleagues from Shimadzu Scientific Instruments tackle in this issue. Fornadel’s article presents an overview of analytical methodologies that can be used for metals testing as well as the challenges facing the analyst and notes on regulatory stipulations. 

Another area that causes concern in the cannabis industry is pesticide testing. Many states have different requirements and testing levels for various pesticides, which leads to problems when laboratories are tasked with testing cannabis samples without specific guidelines to follow. Here, Joseph Konschnik, of Restek Corporation, and his coauthors, describe a collaborative public-private partnership where state government agencies worked side by side with laboratories and growers toward a common goal of agreeing to analytical procedures to determine method detection limits using an industry-standard approach. In another article, Katherine K. Stenerson and Gary Oden of MilliporeSigma discuss several steps that were developed to improve the work flow in the analysis of pesticide residues from cannabis plant material by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry and gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The goals of the study were to optimize the extraction and analysis process to reduce sample background, improve pesticide recoveries, and allow direct injection of QuEChERS (quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, and safe) extracts, without dilution, for high performance liquid chromatography analysis.


In addition, we have a short tutorial on the QuEChERS method of dispersive solid-phase extraction in which Douglas E. Raynie, of South Dakota State University, explains how the method and salting out are applied to the analysis of cannabinoids of interest. Christian Sweeney, of Cannabistry Labs, describes a goal-oriented approach to extraction processes. Sweeney explains that the wide range of options available has left processors questioning the best method for their extractions, but a goal-oriented approach that focuses on finding the best fit between process and physicochemical product attributes is critical.

We also have two great opinion pieces, one from Susan Audino of S.A. Audino & Associates, LLC, and the other from Cindy Orser of Digipath Labs. Audino discusses the basic principles of quality assurance and laboratory accreditation as well as the current status of voluntary methods in development. Orser addresses the overproliferation of cannabis strains and the need for cannabis cultivar authentication. Enjoy our first issue and be sure to come back for more in June!

Megan L'Heureux is the editor-in-chief of Cannabis Science and Technology. Direct correspondence to: