Brandy Young, PhD, the CEO and Founder of Certainty Analytical Labs in New York, discussed her work in compliance testing for cannabis products at EAS 2023.
Cannabis testing and analysis took center stage on the final day of the recent Eastern Analytical Symposium (EAS) held in Plainsboro, New Jersey. The afternoon session titled “Measurement Challenges in Cannabis-Derived Products” was organized by Aaron Urbas of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and featured talks by four speakers.
As the third speaker of this session, Brandy Young, PhD, the CEO and Founder of Certainty Analytical Labs in New York, discussed her work in compliance testing for cannabis products. The title of her talk was “The Characterization of Δ9-THC Enantiomers in Various Cannabis Products." The focus of the research she shared was on characterizing Δ9, which is a significant cannabinoid, and ensuring the safety and consistency of cannabis products. The compliance testing aims to meet state regulations, guarantee product consistency, and eliminate potential health risks.
Young highlighted the challenges in compliance testing, especially in an industry where laboratories and manufacturers are still learning to navigate regulations and standards. The discussion expanded to the unique properties of cannabis as a phytoremediator, absorbing toxins from the soil, and the importance of testing for cannabinoids, heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, mycotoxins, terpenes, microbes, moisture, water stability, and more. “As a matter of fact, in New York State, we have a lot of nickel. So, a lot of our registered organizations were failing for nickel. Some of our regulators have kind of had to walk back regulations a little bit and we're hoping that as we move into the next growing season to see if some of that nickel has been remediated as a result of everyone planting outdoors,” said Young.
Young also shared that her laboratory is actively involved in strategic partnerships with cultivators, processors, and product manufacturers. Challenges arise as each segment of the industry has distinct obstacles. She strongly emphasized the high regulatory standards set by New York State, which includes a comprehensive compliance panel covering various testing parameters. Her laboratory also collaborates with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for interlaboratory comparative analysis, aiming to standardize testing methodologies across laboratories.
Young discussed specific challenges of testing hemp samples, which tend to have more varied cannabinoid content compared to high THC products. She explored the differentiation of Delta-9 isomers, such as Delta-8 and Delta-9, and their potential psychotropic properties. The laboratory's efforts include developing methodologies to distinguish between isomers and studying their variations in different hemp strains.
“What we're doing now is exploring this—we're taking these flower materials and putting them in cell-based assays that light up these endocannabinoid receptors to further explore narcotic and non-narcotic forms of cannabis,” Young explained. “We've started with this hemp panel and doing this screening. We're going to extend this to our high THC products. I don't have an expectation on what we will see. But the point is to start to address a lot of the claims that we hear from consumers.”
In conclusion, Young acknowledged the preliminary nature of her work, emphasizing the ongoing collaboration with agencies like the USDA and the potential for creating comprehensive databases to inform the industry about the products they are testing. The presentation underscored the complexity of compliance testing in the cannabis industry and the evolving nature of methodologies to meet regulatory standards.