A Guide to In-House Cannabis Testing

In-House cannabis testing to determine the potency and cannabinoid profile of your crop or extract can seem like a daunting task, and many growers and processors don’t bother. This is unfortunate, since a wealth of data can be obtained rather easily, and as I will show, can be done without breaking the bank. Clients of ours have been using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to test new cultivars, assess the distribution of cannabinoids within a plant, and to double check State mandated third party potency tests. Folks doing extractions have used the data for assessing recovery yields, determining theoretical yields based on input material assays, and for checking on terpene retention.

HPLC is a technique developed by chemists in the late sixties that allows for quantitation of non-volatile chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, flavors and fragrances. It has been used more recently in the analysis of cannabinoids from various cannabis products, and validated assays have been published. The published work may not be accessible to the non-expert, and this can prove difficult to overcome. We have developed a simple HPLC method for use on pre-owned equipment to enable people to do in-house cannabis testing very inexpensively.

For roughly $10-15 k, a compete used Agilent 1100 or 1200 HPLC system can be obtained from many resellers. The outsourcing of research by Big Pharma from the US to Asia has not only decimated the domestic chemistry community, but has also resulted in a plethora of beautifully maintained used equipment. The cannabis industry should take advantage of this bounty of classic instrumentation now available. (it is ironic that Big Pharma’s loss is Small Cannabis’ gain.)

While I’m not a sales-person for Agilent, the products they made 20 years ago stand as some of the finest testing equipment ever made. Agilent was once a part of Hewlett Packard, when HP was on the top of their game. The 1100 and 1200 HPLC systems, first sold in the nineties, were built to last forever, and they do, with proper preventative maintenance. The Agilent HPLCs are easy to set up, and our method is simple to install.

Along with the outlay for the HPLC, some ancillary glassware is needed. Your spend here will be determined by the level of accuracy required and the number of samples processed. Roughly $1-3 k will be required for ancillary items, then an ongoing spend of about $100-$500 per month on consumables.

Once set up, the robust machinery requires very little maintenance, and as long as one adheres to the preventative maintenance schedule, will last many years. Compare the costs to new assay instrumentation: accurate data can be obtained at 20% of the capital outlay.

Our next post will describe our assay method, so that any marginally experienced chemist can set up and use our method.
Our gift to the cannabis community.

If you prefer an expert installation, along with technical support (after all, not many of you have an experienced chemist), we are available for all your needs. Just give us a ring, and we can provide our custom consulting services at reasonable rates.