Posted: 04/18/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT
Updated: 04/18/2011 11:12:41 AM MDT
When the results came back from the lab, Ean Seeb, an owner of the medical–marijuana dispensary Denver Relief, had every reason to be thrilled.
One of the store’s most prized marijuana strains had tested at 29 percent THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana — a result that seemed to confirm the strain’s formidable punch.
But, for Seeb, the number also seemed to confirm another hunch: There’s something screwy with medical-marijuana potency testing in Colorado.
“We have one of the highest tests ever that was performed at one of these labs,” Seeb said, “and we don’t believe it.”
That’s because, a year earlier, the same lab had tested a sample of the strain — from a different plant but grown using the same methods — at a more pedestrian 15 percent THC. And tests of the strain at other medical–marijuana testing labs in the state produced results across the map.
In dispensaries around Colorado, questions have emerged about the value of the measurements the labs produce — measurements that have been hailed as key to bringing scientific precision to medical marijuana.
No one — including Seeb — is abandoning the goal of a system that provides detailed analysis of a strain’s potency and chemical makeup, which medical–marijuana advocates say will help patients make better-informed decisions. But dispensary owners and patients have begun to note that the current system is less than perfect.
“We’re not using the same standards from lab to lab,” said Frank Quattrone, the owner of Pure Medical Dispensary in Denver and a supporter of testing.
Different techniques among the state’s four labs account for only part of the variations, said Buckie Minor of Full Spectrum Labs, the state’s first cannabis–testing lab. Potency can vary within marijuana crops, individual plants and even between subsections of the buds.
What shouldn’t change, Minor said, is the ratio of the different chemicals in the plant, which Minor said is most important for patients picking strains.
“When people get different potency values, they start to think our testing methods are off,” he said.
The debate comes as state lawmakers are poised to give legitimacy to medical–marijuana testing labs. A provision in House Bill 1043, which adjusts several medical–marijuana laws, gives explicit permission for dispensaries to provide samples to labs for testing.
“We’re actually creating a research and development piece that’s the first of any state,” Rep. Tom Massey, the Poncha Springs Republican who is sponsoring the bill, said during a debate last week.
The subject is likely to get more attention this week, when the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, holds its annual conference in Denver. Among the panels scheduled for the conference is one titled, “Medical marijuana: It’s not just THC.”
That panel features a representative from a testing lab in California, where a handful of labs recently announced the formation of a trade group to create standardized practices.
“The testing methodology should all be the same,” said Robert Martin, a founder of the Association of California Cannabis Laboratories. “. . . People will lose faith in the industry if they can’t depend on the results.”
Seeb said he would like to see a similar association started here. Until then, he said, he will continue to harbor suspicions about the test results, no matter how impressive they are.
“We recognize the importance of (testing) and we want it,” he said. “It just isn’t there yet.”
John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: Medical pot’s potency difficult to pin down for Colorado dispensaries – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_17870142#ixzz1JzDxOJbp
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TLC, UNODC (United Nations Office of Drug and Crime)
TLC was the method of choice for this study as it provides a means of rapidly and visually analysing a number of samples simultaneously. Unlike the comparison of two samples in order to assess whether they are the same (or different), when quantitative analysis is essential, assessment of origin is qualitative, since the sample under study and the reference samples are, in fact, different. There is thus little point in using more powerful techniques such as high-performance liquid chromatography as the quantitative information provided is likely to confuse the picture. The TLC system was designed to give information on the cannabivarins in addition to the more commonly studied cannabinoids. The principal cannabinoids observed using this system are given in table 2. Sample preparation and detection were as previously described [ 47] [ 48] . The solvent system used was a mixture of chloroform (ethanol-free) and l,l-dichloroethane (15:10) with simple ascending TLC on 10 x 20 cm silica gel pre-coated plates with a layer thickness of 0.25 mm (E. Merck, Darmstadt, G.F.R., Art. No. 5729) [ 46] . Each extract was analysed within one hour of preparation. Twenty different samples of herbal cannabis and cannabis resin from several different countries were subjected to hot-solvent extraction to simulate the illicit preparation of liquid cannabis. The resulting chromatograms were compared with those of the starting material.