Testing Medicinal Marihuana as a Quality Assurance SpecialistJune 30, 2015
Applications of marihuana in medicine dates back over 4,000 years. Ancient Indian writings confirm that health practitioners recognized marihuana’s psychoactive properties, and used it to treat a variety of illnesses and ailments. Today, doctors can recommend marihuana as a treatment for a wide range of diseases and chronic conditions wherever its use for medicinal purposes is allowed.
Read on to learn more about medical marihuana use, Canadian quality standards, and what quality assurance labs look for when testing medical marihuana.
Understanding Marihuana’s Medicinal Properties
Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds found in the marihuana plant. Cannabinoids reacting with certain neurotransmitters in the brain is what alleviates a number of medical symptoms. Different strains of the plant offer varying levels of cannabinoid which affects dosage when used for medicinal purposes.
There are several cannabinoids found in the marihuana plant and two of the most beneficial are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD):
- THC is the best-known cannabinoid and is the primary psychoactive compound in the marihuana plant. It is also found to be neuroprotective (preserves neural structure) and has analgesic (pain relieving) effects.
- CBD is non-psychoactive. Because many medical benefits are attributed to it, several marihuana strains are selectively bred to increase their CBD content.
Quality Assurance Standards for Medical Marihuana
In Canada, there are regulations that set conditions for the industry that is responsible for the production and distribution of marihuana for medical purposes. Just as importantly, they make sure that Canadians with a medical need can access quality controlled marihuana grown under secure and sanitary conditions.
To ensure that marihuana used for medical purposes meets quality standards, there are a number of Health Canada registered medical marihuana testing laboratories. Professionals with quality assurance training perform a variety of microbiological and analytical tests in labs for licensed producers of medicinal marihuana to ensure that their product complies with Canadian governing regulations.
What Quality Assurance Tests Look for Evaluating Medical Marihuana
When licensed producers send samples over to labs, the marihuana must be cultivated, packaged and labelled to include the THC content, lot number and expiry date.
The marihuana is then tested for a wide variety of criteria to determine its overall quality and to make sure it meets regulation standards. Courses on quality assurance for medical marihuana instruct students on some of the most important things laboratories test for, including:
- Physical Identity
- Potency of THC and other cannabinoids
- Moisture Content
- Foreign materials
- Microbiological purity
- Metals and heavy metals
- Chemical identity
Some basic quality assurance tests are performed visually, such as checking for pests and stems, while other processes are more complex. A mass spectrometer instrument, for example, is used to detect harmful pesticides.
Registered medical marihuana testing labs use a variety of advanced devices and screening technology to test samples from licensed producers. All test results are documented by professionals with medical marihuana training who help to ensure that the product is safe for patients to consume.
Are you interested in becoming a pharmaceutical quality assurance professional? Click here to learn more about courses offered at AAPS.