Tag Archives: processors

Quality Assurance In The Field: Instruments For Growers & Processors

By Aaron G. Biros
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As the cannabis marketplace evolves, so does the technology. Cultivators are scaling up their production and commercial-scale operations are focusing more on quality. That greater attention to detail is leading growers, extractors and infused product manufacturers to use analytical chemistry as a quality control tool.

Previously, using analytical instrumentation, like mass spectrometry (MS) or gas chromatography (GC), required experience in the laboratory or with chromatography, a degree in chemistry or a deep understanding of analytical chemistry. This leaves the testing component to those that are competent enough and scientifically capable to use these complex instruments, like laboratory personnel, and that is still the case. As recent as less than two years ago, we began seeing instrument manufacturers making marketing claims that their instrument requires no experience in chromatography.

Instrument manufacturers are now competing in a new market: the instrument designed for quality assurance in the field. These instruments are more compact, lighter and easier to use than their counterparts in the lab. While they are no replacement for an accredited laboratory, manufacturers promise these instruments can give growers an accurate estimate for cannabinoid percentages. Let’s take a look at a few of these instruments designed and marketed for quality assurance in the field, specifically for cannabis producers.

Ellutia GC 200 Series

Shamanics, a cannabis extractor in Amsterdam, uses Ellutia’s 200 series for QA testing

Ellutia is an instrument manufacturer from the UK. They design and produce a range of gas chromatographs, GC accessories, software and consumables, most of which are designed for use in a laboratory. Andrew James, marketing director at Ellutia, says their instrument targeting this segment was originally designed for educational purposes. “The GC is compact in size and lightweight in stature with a full range of detectors,” says James. “This means not only is it portable and easy to access but also easy to use, which is why it was initially intended for the education market.”

Andrew James, marketing director at Ellutia

That original design for use in teaching, James says, is why cannabis producers might find it so user-friendly. “It offers equivalent performance to other GC’s meaning we can easily replace other GC’s performing the same analysis, but our customers can benefit from the lower space requirement, reduced energy bills, service costs and initial capital outlay,” says James. “This ensures the lowest possible cost of ownership, decreasing the cost per analysis and increasing profits on every sample analyzed.”

Shamanics, a cannabis oil extraction company based in Amsterdam, uses Ellutia’s 200 series for quality assurance in their products. According to Bart Roelfsema, co-founder of Shamanics, they have experienced a range of improvements in monitoring quality since they started using the 200 series. “It is very liberating to actually see what you are doing,” says Roelfsema. “If you are a grower, a manufacturer or a seller, it is always reassuring to see what you have and prove or improve on your quality.” Although testing isn’t commonplace in the Netherlands quite yet, the consumer demand is rising for tested products. “We also conduct terpene analysis and cannabinoid acid analysis,” says Roelfsema. “This is a very important aspect of the GC as now it is possible to methylate the sample and test for acids; and the 200 Series is very accurate, which is a huge benefit.” Roelfsema says being able to judge quality product and then relay that information to retail is helping them grow their business and stay ahead of the curve.

908 Devices G908 GC-HPMS

908 Devices, headquartered in Boston, is making a big splash in this new market with their modular G908 GC-HPMS. The company says they are “democratizing chemical analysis by way of mass spectrometry,” with their G908 device. That is a bold claim, but rather appropriate, given that MS used to be reserved strictly for the lab environment. According to Graham Shelver, Ph.D., commercial leader for Applied Markets at 908 Devices Inc., their company is making GC-HPMS readily available to users wanting to test cannabis products, who do not need to be trained analytical chemists.

The G908 device.

Shelver says they have made the hardware modular, letting the user service the device themselves. This, accompanied by simplified software, means you don’t need a Ph.D. to use it. “The “analyzer in a box” design philosophy behind the G908 GC-HPMS and the accompanying JetStream software has been to make using the entire system as straightforward as possible so that routine tasks such as mass axis calibration are reduced to simple single actions and sample injection to results reporting becomes a single button software operation,” says Shelver.

He also says while it is designed for use in the field, laboratories also use it to meet higher-than-usual demand. Both RM3 Labs in Colorado, and ProVerde in Massachusetts, use G908. “RM3’s main goal with the G908 is increased throughput and ProVerde has found it useful in adding an orthogonal and very rapid technique (GC-HPMS) to their suite of cannabis testing instruments,” says Shelver.

Orange Photonics LightLab Cannabis Analyzer

Orange Photonics’ LightLab Cannabis Analyzer

Dylan Wilks, a third generation spectroscopist, launched Orange Photonics with his team to produce analytical tools that are easy to use and can make data accessible where it has been historically absent, such as onsite testing within the cannabis space. According to Stephanie McArdle, president of Orange Photonics, the LightLab Cannabis Analyzer is based on the same principles as HPLC technology, combining liquid chromatography with spectroscopy. Unlike an HPLC however, LightLab is rugged, portable and they claim you do not need to be a chemist to use it.

“LightLab was developed to deliver accurate repeatable results for six primary cannabinoids, D9THC, THC-A, CBD, CBD-A, CBG-A and CBN,” says McArdle. “The sample prep is straightforward: Prepare a homogenous, representative sample, place a measured portion in the provided vial, introduce extraction solvent, input the sample into LightLab and eight minutes later you will have your potency information.” She says their goal is to ensure producers can get lab-grade results.

The hard plastic case is a unique feature of this instrument

McArdle also says the device is designed to test a wide range of samples, allowing growers, processors and infused product manufacturers to use it for quality assurance. “Extracts manufacturers use LightLab to limit loss- they accurately value trim purchases on the spot, they test throughout their extraction process including tests on spent material (raffinate) and of course the final product,” says McArdle. “Edibles manufacturers test the potency of their raw ingredients and check batch dosing. Cultivators use LightLab for strain selection, maturation monitoring, harvesting at peak and tinkering.”

Orange Photonics’ instrument also connects to devices via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. McArdle says cannabis companies throughout the supply chain use it. “We aren’t trying to replace lab testing, but anyone making a cannabis product is shooting in the dark if they don’t have access to real time data about potency,” says McArdle.

OHA Addresses Oregon Growing Pains, Changes Testing Rules

By Aaron G. Biros
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Last week, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) published a bulletin, outlining new temporary testing requirements effective immediately until May 30th of next year. The changes to the rules come in the wake of product shortages, higher prices and even some claims of cultivators reverting back to the black market to stay afloat.img_6245

According to the bulletin, these temporary regulations are meant to still protect public health and safety, but are “aimed at lowering the testing burden for producers and processors based on concerns and input from the marijuana industry.” The temporary rules, applying to both medical and retail products, are a Band-Aid fix while the OHA works on a permanent solution to the testing backlog.

Here are some key takeaways from the rule changes:

Labeling

  • THC and CBD amounts on the label must be the value calculated by a laboratory, plus or minus 5%.

Batch testing

  • A harvest lot can include more than one strain.
  • Cannabis harvested within a 48-hour period, using the same growing and curing processes can be included in one harvest lot.
  • Edibles processors can include up to 1000 units of product in a batch for testing.
  • The size of a process lot submitted for testing for concentrates, extracts or other non-edible products will be the maximum size for future sampling and testing.

    Oregon Marijuana Universal Symbol for Printing
    Oregon Marijuana Universal Symbol for Printing

Sampling

  • Different batches of the same strain can be combined for testing potency.
  • Samples can be combined from a number of batches in a harvest lot for pesticide testing if the weight of all the batches doesn’t exceed ten pounds. This also means that if that combined sample fails a pesticide test, all of the batches fail the test and need to be disposed.

Solvent testing

  • Butanol, Propanol and Ethanol are no longer on the solvent list.

Potency testing

  • The maximum concentration limit for THC and CBD testing can have up to a 5% variance.

Control Study

  • Process validation is replaced by one control study.
  • After OHA has certified a control study, it is valid for a year unless there is an SOP or ingredient change.
  • During the control study, sample increments are tested separately for homogeneity across batches, but when the control study is certified, sample increments can be combined.

Failing a test

  • Test reports must clearly show if a test fails or passes.
  • Producers can request a reanalysis after a failed test no later than a week after receiving failed test results and that reanalysis must happen within 30 days.
Gov. Kate Brown Photo: Oregon Dept. of Transportation
Gov. Kate Brown
Photo: Oregon Dept. of Transportation

The office of Gov. Kate Brown along with the OHA, Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) issued a letter in late November, serving as a reminder of the regulations regarding pesticide use and testing. It says in bold that it is illegal to use any pesticide not on the ODA’s cannabis and pesticide guide list. The letter states that failed pesticide tests are referred to ODA for investigation, which means producers that fail those tests could face punitive measures such as fines.

Photo: Michelle Tribe, Flickr
Photo: Michelle Tribe, Flickr

The letter also clarifies a major part of the pesticide rules involving the action level, or the measured amount of pesticides in a product that the OHA deems potentially dangerous. “Despite cannabis producers receiving test results below OHA pesticide action levels for cannabis (set in OHA rule), producers may still be in violation of the Oregon Pesticide Control Act if any levels of illegal pesticides are detected.” This is crucial information for producers who might have phased out use of pesticides in the past or might have began operations in a facility where pesticides were used previously. A laboratory detecting even a trace amount in the parts-per-billion range of banned pesticides, like Myclobutanil, would mean the producer is in violation of the Pesticide Control Act and could face thousands of dollars in fines. The approved pesticides on the list are generally intended for food products, exempt from a tolerance and are considered low risk.

As regulators work to accredit more laboratories and flesh out issues with the industry, Oregon’s cannabis market enters a period of marked uncertainty.

Pennsylvania Temporary Rules for Growers & Processors Released

By Aaron G. Biros
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Last week, Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy announced the formation of temporary regulations for cannabis growers and processors in the state, according to a press release. Those temporary rules were published on Saturday, October 29. Secretary Murphy asked for public comment on developing regulations for dispensaries as well.padeptofhealthlogo-768x186

The PA Department of Health published the new set of temporary regulations this past Saturday, outlining “the financial, legal and operational requirements needed by an individual to be considered for a grower/processor permit, as well as where the facilities can be located.” The regulations also discuss tracking systems, equipment maintenance, safety issues, disposal of cannabis, tax reporting, pesticides, recalls and insurance requirements. “One of our biggest accomplishments to date is the development of temporary regulations for marijuana growers and processors,” says Secretary Murphy. “We received nearly 1,000 comments from members of the community, the industry and our legislative partners.”

The general provisions published on Saturday outline the details of the application process, fees, inspections, reporting, advertising and issues surrounding locations and zoning. The temporary regulations for growers and processors delve into the minutia of regulatory compliance for a variety of issues: including security, storage, maintenance, transportation, tracking, disposal, recall, pesticides and packaging and safety requirements. A list of pesticides permitted for use can also be found at the bottom of the rules.

PA Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy
PA Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy

The document discusses the regulations for performing voluntary and mandatory recalls in great detail. It requires thorough documentation and standard operating procedures for the disposal of contaminated products, cooperation with the Department of Health and appropriate communications with those affected by the recall.

The department has yet to release temporary regulations for laboratories and dispensaries, but hopes to do so before the end of the year. “I am encouraging the public – and specifically the dispensary community – to review the temporary regulations and provide us with their feedback,” says Secretary Murphy. “The final temporary regulations for dispensaries will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin by the end of the year.”

Since Governor Tom Wolf signed the medical cannabis program bill into law in April 2016, the state has made considerable progress to develop the program, including setting up a physician workgroup, public surveys for developing temporary rules and a request for information for electronic tracking IT solutions. The PA Department of Health expects to implement the program fully in the next 18 to 24 months.

mcseriesipad

Documentation & Compliance: A Q&A with Michael Shea, ConformanceWare

By Aaron G. Biros
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mcseriesipad

Cannabis safety throughout the supply chain requires active documentation tools for business owners to keep up with standards and regulations on the local and state level. Michael Shea, founder and president of AccessQMS and chief executive officer of Upshot’s ConformanceWare, provides consulting support across multiple industries with independent referral services to compliance professionals. With quality, safety and efficiency at top of mind, ConformanceWare’s design team developed the Medical Cannabis Series (MC Series™) to help cannabis business owners make the task of compliance easier. The documentation tools in the program are individually tailored to address needs in cultivation, processing, analyzing and dispensing.MC series

The MC Series-Analyze Edition is currently in use at Canalysis Laboratories and NV Cann Labs, both operating in Nevada. According to Tara Lynn, chief executive officer at NV Cann Labs, the product helps them meet all of their documentation needs. “I appreciate all of the development using the MC Series- Analyze Edition and look forward to developing even more of a relationship through the years to come,” says Lynn. We sit down with Michael Shea to learn more about his product and how cannabis business owners can stay on top of regulatory compliance.

CannabisIndustryJournal: How will the MC Series help cannabis laboratories, cultivators, processors and dispensaries navigate regulatory compliance?

Michael Shea: To open a sustainable business involving cannabis goes beyond submitting applications, paying fees and focusing on profit alone. As laws adjust and tighter controls are put in place, more and more business owners are realizing what preserves and sustains their business is, in fact, compliance.

True sustainability is driven by forward thinking that values documenting and following best practices to ensure quality, safety and efficiency. Ambiguity concerning where to turn or how to correctly produce this documentation not only poses a difficult dilemma, it can put one’s investment at risk as well.mcserieslaptop

Finding a remedy for the situation begins with an expansion of perspective. Businesses will benefit most by actively working toward compliance from the onset. This approach eliminates having to face non-compliance and the enforcement that goes along with it.

MC Series™ is designed for this purpose and will greatly help businesses precisely document how their method of operation demonstrates full compliance with applicable laws and standards. Each MC Series™ edition is developed using Microsoft Word and Excel, which is then customized to mirror each organization’s processes, procedures and instructions.

Being user friendly, we have built in numerous hyperlinks for navigating and managing files and documents so that the documentation behaves like a website. This enables each user to access, edit, save and retrieve information instantly.

CIJ: How does your product utilize CMC’s, FDA, ISO, FOCUS, AHPA and EPA standards to help business owners?  

Michael: Businesses handling cannabis are subject to strict regulations and are expected to show full compliance with regulatory protocols. Setting up your business correctly means playing by the rules and operating with the proper documentation and structural foundation.mcserieslaptop2

By applying established best practices from the start, business owners will be able to minimize risk for investors, tighten efficiencies and quickly adapt to regulatory changes with minor adjustments. This serves two primary functions: Business owners will now have the protection they need and the means to promote their brand as a world-class operation.

Because laws surrounding cannabis are in such a state of flux and revision, what is most valuable to know is what technical documents lawmakers select for the purpose of writing regulations. Putting this knowledge to work, the MC series uses a variety of guidance documents designated by regulatory and standards bodies for best establishing compliance.

Developed with regulations in mind, each series edition accurately defines the scope of applicability required for your business model. Whether you’re a grower, processor, cannabis testing service or dispensary the MC series has a solution. It significantly helps business owners to achieve compliance by providing the required documentation with an operations framework.

MC series merges regulatory best practices with internationally accepted standards to deliver a complete solution with a very quick turnaround time. Designed to ensure public safety and protect human health, the MC series provides a much-needed tool that bridges the gap between compliance and profitability.

CIJ: How might you be ahead of the curve in looking toward a rescheduling or a schedule 2 cannabis framework?

Michael: Being ahead of the curve simply translates to knowing the regulatory landscape and what’s involved moving forward. When the goal is to legalize cannabis for its great many uses and benefits, public health and safety must come first. Now is the time for business owners to get serious and effectively address the process of legitimizing it.

As with anything available for consumption, standardization is the method and regulators have a long established process for putting controls in place to ensure the health and safety of consumers. We have a lot of experience in this area, and our MC Series™ is an exceptionally useful tool for people who don’t. It is our way of contributing to assisting and accelerating the process.

Essentially, we are saying to business owners, operate your business as if cannabis is already legal. Managing your operations in compliance to existing regulatory best practices will speak volumes to lawmakers. You will be effectively demonstrating to Federal and State governments that you understand the importance of regulations to ensure public health and safety and are making compliance top priority.

This will make your business fluid in relation to regulatory changes and prepare you for Schedule II and beyond.

CIJ: Why should business owners be proactive in navigating regulatory compliance with a documentation management system?

Michael: With so many regulations targeting the cannabis industry, it is hard to keep track of and adjust accordingly. Many business owners are getting excited about being involved and making a difference. Amidst all this enthusiasm, the importance of best practices is often times overlooked and prioritized for when business is good and finances improve.

At this point, business owners can no longer afford to position best practices for future use.

For businesses handling cannabis, taking a future stance will always increase risk.. This leaves you legally exposed to unforeseen costs and complications. More importantly, it will exponentially increase the potential for watching your investment, hard work and business be out paced by the competition, or even worse, closed down permanently.mcseriesipad

Alternatively, being proactive will yield different results. Great benefits will come by adopting and following best practices to operate your business. In doing so, you now have an effective method to ensure quality, health and safety, environmental stewardship and sustainability. As a rapidly growing industry, these areas of discipline are absolutely critical for cannabis to reach its full potential and be fully accepted.

In many industries, legitimate and successful companies see best practices as simply part of doing business. Many see it as a tool that provides a useful roadmap for continually improving their operations and strengthening their position in the market.

When the legal obligations have been taken care of, success becomes a matter of setting realistic goals, planning well and delivering with impeccable timing. Operational performance can now be measured and improved for unhindered growth. Everyone involved or tied to your business is now on the same page and in areas of supervision, micromanagement is replaced with a documented system. Documentation should clearly define everyone’s roles and responsibilities, so that when errors occur, there are corrective action procedures available to fix them.


Editor’s note: For more information you may reach out directly to Michael Shea at 313-303-6763 or info@conformanceware.com