June 2018 - Volume 14 - Issue 12 | Thursday June 21, 2018

The Role of Science in Testing Medical Marijuana

The policy makers in new cannabis complicit states, as backed by cannabis industry leaders and organizations around the country, have a unique opportunity to set a new standard through embracing science and its invaluable role in quality assured, authenticated cannabis products to both the medical and retail marijuana markets. Science should be an unbiased articulation in objectively promoting cannabis for its many medicinal benefits by clearly communicating the many benefits while curtailing any potential detrimental impacts from adulterants, including pesticide and microbial contaminants.

There is a pressing obligation and need to unite in a collective effort to standardize cannabis testing methodologies and reporting so there can be no disputing or questioning of the results. In the absence of any Federal oversight, this effort will require the inclusion of scientists in policy-making in implementing solutions and justifying current expenditures to prevent damages to future generations’ health; rewarding collective rather than individual efforts.
Independent testing laboratories are the gatekeeper in the cannabis marketplace. All products must first successfully pass through a testing lab before they reach the dispensary shelves. The testing labs’ role in the quality assurance of cannabis and cannabis-based products demands that uniform testing standards be adopted in order to provide consistent, robust and comparable results across the country.
Digipath Labs both documents the potency of cannabis and cannabis-based products as well as screens for potentially harmful adulterants including pesticides, heavy metals, microbes and mycotoxins. Potency is comprised of 33 distinct data points including 11 cannabinoids and 22 terpenes. Cindy Orser, Ph.D., a 25-year biotech and diagnostic industry veteran, leads these efforts on behalf of Digipath, serving as the liaison between cannabis providers and regulatory agencies. Through Dr. Orser’s work with Nevada state officials, Digipath has pioneered cannabis lab testing protocols in Nevada’s implementation of the nation’s most stringent policies on cannabis safety.
Dr. Orser recently penned a blog post, entitled “The Role of Science in Society and Cannabis”, in which she elaborates on the need for further scientific participation and investigation in the cannabis industry as well as society as a whole:
“The dilemma at hand is how to get scientists to more broadly communicate with society as a whole and to have policy makers and governmental leaders listen to and value scientists. Scientists should be part of policy making. We can look to cannabis policy as a good example to explore on this urgently evolving societal topic. While science has demonstrated the medical benefits of cannabis and the importance of quality assurance testing, our policy makers at the Federal level from the DEA and NIDA to the White House, continue to deny the scientific evidence. We might think that State level policy makers are doing a better job but a recent publication in Drug Policy has just concluded that scientific evidence was not a major factor in policy development across the 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that have created medical marijuana laws.”(1)
Currently, the lack of standardized naming conventions in the cannabis industry (use of acronyms, non-standard abbreviations, etc.) is making it increasingly difficult to know what is on the market and to make effective comparisons. This uncertainty is impacting many ancillary efforts, including patients’ confidence, and is creating a regulatory quagmire for trademarking and patenting strains (i.e. cultivars). Digipath Labs has embarked on an ambitious multivariate analysis of over 5,000 potency chemoprofiles from flower samples evaluated in its Las Vegas laboratory. This analysis is expected to result in the consolidation of unique flower chemoprofiles that will be instrumental in defining clinically relevant chemotypes masquerading under a plethora of strain names in the State of Nevada. Representative strains for each distinct chemotype cluster have been submitted for genotype analysis to help establish standardized conventions for the classification of cannabis strains, and pinpointing what clinically relevant strains are being cultivated, as well as illuminating the numerous pseudonyms under which these true cultivars have been marketed, all beginning in Nevada and expanding to other markets worldwide.
Digipath, Inc. is a publicly traded (OTCQB: DIGP) independent laboratory testing and media firm for the cannabis industry whose cannabis testing business is operated through its wholly owned subsidiary, Digipath Labs, Inc., which performs all cannabis related testing using FDA-compliant, state-of-the-art laboratory equipment at its flagship laboratory in Las Vegas, Nevada.
1) Grbic J, Goddard P, Ryder D (2017) Observations of the role of science in the United States medical cannabis state policies: Lessons Learnt. Drug Policy http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.12.019
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