Health Canada’s involvement in the testing and sampling for cannabis

Published May 1, 2019 12:40 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico

October 17, 2018, that date gave Health Canada another reason to be involved in cannabis. This time it involves the consumption of cannabis. All products sold need to meet strict mandatory testing to ensure that the product is suitable for your consumption and if found to be contaminated, it can be traced to where the contaminated batch originated.

The consumer is assured that the cannabis they are using has been tested by labs that are accredited and are adhering to the Pest Control Products Act and the Cannabis Act related to the handling of the pesticides. There is a presumed assurance that all consumers will receive products that are not contaminated with unauthorized PCP’s.

CALA or Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation is a not for profit Canadian laboratory accreditation body, known for quality assurance services. International trade requires and relies on certificates that are presented by accredited laboratories.  To further ensure that regulated testing is adhered to, proficiency testing is vital for inter-lab comparison studies. This enables labs to compare results they have against other labs.

Some of the testing that is required includes:

  1. levels of pesticide: at present Health Canada has approved 20 pesticides for use on cannabis plants
  2. microbial contaminations: fungal growth namely mold
  3. residual solvents: the liquid used to extract the needed compounds from the marijuana plant
  4. heavy metals: derived from fertilizers
  5. potency: of cannabinoids

Overall the standardized testing and proficiency testing will be performed on smaller batches of cannabis. This will help to cut down on the amount of product identified as contaminated. The smaller batch technique will help to make it easier for controlling. Some of the noticeable problems found in the overall testing of the batches was mold.

Terpenes are an important part of the testing labs will be conducting. A credited lab is the only way consumers can know what the strains terpene potency is. Consumers will have a say in what they want in the product with regards to flavours and aromas.

Therapeutic effects from minor cannabinoids are tested.

At present testing is for CBD, CBG, THC, CBN, CBDA, CBGA and THCA. Many more cannabinoids are present in the cannabis plant. Moving forward many more will be tested for their therapeutic benefits.

Some of the Health Canada testing and sampling requirements for edibles

One year after the Canadian government legalized cannabis for Canadians of legal age, the role out for edibles, extracts and topicals begins. As expected, part of the role out is directed toward testing and sampling of the edibles.

The Canadian government has given companies one year to meet the requirements needed before edibles, extracts and topicals are legal.

Companies have not been sitting idle they have been preparing for what is expected to be an exploding edible, extract and topical market. Many companies have applied for R&D License under the Cannabis Act. This license will give the company the ability to create recipe’s and fool around with the cannabis in the recipes.

When producing edibles and lotions, all ingredients will be tested not just the cannabis addition to the product.

Labs are needing to be ISO standard. The standardization of testing a sampling will continue to put Canada at the forefront of this emerging Cannabis market.

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