Hemp History: Defining Hemp vs. Marijuana

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Historical Considerations For Hemp: Defining Hemp Versus Marijuana

As America embarks on creating an industry utilizing hemp in textiles, medicines, food, environmental remediation, and other numerous applications, it is important to consider what defines hemp from its cousin marijuana. Both plants come from the Cannabis family while the main difference between these two species is their genetics that determine their physical characteristics and the chemicals they produce at different ratios including terpenes and cannabinoids. It can be difficult to tell these differences apart for many people including law enforcement and legislators.

Hemp’s history is closely tied to marijuana in Colorado’s drug prohibition laws. Henry O. Whiteside in his book Menace in the West eloquently describes how marijuana became stigmatized and outlawed in Colorado beginning in the 1920s. Racism and fear fueled drug prohibition efforts lead by federal narcotic agent Harry V. Williamson who suggested that a “Mexican shootout” in Denver might have been caused by marijuana. Williamson also warned that marijuana made its users “quarrelsome and often desperate.” Public attention at the time turned to what Hispanics using marijuana might do in the state’s cities and migrant camps. The press and public officials seized on this fear and racism to significantly shape the legislative and judicial response and Colorado helped stoke marijuana’s reputation as a drug of addiction and menace.1 Hemp due to its close relation often gets lumped into the stigmatization of marijuana and one that still exists today. It should also be noted that the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, THC, was not discovered until 1964 when Raphael Machoulam along with his colleagues isolated and extracted this cannabinoid.

Today, as drug laws are reforming we should also consider history when forming policies. For Hemp History Week we can look at current hemp policy and what defines hemp. Colorado defines hemp as cannabis having less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis and current federal policy uses this definition. This general definition is commonly used but where did it come from? According to Dr. Ernie Small, a Principal Research Scientist at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Ottawa, the definition is completely arbitrary and based on the THC content in standard-grown material in “young leaves of relatively mature plants in Ottawa and analytical techniques.”2 This analysis lead to the adoption of the 0.3% THC standard commonly used to define hemp versus marijuana.

As the hemp industry matures and becomes more sophisticated, it’s important to remember history and how regulations came into existence. Creating sensible legislation and avoiding stigmatization and fear can help guide an industry with tremendous potential with well documented environmental and health benefits that could benefit the community. Laboratory testing also informs the public as to the components in a product and helps people make informed decisions. Accurate, standardized testing also plays an important role in the cannabis and hemp industry to define these plants.

Happy Hemp History Week!

Mark Angerhofer
Research and Development Chemist


1 Whiteside, Henry O. Menace in the West: Colorado and American Experience with Drugs, 1873 – 1963, Colorado Historical Society: 1997.
2 Small, Ernest, Cronquist, Arthur, 1976, “A Practical and Natural Taxonomy for Cannabis”, Taxon, 25(4) pgs. 405-435.

When NoCo Hemp Expo 2019 Is Your First NoCo Hemp Expo

Greetings, fans of The Good Lab! I’m Joe Zemek, the Lab’s outreach coordinator. I’m what many of y’all recognize as an industry newbie: I’ve supported hemp and cannabis legalization from the sidelines, and, in my previous political work, by connecting candidates with knowledge and endorsement opportunities. Now, I have taken the plunge into working in the industry, to play a more direct role in supporting and promoting hemp in Colorado and nationwide. As with any entry into a new industry, there is A LOT to learn, so I was very excited about my first NoCo Hemp Expo.

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The attendees fill the floor!

Friday

We knew the event was gonna be big, following the Farm Bill, the move to the larger venue, and the completely full parking within a mile of Crowne Plaza. Even so, when we walked in, my bosses Greg and Teri gasped – it was jam-packed, we were sardines in seconds. Decked out in our tie-dyed lab coats, we waded into the loud crowd to find our friends and meet new people.

On the floor of the exhibitor hall, the variety of 225 exhibitors spanned each aisle: seeds were sold next to soaps, farm equipment next to legal services, tinctures next to extractors. From the massive GenCanna space set apart from the aisles as an island in the floor, to the smallest booths for grassroots folks like Hemp Fuel Group, you could find just about anything short of a graphene production setup. Here’s the floor plan and exhibitor list from the program.

So began a day of slowly negotiating the aisles, having conversations, exchanging business cards, weaving between folks, forgetting to take pictures, and trying to remember what I was learning as I was learning it. To a newbie, everything is impressive. There is tremendous competition and variety among CBD retailers. Tincture bottles were omnipresent.

It was also fun when my political buddy, Governor Jared Polis, toured the aisles following his speech to the Business Conference, taking some time to chat with attendees and participate in selfies.

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The news caught my dyed side

Saturday

Concurrent with the exhibition floor were numerous talks and presentations in three separate conference rooms separate from the floor. On Friday, these presentations were for the Business Conference; on Saturday, they were for the Farm Symposium. After the hectic and massively extroverted nature of Friday, I was glad to be able to—after doing the rounds and taking some pictures in the morning—sit down and listen to panels and speakers in the conference rooms on Saturday.

First though, I had to choose. Organic Regenerative Agriculture, OR Best Farming Practices?  Evolution of Hemp Genetics Panel, OR Industrial Vs Cannabinoids Checklist To Success? This is why one event, even as comprehensive as NoCo Expo 2019, isn’t nearly enough for the beginner. Even someone with plenty of knowledge under their belt looking to expand would have at some point faced a difficult choice when looking at their program and choosing a session. This is a good problem to have… but it is still kind of a problem.

In a lineup of passionate speakers, the most impassioned speaker I listened to Saturday was native activist and hemp farmer Winona LaDuke. With the hemp industry on the rise, we have an opportunity to ensure that native farmers, producers, and business people are included and valued in all facets of the hemp industry.  If hemp is seen as just another opportunity to get rich quick, we will forsake its promise to help change and perhaps even save the world. Native voices are critically important to uplift as we form our growing and producing communities that will insulate us from Big-Business-as-usual when it inevitably comes to buy out small farms and take over the hemp industry with conventional economies of scale approaches, and all the dehumanization that comes with that.

At the end of the presentations on Saturday, I was beat and ready to go home and try to remember everything I had learned. On the way out I stopped by 710 Spirits to say hi to my friends Liz and Cortland, who tried to get me to come to the after party with enticements of karaoke, which I love, but not when I am zapped. Next time, though, when it’s less overwhelming, absolutely.

We’ve posted more photos on our Facebook and Instagram pages. I hope you’ll take a look. And if you want to talk hemp, especially about how The Good Lab can help you, I’m available.

Client Stories: Carolina Mom

People come to The Good Lab for a variety of reasons. A farmer who wants to make sure his hemp is compliant. A doctor who wants to tell her patient how to dose a homemade tincture. A dad who moved here from another state to treat his son’s inoperable brain cancer. An extractor who wants help dialing in the efficiency of his process. A product developer who wants to be sure her formulation is right.

Every client has a story. Some are funny. Some are educational. Some are tragic. All of them illustrate the need for a lab that can test for everyone. It’s harm reduction. It’s information. Knowledge is power.


Greg answered the Lab phone only to hear a frantic woman with a southern accent on the other end. She explained that she and her husband had flown to Colorado from North Carolina because their son had been put under a 72-hour hold for observation. He’d been found on the neighbor’s front porch alone, naked and babbling incoherently.  Frightened, they immediately flew here to help him, but didn’t know where to start. She was terrified, thinking her son had suddenly developed a serious mental illness.

The mom told Greg they had searched her son’s room looking for anything that might give them a clue about what was going on. They found some plant material they assumed was marijuana, but had no way of knowing for sure. They were afraid it was too potent or contaminated. They’d called around to several industry labs but they all said they couldn’t help. Finally one of them referred her to us at The Good Lab. We told her we would test it right away if she could bring it to us.

While her husband stayed with their son, she drove to Colorado Springs from Denver with her little bag of plant material in her purse, hoping for an answer.

When she arrived, she pulled the little plastic bag with crumbled plant material in it out of her purse and handed it to Greg. He took one look at it and smiled, then handed it to me asking, “Does that look like weed to you?”

I opened the bag and opened it, immediately recognizing what I saw. “Nope,” I replied, handing it back. Now I was smiling.

He took a closer look, still smiling, then looked up at the worried mom and said, “That’s not marijuana.”

Psilocybin-Mushrooms

“It’s not? What is it?” she asked, perplexed.

“Those are mushrooms.” he told her.

“Mushrooms?” she said. “Are you sure?”

Greg picked off a tiny piece and put it in his mouth. “Yep, mushrooms. Not marijuana. Those are psilocybin mushrooms. They’re psychedelic.”

Greg gave her a quick explanation of “magic mushrooms” and the variety of effects people can experience, especially if they’re novice users.

She thought for a moment. “Could those have caused my son’s break?” she asked.

“Absolutely.” Greg told her.

She thought for another moment as the information began to sink in. “You mean my son’s not crazy?”

“I’m not a psychiatrist, but probably not,” he replied.

Now she was smiling too. “Yes!” she shouted, ecstatically waving her hands in the air. “My son’s not crazy!”

After spending time educating her on psilocybin mushrooms and discussing how to talk to her son about them, we gave her back the mushrooms and sent her on her way. She was so relieved, thanking us over and over again.

Before she left, she insisted on paying us, although we told her there was no charge. We didn’t need to test her sample. And we were happy to give her some information to put her mind at ease.

So she made a donation to Access Hope instead, to help us educate others like her she said. And we will.

Access Hope is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing Hope to those in need of healing through plant medicines, alternative therapies, spiritual enrichment, and community engagement.

Why 0.877?

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-from-tosylate-xtal-3D-balls
Ball-and-stick model of the Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol molecule.

A lot of customers ask about “Δ9-THC Potential” on lab reports and why we use 0.877 to calculate it. This post from Confidence Analytics explains the chemistry and the math in straightforward terms.

As you may know, the plant-made versions of the major cannabinoids, sometimes called cannabinoid acids, need to be “decarbed”, or decarboxylated, before they can assume their full active effects. This decarboxylation is why it’s called a decomposition reaction — one molecule becomes two. In our case, one of these molecules is always CO2, (carbon dioxide being the source for decarboxylate). The other molecule is the “active” or “neutral” cannabinoid itself.

[THC Potential = THC + (0.877 * THCA)]

The number 0.877 is actually fixed in nature, and it’s based on the ratio of the masses of the cannabinoid molecules. Most major cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, but not CBN) have the same molecular formula: C21H30O2, for 21 carbons, 30 hydrogens, and 2 oxygens. The equivalent cannabinoid acids (THCA, CBDA, CBGA, and CBCA, respectively) are “neutral” cannabinoids that are “wearing” a CO2 molecule, changing their molecular formula to C22H30O4 with the addition of one carbon and two oxygens.

Each element in a molecule has a measurable weight, and the most common weight of an element is usually the largest number in an element’s box on the periodic table. Carbon has an atomic mass of approximately 12.011, hydrogen about 1.008, and oxygen almost exactly 16.

We can calculate how much each molecule of THC weighs, like this:

THC’s molecular weight = 21 Carbons (12.011) + 30 Hydrogens (1.008) + 2 Oxygens (16.000)
THC’s molecular weight = 314.47

We can calculate the same for THCA:

THCA’s molecular weight = 22 Carbons (12.011) + 30 Hydrogens (1.008) + 4 Oxygens (16.000)
THCA’s molecular weight = 358.48

The molecule released during “decarb”, CO2, has a molecular weight of about 44.01. If we add THC’s 314.47 and CO2’s 44.01, we get the molecular mass of THCA, 358.48. The universe is making sense! So far so good. If we take this a step further, we realize that THCA is, in fact, not entirely THC. It’s only 314.47 / 358.48 = 0.8772 or 87.72%. There’s our 0.877! The remaining 12.28% is CO2, which bubbles away as a gas during decarboxylation – the bubbling of a full melt hash or a dab on a hot nail illustrates this process.

Now, the goal of the available THC calculation is to find, under absolutely ideal conditions, the maximum amount of “active” THC that can be derived from a sample. If THCA is only 87.72% THC, it only makes sense that we account for that fact in our available THC calculation; Multiply the amount of THCA by 0.877 before adding it to the amount of already “activated” THC. Put another way, a gram of 100% pure THCA contains 0.877 grams of THC and 0.123 grams of CO2.

The same exact “activation multiplier” can be used to calculate available CBD, CBG, or any other cannabinoid with a molecular formula of C21H30O2. Some may have noticed that the American Herbal Pharmacopeia blurb about available cannabinoid content features a multiplier of 0.878 for CBGA; this is because CBGA’s molecular structure contains two more hydrogen atoms, for a formula of C22H32O4. When CBGA decarboxylates into CBG, the two hydrogen atoms are retained, and CBG thus has two more hydrogen atoms in its structure than THC or CBD. The same math from above with the molecular weights of CBGA and CBG (360.75 and 316.74 respectively) yield a conversion factor of 0.8780, slightly different than the 0.877 for THCA to THC.

For the -varin class of cannabinoids, THCV being the most well-known (but also including CBDV, CBGV, CBCV, and their respective acids CBDVA, CBGVA… etc.), we need a different activation number because the molecular masses aren’t the same: cannabivarins are missing two carbons and four hydrogens compared to their regular cannabinoid cousins, giving us a molecular formula of C19H26O2 (mass of 286.42), and C20H26O4 (mass of 330.43) for their acids. Our “activation multiplier” for the -varin class is 0.8668 instead of 0.8772. Close, but not the same!

We hope this answers some of your questions about our favorite herbal product, or perhaps piques your interest to learn more about chemistry.

The seemingly arbitrary number 0.877 is a ratio of molecular masses, specifically that of THC divided by that of THCA. If you multiply the amount of THCA by 0.877 and add the amount of already “active” THC, you find the maximum amount of THC remaining after complete decarboxylation. THCA is about 87.7% THC and 12.3% CO2 by mass.

Thanks Confidence Analytics!

Let’s talk about how The Good Lab might help you. Give us a call at 720-245-8323.

Marijuana Math: Calculating milligrams per milliliter in liquids

Accurately converting percentage to milligrams per milliliter can be confusing, and it’s easy to get it wrong if you don’t factor in the density of the liquid suspension.

You know how oils typically float to the top when mixed in water, while other substances like honey sink to the bottom? That’s because their density and molecular weight are different. One is lighter and less dense, while the other is heavier and more dense.

In order to accurately calculate milligrams per milliliter, you’ll need the following information: Potency percentage, Density of the suspension, and Volume of the liquid.

Dosing Infused Oils

Let’s say you want to know how many mg are in a 50 ml bottle of ethanol tincture at 2% potency:

Potency Percentage = 2%
Density of ethanol* = 0.789 g/ml
Volume of liquid = 50 ml

Step One: Convert Density from g/ml to mg/ml:
0.789 x 1000 = 789 mg

Step Two: Multiply Density in mg/ml by Potency Percentage:
789 x 2% = 15.78 mg/ml

Step Three: Multiply mg/ml by Volume of liquid:
15.78 x 50 = 789 mg in 50 ml

For this example, let’s assume you’re putting .5 ml of infused MCT (liquid coconut oil) into capsules:

Potency Percentage = 3%
Density of MCT* = 0.955 g/ml
Volume of liquid = 0.5 ml

Step One: Convert density from g/ml to mg/ml:
0.955 x 1000 = 955 mg

Step Two: Multiply Density in mg/ml by Potency Percentage:
955 x 3% = 28.65 mg/ml

Step Three: Multiply mg/ml by Volume of liquid:
28.65 x 0.5 = 14.33 mg in 0.50 ml

Let’s say you’re planning to bake some edibles and want to know how many milligrams are in a tablespoon of butter with a potency of 0.5%.

Potency Percentage = .5%
Density of butter* = 0.911 g/ml
Volume of liquid = 15 ml (approximately 1 tablespoon)

Step One: Convert density from g/ml to mg/ml:
0.911 x 1000 = 911 mg

Step Two: Multiply Density in mg/ml by Potency Percentage:
911 x 0.5% = 4.56 mg/ml

Step Three: Multiply mg/ml by Volume of liquid:
4.56 x 15 = 68.4 mg in 15 ml (1 tbsp)

*Each suspension will have a different density. Here are some common ones.
Ethanol: .789 g/mL
Vegetable glycerin = 1.26 g/mL
Coconut oil = .926 g/mL
Olive oil = .915 g/mL
Safflower oil = .921 g/mL
Butter = .911 g/mL
MCT Oil = .955 g/mL
Honey = 1.43 g/mL
(Most oils have a density between 0.90 to 0.95)

Bring your infused oils to The Good Lab for a Cannabinoid Potency Profile. We can help you figure out the milligrams per milliliter. Contact us to schedule a time to drop off your sample.

 

Testing for THC in hemp

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We folks at The Good Lab were concerned about SB17-090, a bill regarding how THC is calculated in hemp, and how it might negatively impact hemp producers if certain adjustments in the calculations weren’t considered.

So we wrote this email to the bill’s sponsors:

After reading SB17-090 regarding how THC is measured in hemp, we’re concerned that there is a calculation error that could negatively and unfairly impact hemp farmers. Simply adding THC-A and delta-9-THC together will not give an accurate or fair result. Considering that Amendment 64 specifies delta-9-THC, factoring in a correction value to account for decarboxylation is important.

Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide (CO2). When THC-A is decarboxylated and converted to delta-9-THC, there is a reduction in the molecular weight that will affect the final percentage calculation. The molecular weight of THC is less than that of THC-A due to the loss of the carboxyl group.

At our lab, we calculate the delta-9 potential in hemp or cannabis using a factor of 0.877. I’ve attached a sample potency report so you can see how we make our calculations.

This article from High Times further explains the error in the current bill’s calculation and why you can’t simply add THC-A and delta-9-THC together to get the accurate number you’re looking for..
http://hightimes.com/grow/thca-vs-thc-how-to-read-a-lab-result/

We respectfully recommend an amendment to SB17-090 correcting this calculation error.

Apparently, the sponsors passed our concerns onto the Colorado Department of Agriculture. We were excited to get the following response from Mitch Yergert, Director, Division of Plant Industry:

This bill (SB17-090) only affects the testing being conducted by CDA at our lab. We have no desire to affect how the private labs conduct testing for hemp producers. We know most (if not all) of you use HPLC and will continue to do so. We were very specific in the bill to not require a certain piece of equipment or methodology to accommodate this and additionally our approach could change in future years to HPLC or even something else if a better type of machine comes along. We don’t believe the bill language would prevent this in the future.

Currently we use a GC for our analysis as it is more cost effective for the program and the hemp producers. Because of this we don’t have the issue with needing to calculate the THC-A conversion. We would recommend you use the 0.877 molecular weight value as the most conservative approach. We have seen some reports that actual yield from decarboxylation will be less than the exact .877 and that makes scientific sense. We have seen numbers as low as 0.700 in one study. But we don’t have sufficient data to select a specific number less than 0.877 that we would stand behind.

As your testing is not regulatory and we don’t base our regulatory decision on those numbers, by using the .877 number you are providing a conservative estimate to the grower which provides the highest potential THC for the crop. That seems to be the best number for the grower to consider. They can make the decision how to move forward with their crop based upon that. It is conceivable if they are minimally over in your testing using HPLC and the 0.877 conversion and we run a GC analysis, that the value could come in at 0.3 or slightly under, but that is good for everyone.

I believe the variability in sampling conducted by the grower versus CDA is probably a much bigger variable in the process than whether the private labs use HPLC and we use GC. So comparing the two numbers just based on the lab values may not be that productive.

What was really exciting was the validation we got from the CDA about the importance of private labs like ours.

The private labs perform a very valuable function for the hemp producers as the industry tries to get established. We appreciate you efforts to work with them and us on this issue.

We’re excited to work with the CDA, hemp farmers as well as other private cultivators to produce and develop high-quality hemp and cannabis products.

For more information on how The Good Lab might help you, please give us a call at (303) 455-3801.

Accurately Dosing Cannabis Capsules

cannabis-capsules

Here at The Good Lab, we’ve been experimenting with making capsules, and we’ve found a really slick and inexpensive way to get accurate dosing using concentrates and coconut oil.

We had some concentrates around we didn’t particularly like but didn’t want to waste, so we decided to try dissolving them in coconut oil. At a ratio of 10 parts coconut oil to 1 part concentrate, they dissolved and homogenized beautifully.

Using our HPLC, we tested the potency of the oil before putting it into capsules (See chart below). The total cannabinoid percentage of 26.64% equates to 245 milligrams per milliliter. However, when we tried a half milliliter of the oil, we didn’t get the desired effect: sleep.

results-102-coconut-oil-for-capsules-2

Since we planned to use these capsules for sleep, we wanted more activated THC. The higher ratio of THC-A to THC wasn’t likely to be as effective on sleep as we needed. The solution: decarboxylate the oil blend.

We warmed the oil in a beaker on a coffee cup warmer at 190 degrees Fahrenheit and tested it after 3 hours, 5 hours and 8 hours until we got the ratio we wanted.

Our initial ratio of THC:THC-A was 1:2. After decarboxylating for a few hours we flipped that ratio to 2:1.

From the chart, it looks like we lost a little potency in the process, but that can be misleading due to the natural loss of weight during decarboxylation. We can also see that the THC is beginning to break down into CBN, a cannabinoid more conducive to sleep, as that percentage slowly rises.

We filled capsules with .5ml of the decarbed infused coconut oil.

Approximate potency per capsule:
Total cannabinoids: 115 mg
CBD-A: 14 mg
CBD: 43 mg
THC-A: 15 mg
THC: 37 mg
Other cannabinoids: 7 mg

Cannabinoid ratio:
CBD:CBD-A = 3:1
THC:THC-A = 5:2
THC:CBD = 1:1

This blend and potency seems to be working well for both sleep and pain.

We can do this for customers too, using our HPLC. After testing your concentrates for cannabinoid profile and potency, we blend them into oil to get the dilution needed for capsules. This is a great way to get accurate dosing at a price you can afford. Call us for more information.

Potency Testing: My Canna-Butter

We’ve had a lot of fun exploring all the useful information we can find out about potency with our HPLC.

my cannabutter 3The other day, I made a batch of canna-butter. I was really excited to find out what the real potency of my homemade infusion was. But that wasn’t enough. I decided to do a little more “research” during the process.

First, we tested the raw trim before it was decarboxylated and made into butter. The results were 7.3% THCa, 0.5% THC, and 0.02% CBN. At that potency, my one ounce of trim contains approximately 1600 mg of THC.

When we decarboxylated the trim in the oven, we took samples at intervals during the process to see how the cannabinoid profile changed. It was fascinating to compare the results. You can actually see the THCa convert to THC as it decarboxylates. You can also see the amount of CBN increase slightly as the THC slowly breaks down in the heat.

THCA % THC % CBN %
Pre-decarb 7.33 0.49 0.02
20 minutes 2.12 4.67 0.08
40 minutes 0.65 5.07 0.10
60 minutes 0.30 5.60 0.12

After 1 hour in a 250 degree oven, the THC potency was 5.6%. I used 28 grams of trim with approximately 1570 mg of THC to infuse 2 cups of butter.

Finally, when the butter was finished and strained, we took another sample to find out the potency of the final product so I could more easily dose my edibles. The final THC content was 0.3%. You can see the final report of the potency test results here.

That may not sound like much, until you convert it into milligrams per milliliter (using voodoo math, of course). At this potency, my butter has approximately 2.7 mg/ml. A teaspoon is around 5 milliliters. That means that each teaspoon of my butter has around 13.5 mg of THC. A tablespoon would contain around 40 mg.

my cannabutter 1I made 2 cups, or 32 tablespoons, of butter. At 40 mg per tablespoon, the entire batch comes out to around 1280 mg, making my extraction efficiency over 80%. Not bad.

After years of making homemade edibles, it’s so cool to have this potency information! I won’t have to dose my edibles blindly anymore. I gave my neighbors some butter to try and it was so nice to be able to tell them how potent it really was, instead of just guessing.

If you’re in Colorado, you can get your infused oils tested too! Contact The Good Lab for more information.

~ Teri Robnett (Rx MaryJane)