## Why 0.877?

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!

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!

## 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.

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

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..

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.

## Accurately Dosing 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.

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: GC vs. LC

At The Good Lab, we use High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) for potency testing. Why is that important? Here’s a great explanation of the difference between gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (LC) from Lift Cannabis News Magazine (Canada).

### Potency Testing

Marijuana is a complex matrix. Like many natural products it contains thousands of compounds, many of which have yet to be discovered or understood. Separating out the THC and CBD from the diverse soup of compounds contained in your marijuana is essentially like looking for a few needles in a big haystack.

Chromatography is the chemist’s way of sorting out that haystack. In the cannabis world, potency is tested by liquid chromatography or gas chromatography. Although there are some promising techniques for testing potency using spectroscopy instead of chromatography, chromatography is currently the industry standard method used in Cannabis testing labs from Colorado to Uruguay.

How it works

To get an understanding of how chromatography works and what the “liquid” and “gas” terminologies mean, one first needs to look at the “column”. This is where the separation occurs in both liquid and gas chromatography.

A column is basically a tube that contains a chemical phase or material (the stationary phase) and a “mobile phase” which is what keeps everything moving through the column (this is where the “liquid” and “gas” part comes in). In gas chromatography the mobile phase is a gas (an inert gas like helium, hydrogen or nitrogen) and in liquid chromatography the mobile phase is a liquid (like methanol, acetonitrile and water).

For the separation to take place, the marijuana extract gets put onto the column, and will be transitioned through the column from one end to the other by the mobile phase. The components inside the extract (the THC and CBD) will have varying affinity to stay in the stationary phase that lines the column. Some will stay in longer than others, so they become separated from each other.

At the end of the column, once each of the components have been separated, they will be detected or “counted”. There are differences between the way the THC and CBD are detected between liquid or gas chromatography. In gas chromatography (GC) you often see that the analysis is called “GCFID”. The FID part stands for “flame ionization detector” which is essentially like it sounds – a flame! The FID will burn the compounds as they exit the column and an electrical signal is measured. This signal is directly proportional to the amount of the compound present.

In this type of liquid chromatography, the measurement is by UV (ultraviolet). A light in the wavelength range of the ultraviolet (yes, the same UV that your Oakley sunglasses are blocking from your eyes) is directed through the compound as it exits the column. The helpful characteristic of the THC and CBD molecules is that they absorb UV light, and this absorption can be measured and is directly proportional to the amount of the compound present.

You may have noticed that “LC” is often referred to “HPLC”. This was just the chemists adding more letters to something that was already concise and sensible. The “HP” stands for high pressure, or sometimes “high performance”, which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some even call their systems UHPLC or ULTRA high pressure liquid chromatography. A higher pressure system will do the analysis faster, but that’s it.

So what about the other cannabinoids? Chances are, if you are reading this blog you are aware that there are a lot of other important cannabinoids in marijuana; CBN (cannabinol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), delta-8-THC and many, many more! Why are these not reported? Especially as there is an indication that these compounds have important medical properties. Well, for now, it is not required. But many labs and licensed producers are already testing for these other cannabinoids. And what about the acid forms of the compounds, THC-acid and CBD-acid? This brings out an important discussion that relates directly back to the analysis by GC versus LC.

The effect of the main psychoactive compound (THC) is greatly reduced unless the THC-A is converted to THC. When cannabis is heated, the acid forms of the cannabinoids will readily convert to their neutral forms. Without heating (and not waiting for a long time) THC will remain in acid form, and this structure of the molecule doesn’t bind to the receptors in our brain that happily accept the neutral THC (THC with the acid removed).

Why does this affect the choice of analytical instrumentation? Well, in order for GC (gas chromatography) to work, the marijuana extract has to be converted to gas form, which means it is heated before entering the column. Any acid cannabinoid compounds, such as THC-A will be converted to their neutral forms, and no acid compounds will be detected, Conversely, in LC, the extract in liquid state can be injected onto the column as is, and therefore, you can quantify all the acid and neutral forms of your cannabinoids.

Some argue that the GC better mimics the state in which marijuana is typically consumed; by smoking or vaporizing. However, many patients may choose to vaporize at lower temperatures, and they may in fact be consuming some of the cannabinoids in acid form. And what about the potential medical benefits of the acid cannabinoids and the other unreported cannabinoids such as CBC? At this early phase in our industry, we at Signoto believe it’s better to provide as much information as possible to medical practitioners and patients. It’s time to move quickly away from the mystery era of cannabis.

~Emily Kirkham

VP of Laboratory Operations at Signoto.