A large amount of cannabis edibles available makes testing difficult

The number of edible cannabis products available in Iowa and surrounding states has created problems trying to determine which meet state guidelines for legal medical use.

Kelli Flanagan of the DCI Crime Lab spoke to the Medical Marijuana Program Committee today and said edibles are a volume issue. “We would have to test every type of edible out there. And as you know, things like jelly beans and suckers, brownies and all kinds of vegetables have very complex matrices,” she says.

For the analysis of plant material or concentrates, each product requires its own optimized sample preparation.
“So we would have to have a separate process for every edible out there. This means that every procedure must now be validated according to our accreditation guidelines,” says Flanagan. She says developing these processes is time-consuming.

“Just to include the process for plant materials and the concentrates that I talked about earlier, it took about four to six months just to get to the validation process,” Flanagan says. “So now you can imagine how cumbersome that would be for all sorts of matrices out there.”

Flanagan says they reached out to the DEA and found federal officials were facing the same problem. “Essentially they are saying the same thing I just said, that developing and validating quantitative THC and THC-A methods is almost impossible for the hundreds of sample matrices out there. And they tend to focus, as they say, on the last line there, on the other controlled substances that they take on a daily basis, like fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin and so on,” she says. Flanagan says the DCI has placed the same focus on the issue as federal officials.

She says another problem is the number of products and their size and trying to figure out the total THC by weight. And they can’t determine whether the source of the cannabinoids is naturally occurring or whether they’re synthetically made, whether they’re naturally occurring or whether they’re synthetically made,” says Flanagan. “CBD can be converted to Delta 8 with heat. So is it synthetically made? That’s just one of the problems we’re running into because we can’t really answer that question with certainty.”

Flanagan has been invited to speak about questions the board is getting about the legality of edibles. The medical cannabis program office manager says the edibles legally sold under the Iowa programs are tested by the State Hygienic Lab to confirm they meet state standards.

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