At Tilray, we take our responsibility as a Licensed Producer of medical cannabis seriously. Every strain we produce is grown using the strictest quality control methods and must pass rigorous testing before it finds its way to our patients. In addition to being tested for the presence of biological and chemical impurities, all Tilray strains are tested for cannabinoid content. Today, we sit down with our, Chief Science Officer, Joshua Eades, PhD, to talk about cannabinoid testing at what it means for our patients.
1. Which compounds does Tilray test for?
We test for a variety of cannabinoids, including THC, THCA, CBD, and CBDA. In addition, we test for other cannabinoids that occur in much smaller quantities, such as CBG, CBC and CBN.
We are proud to be one of the only LPs to test for 21 different terpenes.
2. What does the cannabinoid level on Tilray packages mean to consumers?
Like all medicinal products sold in Canada, medical cannabis must be packaged and labelled with information showing the levels of active ingredients – in the case of medical cannabis, this labelling requirement includes the active cannabinoids THC and CBD. This information allows consumers to understand what is in the medicine they are consuming.
3. What determines that cannabinoid level?
Cannabinoid levels are determined by quality control testing of each batch of product. This QC testing may be performed in-house or by a third party. As many people know, the cannabis plant produces cannabinoids mainly in the acidic forms THC-acid (THCA) and CBD-acid (CBDA). These are then converted, either naturally or by combustion, to their neutral forms, THC and CBD. This process is called decarboxylation.
Health Canada regulations (MMPR) require Licensed Producers to report the total THC and CBD content of each batch; however, the regulations are unclear on the distinction between the acidic and neutral forms. In order to ensure full compliance, and after discussion with Health Canada inspectors, we report the total THC and total CBD as a combination of the acidic and neutral forms of THC and CBD.
4. How does Tilray determine those levels?
Cannabinoid levels may be quantified using specialized instrumentation such as liquid or gas chromatography. The selection of equipment is an important consideration for quantification of both neutral and acidic cannabinoids. Gas chromatography uses heat, which will decarboxylate acidic cannabinoids to their neutral form. On the other hand, liquid chromatography such as HPLC is able to quantify both acidic and neutral cannabinoids, and therefore gives a more accurate quantification of each cannabinoid ingredient found in the batch of product.
5. Why should consumers trust an in-house laboratory?
There are a couple of reasons why. First, Health Canada requires all quality-control testing methods to be fully validated in accordance with international pharmacopeia. Method validation is a rigorous series of tests that ensures that test results are accurate, and includes tests for precision, accuracy, linearity, robustness, ruggedness, and limits of detection. Tilray’s method validations have been carried out by a third party company that specializes in these tests, and have been fully inspected by Health Canada.
Second, we’ve sent some of our batch samples to a third-party laboratory. The potency test results that we received from those laboratories were very similar to our own in-house potency test results. This provides additional validation that our potency test results are accurate.
6. Why does all this matter to patients?
It matters because having accurate information on the chemical properties of cannabis strains can help shed some light on the different effects of cannabis and assist both patients and physicians to make better-informed treatment decisions.