How Our Potency Testing Safeguards Synthetic Cannabinoid Products

August 29, 2021

Written By

Sue Cielinski

The marketplace produces synthetic cannabinoids for consumption. KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs' potency testing guarantees safety of all cannabinoid products.

Synthetic or human-made cannabinoid products come to market as an alternative to natural forms. A surplus of the cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), floods the marketplace. This oversupply spurs production of synthetic cannabinoids since they can be made from CBD in the laboratory.

The effects of synthetic cannabinoids are similar to those naturally found in cannabis (hemp/marijuana). Yet, they may be more potent and potentially have adverse effects. For instance, they are infused in products in larger quantities. Consequently, they may be harmful and cause unpredictable outcomes to human health especially if contaminated.

The high-quality potency testing of KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs detects synthetic cannabinoids as well as impurities in your cannabis products. We perform cannabinoid potency testing measuring strength of all cannabinoids present. Our expertise with testing hemp, environmental testing and ISO lab certification backs up the superior-quality testing we offer.

Natural Cannabinoids

Naturally, your body, animals and fish make cannabinoids called endogenous (within the body) cannabinoids or endocannabinoids. In particular, the body’s endocannabinoid system regulates the nervous system to maintain stability with other body processes i.e., digestion, immune system. Endocannabinoids occur in all tissues, organs and bodily fluids.

You produce endocannabinoids when the endocannabinoid system detects a problem i.e., increase in body temperature. Precisely, endocannabinoids attach to CB1 and CB2 receptors to send a message to take some sort of action. Scientists identified two common human endocannabinoids called anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglyerol.

Natural equivalents to these endocannabinoids are cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids classify as a category of drugs similar to opioids, stimulants, depressants etc.  The cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), mimics various responses that endocannabinoids produce in the body.

Specifically, THC (Delta-9 THC) and CBD are most popular or well-known cannabinoids from cannabis. The cannabis plant contains about 600 different chemical substances. Some one hundred or so of these chemicals are naturally occurring cannabinoids.

Different Forms of THC

Seven possible forms of THC (or isomers) exist. THC isomers have the same molecular formula of C21H30O2. That is, they possess the same number of atoms of carbon (21), hydrogen (30) and oxygen (2). Alternatively, the atoms have different positions and arrangements, such as a shifted double-bond between carbon atoms.

The cannabis plant naturally makes two THC isomers, Delta-9 THC and Delta-8 THC. The most common Delta-9 THC produces intoxicating effects. Less intoxicating Delta 8 occurs in very small amounts.

The other five THC isomers – Delta-10, Delta (6a)(10a), Delta-7, Delta 6a(7), and D(9)11(or Exo) are artificial. They are manufactured synthetically by some sort of chemical synthesis. All of the THC isomers produce various physiological and behavioral effects including mixed levels of psycho-activity (feeling high).

To date, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves two prescription drugs with THC, dronabinol and nabilone. Dronabinol the synthetic equivalent of Delta-9 THC and nabilone a synthetic with a different chemical formula of C24H36O3.

What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Most synthetic cannabinoids are designed to be like Delta-9 THC. Therefore, generally synthetic cannabinoids produce psychoactive responses.

Evidently, both natural and synthetic forms of cannabinoids can be made in a laboratory. For instance, production of natural Delta-8 THC happens more readily in a lab setting. However, the majority of synthetic cannabinoid chemicals are artificial and chemically unique.

Initially scientists developed synthetic cannabinoids as a tool to study the human endocannabinoid system. Just over 80 different synthetic cannabinoids are documented worldwide.

How Are They Made?

Depending on seed type and environmental conditions the cannabis plant produces various cannabinoids in different amounts. Naturally, the plant produces or changes its CBD and another cannabinoid, cannabigerol (CBG), into both Delta-8 and Delta-9 forms of THC.

Synthetic cannabinoids are primarily created by chemically altering natural CBD extract. Technically in the laboratory, CBD can be transformed into any form of synthetic THC. Therefore the most popular Delta-8 THC and Delta-10 THC found on the market are both synthesized from CBD in the lab.

Remember, Delta-8-THC is naturally found in cannabis in very small amounts. So due to this natural scarcity and high demand, the majority of Delta-8-THC is human-made. As a result, synthetic Delta-8 THC is most readily available produced in the laboratory.

Furthermore, both Delta-8 and Delta-10 can be converted in a laboratory from Delta-9 THC. Though typically, Delta-10 produced mostly through extraction from CBD is also converted to Delta-9.

Note manufacturing synthetic cannabinoids is dangerous and should be conducted with caution.

Potency Testing

KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs conducts potency testing of Delta-8 THC and Delta-10-THC using the same protocol for Delta-9 THC, CBD and other natural cannabinoids. We use high performance liquid chromatography and gas chromatography machinery for potency testing of all synthetic cannabinoid products.

Our lab uses a reference standard material, a highly purified compound, to determine potency and purity for unknown chemicals. To measure potency, a sample is compared to a standard of known potency. The amount of difference (the potency ratio) then is calculated.

The FDA approves standards for identifying chemicals in drugs/products and calibration for lab equipment. Remarkably, Delta-10 THC is especially difficult to detect. Therefore, use of additional references is necessary to discern Delta-10 from closest relative cannabinoids, cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabicyclol (CBL).

Beware, synthetic cannabinoids made with improper knowledge, supervision and testing may contain harmful pesticides or residual solvents and other toxic substances.

KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs has the certification to prove your products are tested and proven safe. Our testing lab is accredited ISO 17025 certified for all required hemp and cannabis testing. We provide you with a complete Certificate of Analysis (COA) for your product.

We prepare a COA for potency of the ingredients in your product for transparency for your brand. The COA is vital for consumers to determine whether or not the product is free from harmful contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, molds and bacteria. A COA guarantees buyers your product is safe to buy and consume.

Are They Legal?

Buyers of synthetic cannabinoids often believe they are legal and relatively safe. However, many may be illegal and hazardous.

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) gives authority to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to monitor and control use of substances, both legal and illegal. The CSA classifies these controlled substances both Delta-9 THC and synthetic cannabinoids included.

Explicitly, the CSA puts controlled substances into one of five categories or Schedules I-V. These groupings center on potential for drug abuse and dependence. DEA ranks Schedule I drugs as the highest abuse and dependence potential, while Schedule V drugs have the least.

Based on these principles, the CSA assigns Delta-9 THC (from marijuana) an illegal Schedule I substance. Though at odds with DEA’s mandate some U.S. States legalize marijuana (Delta-9 THC) for various uses.

A section of the CSA, The Federal Analogue Act, applies most directly to the legality of synthetic cannabinoids. It declares a chemical analog (or equivalent) such as a synthetic cannabinoid as a Schedule I controlled substance.

Farm Bill Legalizes Hemp

On the other side, the 2018 Farm Bill legalizes a smaller amount of Delta-9 THC (0.3%) as the definition of hemp. Therefore hemp (ultimately the same plant as marijuana) is federally legalized but marijuana (greater than 0.3% Delta-9) is not.

So essentially, the Farm Bill reduces DEA’s jurisdiction of THC by defining hemp as less than 0.3% THC. Also in contrast to the CSA, the Farm Bill does not mention synthetically derived THC from any source.

DEA’s Clarification

Thru a 2020 published rule, the DEA responds to counter this by upholding oversight of Delta-9 THC and synthetic cannabinoids. By rule, the DEA clarifies that “any material” made from a cannabis plant (hemp or marijuana) is considered “marijuana” if it contains more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC.

Further, DEA supports their previous ranking of synthetic cannabinoids as illegal Schedule I controlled substances. Explicitly, the DEA revised their tetrahydrocannabinol definition by adding “tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp” that are synthetically produced as a Schedule I illegal substance.

Whatever the legality of synthetic cannabinoids may be, maintaining human health and safety is a major concern of KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs. Contact us for potency testing and all other testing needs for your cannabinoid products to ensure their high quality and safety for the consumer.

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