(26 Aug 2019) LEAD IN:
Chemists are trying to solve a scientific mystery involving marijuana brownies.
Chocolate seems to throw off potency tests. That could be dangerous for consumers looking to relax, not hallucinate.
How much marijuana is really in that cannabis-infused chocolate bar?
Holding it up in the laboratory, chemist David Dawson says: “The label claim on it says that it is a 100mg of Delta-9 THC.”
Chocolate can throw off potency tests so labels aren’t always accurate, now scientists are trying to figure out why.
In states where marijuana is legal, pot comes in cookies, mints, gummies, protein bars – even pretzels.
These commercial products are labelled with the amount of THC, the chemical that gets people high.
That helps medical marijuana patients get the desired dose and other consumers attune their buzz.
But something about chocolate, chemists say, seems to interfere with potency testing.
A chocolate labelled as ten milligrams of THC could have far more and send someone to the emergency room with hallucinations.
The latest research on chocolate, to be presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Diego, is one example of chemistry’s growing role in the marijuana industry.
Besides chocolate’s quirks, chemists are working on extending shelf life, mimicking marijuana’s earthy aroma and making products safer.
The marijuana business is at a crossroads in its push for legitimacy.
The federal government still considers marijuana illegal, yet more than 30 U.S. states allow it for at least medical use.
Even in those states, there are no recognized standard methods for testing products for safety and quality.
Chemists working for marijuana companies and testing labs are developing those standards and some are legally protecting their ideas.
Marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, including cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, a trendy ingredient with unproven health claims.
Some pose challenges when they’re processed. Chocolate is a good example.
“The presence of chocolate in the vial can interfere with our ability to accurately test the amount of THC in that product,” explains Dawson, chemist and lead researcher at CW Analytical Laboratories in Oakland, California, which tests marijuana products.
The more chocolate in the vial, the less accurate the test results, he found.
Dawson thinks some of the THC is clinging to the fat in chocolate, effectively hiding from the test.
To do his work with chocolate, Dawson grinds a THC-infused chocolate bar in a commercial food processor, weighs samples, adds solvent to the material, before measuring the THC potency.
He’s tested cocoa powder, baking chocolate and white chocolate to try to determine what ingredients are hiding the THC during testing.
Dawson hopes his research will help lead to better testing standards and safer products.
“This science is important to establish the scientific legitimacy of the cannabis industry in its nascent days,” he says.
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