"We try to be more than just a service that gives you the average THC or CBD results. We also provide a deeper insight into the product at hand using various methodologies," says Jan Jurij Erzen, Botanical Consultant at Spectralfingerprints. The company is a third-party, independent lab testing service in Slovenia. While one may not immediately think of Slovenia when thinking about cannabis, Jan explains that hemp and medical cannabis cultivation for scientific purposes, while perhaps limited and strict, is legal in the country. And those growers, along with the testing lab's other European clients, need reliable testing. "We have all the equipment and knowledge to tackle the most demanding requests. For example, we are one of the few cannabis labs that does residual solvent testing and also incorporate minor cannabinoids and a large number of terpenes in our advanced methods."
"We had to custom develop some methods"
According to Jan, the most challenging part of their own testing services is the complexity of the samples. "Some lesser-known cannabinoids are becoming an integral part of the industry. This includes HHC (hexahydrocannabinol and its derivatives), THCP, CBDB, etc. However, not all testing methods are appropriate for synthetic or semisynthetic products (which HHC and derivatives are), as they are more complex. Because of the complexity, the usual methods are not suitable and were, therefore, custom developed. Luckily, we can deal with such challenges, as we have a very experienced team with advanced equipment (GCMS and LCMS)."
"Throughout everything, our mission is to provide affordable, fast, and reliable results to the emerging cannabis community and industry. Currently, we are updating our methodologies so that even more cannabinoids and terpenes can be identified. We are also trying to raise awareness that residual solvent testing is an integral part of quality testing. We are planning on adapting to new compounds found in the plant that will give companies additional value. Meanwhile, we, of course, want to contribute to bringing a safe product to consumers," Jan says.
As the cannabis industry is still in its infancy and regulatory practices are being changed constantly, Jan is not surprised by inaccurate cannabis testing occurring at other labs. "The problem seems not to be so much with accuracy rather than intentional result inflation and sample manipulation to skew results into producing a more market appealing CoA," he says. "As potency is, in fact, driven up by genetics and progressing horticultural practices, some flower CoA results do present questionably high numbers that should be investigated in an inter-laboratory exam system. I'm very much a fan of high numbers in all products as they are a hallmark of something being done right in the process. But to inflate results just to get a competitive edge in the market should not be allowed for profit gain."
Having said that, Jan mentions that protocols for objective sampling exist and could be implemented with every batch to have a more representative sample acquired. "One good approach would be sending products pulled off the shelf in a big enough sample and testing periodically for compliance with accredited testing methodologies. This would render labeling fraud useless, as companies will want to test with a lab that aligns their results with accepted methodologies."
"Another option would be random onsite testing at the production facility like we are used to in the EU," Jan says. "In Europe, deflation of THC results is sometimes requested to help sell the product legally. We regularly explain that methodologies by authorities are established, and we want to keep our clients safe, respecting and implementing similar methodologies. By doing so, they are able to check regularly for compliance, trusting the CoA we issue."
Jan does mention that it is necessary to understand that even in an ISO or GMP environment, lab results are within a margin of allowed error due to the sensitivity of the instruments at work. "With the emerging cannabis industry, laboratory testing services are more common, but the intricacies of running a chemical analysis laboratory are beyond just running a GC or HPLC."
The Slovenian cannabis market
Jan explains that outdoor hemp production is legal in Slovenia if you hold a license from the Ministry of Agriculture and produce under 0.2% THC. Medical cannabis can be cultivated, but strictly under the research license issued by the Ministry of Health. "So CBD businesses, for example, are allowed to operate and have flourishing businesses, as organic cultivation and processing is very revered in Slovenia, and the quality of the products is very high."
When it comes to the future of the Slovenian cannabis market, it might take some time before further legalization developments occur. "Currently, all eyes are on Germany. I think efforts will be more fruitful in Slovenia once Germany has achieved a clear legislative frame. We are hoping that legalization will bring less tension and more possibilities to the emerging businesses and farmers."