How to Ensure the Effective Testing for the Cannabis Industry

Posted by Milan Patel on May 25, 2018

PDX contaminated


According to Forbes, marijuana is currently legal for recreational use in nine states, and legal for medical use in another twenty-nine states. Regulations are trying to catch up to the sprinting cannabis industry.

According to data published in Marijuana Business Factbook, sales of legal and recreational cannabis in 2017 in the US topped sales of Oreos, and illustrated how fast the industry has grown. Revenue of $5.8 to $6.6 billion is not even close to the projected demand for products, which is estimated to be $50 to $55 billion.

Americans are poised to spend more on cannabis than Netflix subscriptions. And with California’s colossal new recreational industry just ramping up, spending is expected to surpass McDonald’s annual revenue shortly.

That places a lot of pressure on marijuana growers and retailers to try to keep pace with this intense and growing demand that looks like it will continue to eclipse supply for some time to come.

Further complicating the supply chain from growers to consumers is the looming regulatory landscape. Without federal guidance, there exists a patchwork of state regulations the cannabis industry must navigate. Regulations can quickly become a moving target as states attempt to control the booming industry and protect consumers from contaminated cannabis products.

Growers and retailers need to stay ahead of regulations with effective, affordable and efficient pathogen detection that identifies microbial contamination such as bacteria and fungus. Marijuana testing should identify all state-required contaminants as well as the root cause of any problem. This gives growers an opportunity to get out in front of crop contamination and avoid any logistical hiccups in their plant pipeline supply.

The Problems with Marijuana Testing

The potential contamination problems associated with the massive cannabis industry that arose practically overnight would argue for more rigorous controls initially. Similar industries, such as the food industry, have large historical data sets and experience with consumers; their oversight and controls are now standardized and routine.

As new regulations roll out, companies in every part of the cannabis supply chain risk compliance issues and regulatory audits. Contamination, marijuana testing, and regulatory audits all present as choke points in the flow of cannabis industry products to consumers; these can become product logjams. Fast, effective lab testing can help companies sail through the testing hurdles and safeguard against audits.

Inhalation presents a different set of health threats than oral ingestion. Some pathogen detection tests, while legal, are outdated, ineffective and can leave consumers vulnerable. Expensive and inefficient tests using petri dishes aren’t sensitive enough to identify every contaminant. Additionally, some tests are also plagued by false conclusions that render the results useless.

Common remediation methods, like UV radiation, ozonation, and hydrogen peroxide, can mask the contamination problem. They don’t address the root cause of the contaminants. These methods can hide the problem just enough to pass regulations, but still put the grower and consumers at risk.

Ineffective marijuana testing and futile remediation methods are a growing problem for the cannabis industry. They can lead to more severe state testing standards.

Solutions for the Cannabis Industry

Once a supply chain – grower to retailer – has been identified by regulators as a contamination problem, sale of product will be halted, revenue is strangled and profits shrink. Avoid costly interruptions of sales by using quality lab testing.

PathogenDx (PDX) DNA-based pathogen testing is a novel, effective and cost-efficient solution for the cannabis industry.

PDX deploys two proprietary technologies as the basis for marijuan testing. The first technology is Raw Sample PCR (RSP). With RSP, the raw sample- a leaf, a bud or swab- can be made ready for microarray testing without DNA purification, DNA quantitation or DNA quality analysis. The microbes in the sample are simply washed off the surface of the sample then collected by bench top centrifugation to generate a tiny pellet, which is then disrupted and used directly for analysis: without DNA purification, DNA quantitation or DNA quality analysis. Those several processing simplifications greatly reduce the time and total labor cost of marijuana testing, with no loss in sensitivity, while retaining the ability to quantify the amount of each pathogen being tested in the cannabis sample, based on the DNA resident in each pathogen.

The second technology is known as Low Cost Microarray (LCM). LCM is a technology used to design and manufacture DNA tests with two levels of multiplexing: Level One, which allows 12 cannabis samples to be tested in parallel and Level Two, where each of the 12 cannabis samples is tested by a miniature array of 144 DNA tests (a DNA microarray). The entire assembly (i.e. 12 separate DNA microarrays) is mass produced on a single low cost, 1”x3” glass slide. For each cannabis sample applied to the slide, the DNA microarray enables the analysis of up to 48 different pathogens, in triplicate, for each of the 12 samples.  Because the microarray test is DNA based, LCM enables detection of both viable and non-viable organisms: thereby generating a measure of total pathogen contamination in the cannabis sample that is insensitive to intentional or accidental mishandling of the specimen during collection, shipping and handling on the way to a regulated test lab.

Overall, the [RSP + LCM] technology pairing deployed by PDX delivers significant workflow simplification, while delivering a massive increase in the amount of data which can be collected per cannabis sample: all as a low cost, highly sensitive and accurate DNA-based test.

PDX offers multiple solutions for the cannabis industry. PDx-Cannabis (PDx-C) provides ultra-rapid microbial technology for compliance testing. This targets samples before they reach the market. PDx-Environmental Screening (PDX-Es) targets the root cause of contamination for growers and cultivators by focusing on the growing environment. The test identifies contamination factors before they can cause problems for the end product.  

Accelerate Growth with Marijuana Testing

As more states enforce marijuana regulations, the cannabis industry needs efficient and accurate testing methods. Relying on outdated and ineffective testing puts the growers and retailers at risk for stricter oversight, regulatory fines, expensive recalls, negative public relations, sticky legal issues, time-consuming crop remediation or possibly even destruction of an entire crop. And your consumers are at risk for health problems from microbial contamination.

DNA based pathogen testing helps ensure clean product and the safety of consumers.

Learn more about PathogenDx’s innovative DNA-based testing and see how it can improve revenue for the cannabis industry.

Topics: cannabis testing

Written by Milan Patel