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New Analysis of Cannabis

Analysis of hemp – New development of a method for the determination of THC and other cannabinoids

For thousands of years, hemp has been used as a useful plant and valued for the production of ropes and fabrics. Much better known is the use of cannabis and hemp to produce illegal intoxicants, which has long been viewed as problematic. However, since hemp can be grown again in some countries of the European Union as an industrial crop in the form of low-intoxicant hemp varieties, components of the hemp plant are increasingly used for the production of food.

The cannabis plant is used in a variety of ways. Since hemp seeds contain unsaturated fatty acids they are often eaten as food or pressed into cooking oil. Dried hemp leaves are infused into tea or mixed into juices and smoothies. Some active ingredients in hemp even have therapeutic potential and are used as drugs. Different laws must be observed, which must be distinguished from one another. In addition to food law, the Narcotic Drugs Act, the Medicinal Products Act, the Cosmetics Directive and the Act on Medical Devices play a role.

Various ingredients called „cannabinoids“ are mainly found in the blossom of the hemp plant (cannabis). The best known of these are Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC induces a state of intoxication, CBD has no psychoactive effects. Cannabinol (CBN) in turn has a slightly psychoactive effect. CBN is not produced directly from the hemp plant, but is created through the oxidation of THC. As a rule, the level of CBN is related to the age of the plant. The concentration of CBN increases as the THC content decreases.

In the food industry, low-THC hemp varieties and products made from them, such as CBD oils, hemp protein powder, hemp flours or beverages, which are processed in hemp-containing food supplements are becoming increasingly important.

Legal regulations

In Germany, products with a THC content of more than 0.2% are classfied as narcotics and are therefore not marketable as food. [1] Importers of hemp products or producers in the EU must therefore ensure that the THC content is below the regulated value.

There are currently no maximum levels for THC in hemp products in the European Union. The EU Commission is discussing maximum levels for hemp seeds, ground hemp seeds, presscakes, bran and hemp oil. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)recommends using the acute reference dose (ARfD) of 1 μg / kg body weight for Δ9-THC proposed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the toxicological assessment of the acute risk in order to exclude a health risk. [2]

GALAB – Comprehensive service from a single source

At GALAB, the cannabinoids are extracted with methanol and measured by LC-MS / MS. GALAB examines hemp seeds (industrial hemp) and hemp products such as hemp oil, hemp protein powder, hemp flours or beverages,
which among others, are processed in hemp-containing food supplements, especially Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidiolic acid (CBD-A) and cannabinol (CBN).

Whether for importers, producers or sellers – our methodology allows a reliable qualification and quantification of the
regulated THC. You will receive competent advice and support from our experts on legal issues. Our research and
development department is also at your disposal for individual inquiries.

Further information

[1] Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV): Law on the circulation of narcotics 
[2] EFSA (European Food Safety Authority: Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM)) (2015). Scientific Opinion on the risks for public health related to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in milk and other food of animal origin. EFSA Journal 13: 4141.