Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

André Kawath/Wikimedia Commons
André Kawath/wikimedia commons

Experiences with edibles can vary wildly, even when following instructions on the box. Sure, some strains are headier than others, but researchers in Oakland, California, say it could be because the potency of THC has been miscalculated in some treats. 

A team from CW Analytical, an independent cannabis-testing laboratory, found that components in chocolate — a common ingredient for edibles — might be preventing accurate analysts when testing treats for potency. 

Here’s why:

When several ingredients are mixed together to make a food product — whether that’s in your kitchen or in an industrial bakehouse churning out edibles for sale at dispensaries — it creates a “matrix,” the composite of the food product. 

Basically, food is chemistry in action, in your mouth, with various ingredients interacting differently with one another. The combination can affect digestion and absorption of nutrients; a “matrix effect” that can skew testing results. 

The CW Analytical team believes that something in chocolate suppresses the delta-9-THC signal scientists are looking for.

“When we had less cannabis-infused chocolate in the sample vial, say 1 gram, we got higher THC potencies and more precise values than when we had 2 grams of the same infused chocolate in the vial,” principle investigator David Dawson said in a press release. “This goes against what I would consider basic statistical representation of samples, where one would assume that the more sample you have, the more representative it is of the whole.

“Simply changing how much sample is in the vial could determine whether a sample passes or fails, which could have a huge impact on the producer of the chocolate bars, as well as the customer who might be under- or overdosing because of this weird quirk of matrix effects,” he said.

The next step for the team is to determine which ingredient in chocolate is the culprit. According to Dawson in the press release, “Our best lead right now is that it has something to do with the fats, which makes sense considering that delta-9-THC is fat-soluble.”

Dawson hopes to study how other cannabinoids interact, specifically CBD, as it is cropping up in foods around the country. 

It’s important research as the push for nationwide legalization marches forward — with better understanding of how THC interacts with foods, businesses can ensure that they are providing the best product to their consumers. Accurate potency testing means better medicine and better adult-use products.