As with most trends, uptake can be rapid and widespread. Sometimes this happens before consumers and users have acquired complete knowledge or understanding of what it means. Unfortunately, it is also true that where there's a trend, there are those who are ready to exploit the new market with some unscrupulous players doing whatever it takes to cash in on the act.
Cannabis-based products are enjoying an increase in popularity as consumers seek alternative nutrition and medicine to deal with ailments such as chronic pain, anxiety, and compromised immunity. Although natural plant-based ingredients such as those derived from cannabis may successfully relieve these conditions, many consumers are concerned about their safety and efficacy. A common consumer criticism of cannabis products is the variation in effect, even when the consumer purchases the same product from the same place, albeit at different times.
Branded goods producers in other industries have established good manufacturing practices (GMP) to ensure consistent product quality. This helps to give consumers confidence in their purchases - they know what they are buying and what to expect - and, therefore, forge brand loyalty. The quality of a final product can, however, only be as good as its raw ingredients. How, then, can manufacturers of cannabis products ensure the quality of their ingredients?
The answer is science. Science provides solutions for quality assurance (QA) based on a foundation in genomics and metabolomics. This approach provides the key to understanding the considerable diversity of natural chemicals, some of which induce a positive response in consumers whereas others induce a negative effect. It is prudent that cannabis QA processes consider these molecular analyses which verify the production of safe, uniform, and effective products.
The key concept in this molecular approach is found within the complexity of the genome - different species of cannabis, for example, contain different metabolites, which then will induce different effects or responses. It is this genetic variation that makes designing a validated commercial identity test challenging.
The cannabis industry is now finding itself dealing with established brand owners such as food manufacturers and retailers who require best practise and validated assurances for GMP and QA testing.
Dr Steven Newmaster, Director, NHP Research Alliance & Professor, University of Guelph, has developed a method that classifies the natural chemical variation in cannabis cultivars (strains) using Bruker's[AO1] nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). The method is easily and cost-effectively applied to commercial applications to produce NMR profiles or 'fingerprints' as a forensic quantitative measure of chemical diversity.
These 'fingerprints' provide forensic evidence for a natural ingredient's identity and purity, allowing a manufacturer to produce a consistent product for consumers that is verified against a standard. They also provide a molecular diagnostic tool that filters unnatural adulterants that are health risks, including improperly manufactured synthetic cannabinoids. Furthermore, they can also help us to understand how an individual will respond to a specific ingredient.
This method is currently being brought forward by NHP Research Alliance, Bruker and Purity-IQ to make it straight forward deployable in industrial environments.
Consumers now have control - they can choose to demand metabolite fingerprints from brand owners to ensure transparency in the supply of natural ingredients for the products they wish to purchase and they have clinical evidence to support health claims. In addition, this approach provides a science-based foundation for health practitioners to enable them to recommend authentic cannabis cultivars with known metabolites for patients seeking alternative medicines.