How much pot in that brownie? Chocolate can throw off tests

How much pot in that brownie? Chocolate can throw off tests
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, photo, chemist David Dawson holds up a vial of an extracted cannabis-infused chocolate bar as he demonstrates testing for THC and other chemicals at CW Analytical Laboratories in Oakland, Calif. Chemists are trying to solve a scientific mystery involving marijuana brownies. Chocolate seems to throw off test results for potency. That could be dangerous for consumers looking to relax, not hallucinate. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

How much marijuana is really in that pot brownie? Chocolate can throw off potency tests so labels aren't always accurate, and now scientists are trying to figure out why.

In states where marijuana is legal, pot comes in cookies, mints, gummies, protein bars—even pretzels. These commercial products are labeled with the amount of high-inducing THC. That helps medical marijuana patients get the desired dose and other consumers attune their buzz.

But something about chocolate, chemists say, seems to interfere with potency testing. A chocolate labeled as 10 milligrams of THC could have far more and send someone to the emergency room with hallucinations.

The latest research on chocolate, to be presented at a San Diego meeting this week, is one example of chemistry's growing role in the marijuana industry. Besides chocolate's quirks, chemists are working on extending shelf life, mimicking marijuana's earthy aroma and making products safer.

The marijuana business is at a crossroads in its push for legitimacy. The federal government still considers marijuana illegal, yet more than 30 U.S. states allow it for at least medical use. Even in those states, there are no recognized standard methods for testing products for safety and quality.

How much pot in that brownie? Chocolate can throw off tests
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, photo, chemist David Dawson pours pieces of a cannabis-infused chocolate bar into a vial as he demonstrates testing for THC and other chemicals at CW Analytical Laboratories in Oakland, Calif. Chemists are trying to solve a scientific mystery involving marijuana brownies. Chocolate seems to throw off test results for potency. That could be dangerous for consumers looking to relax, not hallucinate. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Chemists working for marijuana companies and testing labs are developing those standards and some are legally protecting their ideas.

Scores of cannabis-related inventions have received U.S. patents, said Boston attorney Vincent Capuano, who holds a doctorate in organic chemistry. Inventors have patented ways of putting cannabis into milk, coffee pods, ice pops and chewing gum.

"There's a lot of flash and hipness, snake oil and marketing. But there's still a lot of real chemical advance happening," Capuano said of the industry. "It's right in center field for chemists."

Marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, including cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, a trendy ingredient with unproven health claims. Some pose challenges when they're processed. Chocolate is a good example.

How much pot in that brownie? Chocolate can throw off tests
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, photo, chemist David Dawson holds a cannabis-infused chocolate bar as he demonstrates testing for THC and other chemicals at CW Analytical Laboratories in Oakland, Calif. Chemists are trying to solve a scientific mystery involving marijuana brownies. Chocolate seems to throw off test results for potency. That could be dangerous for consumers looking to relax, not hallucinate. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

"The chocolate itself is affecting our ability to measure the cannabinoids within it," said David Dawson, chemist and lead researcher at CW Analytical Laboratories in Oakland, California, which tests marijuana.

The more chocolate in the vial, the less accurate the test results, he found. He thinks some of the THC is clinging to the fat in chocolate, effectively hiding from the test.

Dawson's research is on the agenda at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Diego. The conference includes 20 presentations about marijuana's technical challenges, said Markus Roggen, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based chemist organizing the program. That's a big change from a few years ago when presenters didn't get much beyond the basics such as: "This is THC. This is CBD."

Some in the marijuana industry hold "a mythical belief in the goddess of cannabis," Roggen said, but chemists view marijuana more objectively. For its part, the industry is learning to accept the "new guard of scientists with a different approach to the plant," he said.

How much pot in that brownie? Chocolate can throw off tests
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, photo, chemist David Dawson gives a demonstration on testing for THC and other chemicals at CW Analytical Laboratories in Oakland, Calif. Chemists are trying to solve a scientific mystery involving marijuana brownies. Chocolate seems to throw off test results for potency. That could be dangerous for consumers looking to relax, not hallucinate. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Another focus of research is a group of chemicals called terpenes that give the marijuana plant its pungent aroma. Many terpenes get lost or changed in the process of making a THC or CBD extract. But users want a certain smell and taste, said chemist Jeffrey Raber.

Raber heads the Werc Shop, a Los Angeles company that mixes terpenes from lavender, oranges, black pepper and other plants to mimic the flavor and scent of cannabis varieties. The mashups are sold to companies who add them to oils, tinctures and foods.

Monica Vialpando, a San Francisco chemist, is working to prevent drinks with CBD and THC oils from separating into unappealing layers while sitting on the shelf. The oils don't dissolve in water, a problem for companies trying to create new drinks.

"We're fighting against the true nature of the THC," Vialpando, who came to cannabis from the pharmaceutical industry.

How much pot in that brownie? Chocolate can throw off tests
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, photo, chemist David Dawson holds up a vial of extracted cannabis with an organic solvent as he demonstrates testing for THC and other chemicals at CW Analytical Laboratories in Oakland, Calif. Chemists are trying to solve a scientific mystery involving marijuana brownies. Chocolate seems to throw off test results for potency. That could be dangerous for consumers looking to relax, not hallucinate. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Chemists solve the problem by increasing the surface area of the oil particles and adding ingredients, called surfactants and emulsifiers, to prevent separation.

She said consumers should be skeptical of outrageous claims for edibles and beverages, including that all the THC or CBD in a product will be absorbed. Some potency will always be lost in the digestive system before it hits the bloodstream, she said.

But for now, exactly what happens in the human body with most of these products is unclear, Vialpando said, because there's been very little safety testing of cannabis emulsions in animals, much less in humans.

How much pot in that brownie? Chocolate can throw off tests
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, photo, Robert Martin, co-founder and CEO of CW Analytical Laboratories, poses for photos while being interviewed at his office in Oakland, Calif. Chemists are trying to solve a scientific mystery involving marijuana brownies. Chocolate seems to throw off test results for potency. That could be dangerous for consumers looking to relax, not hallucinate. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

In Ottawa, Ontario, a Canadian government lab is working on a sensor to help police identify stoned drivers. The goal is to detect cannabinoid molecules in saliva or breath droplets, using light and nanoparticles. Still years away from roadside use, the technology might someday also be used by marijuana growers to determine the peak time to harvest, said chemist Li-Lin Tay, who leads the work for National Research Council of Canada.

To do his work with chocolate, Dawson grinds a THC-infused chocolate bar in a commercial food processor, weighs samples, adds solvent to the material ("It starts looking like chocolate milk," he says), before measuring the THC potency. He's tested cocoa powder, baking chocolate and white chocolate to try to determine what ingredients are hiding the THC during testing.

This will lead to better testing standards and safer products, he said.

"We need good 'capital S' science," he said.


Explore further

Oregon allows sale of pot edibles, oils to general public

More information: Investigation of matrix effects in cannabis-infused chocolates, the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2019 National Meeting & Exposition.

Abstract
Since legalization at the start of 2018, California's legal cannabis market has been expanding rapidly, in part due to the wide array of new product types. Many of these are complex matrices that have not been fully researched prior to state level compliance testing. This is an obstacle for cannabis testing labs, where undefined matrix effects may hinder the development of highly accurate and precise testing methods. In this investigation of potency testing of cannabis-infused chocolates, various sample preps are analyzed for their accuracy and repeatability. These experiments suggest there is signal suppression of delta9-THC by the chocolate matrix itself. This presentation will discuss the scope of signal suppression on cannabinoid analytes, possible sources of suppression, and efforts to overcome this phenomenon. The field of cannabinoid analyte testing in complex matrices is still in its very early stages but is highly relevant to commercial cannabis testing.

© 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: How much pot in that brownie? Chocolate can throw off tests (2019, August 25) retrieved 19 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-chocolate-cannabis-potency.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
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User comments

Aug 25, 2019
Mmm...yes....hahaha...these are so difficult to test...mmm...they are definitely more than 10 perc...yes...we must "destroy" them....get more....mmm....hahaha.

Just another "tough" day on the job.

Aug 26, 2019
SWEETIE HIGH'S

before we bite this sugary high
this chocolate is for all to eat
a glass and a half in every drop

for chocalate is
this gluten free
a healthy food for Coeliacs

chocolate
a little childs desire
but is that sweetie high

for those who are
Coeliac sensitive know well
this deceptive ingriediant marketing

fore are these
sweetie highs so correctly marketed
so little children know their highs

sweetie highs
sweetie lows
sweetie pure

fore this the qestion
To sleep, perchance to dream
ay, there's the rub

For in that sleep of death
what dreams may come, When we
have shuffled off this mortal coil

fore this choc-co-late's
been laced with death for cannabis
this gateway to stronger potency high

this mix of choc-co-late's potency
choc-co-late's increases this cannabis high
when cannabis is laced in choc-co-late

for in this lucrative, a sordid business!
so to increase this products latency, kilos, dollars, death!
not now with talc, but now with choc-co-late!

SWEETIE HIGH'S

Aug 26, 2019
Researchers now report that components in chocolate might be interfering with cannabis potency testing, leading to inaccurate results.

Is this a new insight? I remember at least a decade ago that it was common knowledge that consumption of chocolate milk could create false positives for the administered cannabis tests (e.g. those used at police spot-checks).

Aug 26, 2019
Old knowledge used in new ways

antialias_physorg> Is this a new insight? I remember at least a decade ago that it was common knowledge that consumption of chocolate milk could create false positives for the administered cannabis tests (e.g. those used at police spot-checks).

But antialias_physorg, this old knowledge of defeating spot-checks
Is
Now being used to increase the addictive high cannabis gives
Known on the street, as Sweetie High's

Aug 26, 2019
Perhaps it is why so many States in the US have passed laws allowing 'recreational Cannabis use' now, and not only for medical purposes - to prevent so many users from being arrested and sent to gaol for smoking weed and purchasing edibles with THC. Certain types of human believe that it is their 'right' to poison their bodies and slowly kill themselves, thinking that it has something to do with 'independence', 'freedom', and their 'human and civil rights'.
And yes, they do have the right to kill themselves in any way they choose. Putting foreign substances in the body is not only detrimental to their health and the natural flow of the body's mechanisms that have evolved through millions of years. But they are either unaware of that 'natural order' OR their sense of independence means more to them than does common sense.
In any case, as the years go by, these users are less and less of any use to themselves or to society. They just exist and that's all.

Aug 26, 2019
A lucrative shipment: Sweetie High's

SEU> Perhaps it is why so many States in the US have passed laws allowing 'recreational Cannabis use' now,

Or it could be the barons have moved in to lucrative Sweetie High's commodities shipment markets
As they can now legally lace drugs with chocolate and other sweet due to this unique property
It increases this drugs potency, thereby increasing the dollar per kilo

SEU, those in this shabby business are all in for the money and cartels, well as you do not live in these Shire's, you know of this shady side of life

But SEU, What precautions is Donald taking, protecting children, from Sweetie High's!

Aug 26, 2019
Certain types of human believe that it is their 'right' to poison their bodies and slowly kill themselves. Putting foreign substances in the body is not only detrimental to their health and the natural flow of the body's mechanisms that have evolved through millions of years. But they are either unaware of that 'natural order' OR their sense of independence means more to them than does common sense
Cannabinoids occur naturally in the human brain/body, boy do you suck at science. Your inapplicable knowledge-free remark is what's poisonous, foreign, and toxic... there're people rotting their lives away in for-profit prisons over it, wt absolute f you bootlicking moron.

Aug 26, 2019
@Protoplasmix
There are certain chemicals that occur naturally in the human body such as dopamine. But they are natural to the body and are not artificially introduced into the body for the purpose of giving the person a feeling of euphoria. You are mistaken. Cannabinoids is the name of certain chemicals that are derived from the Cannabis PLANT. THC is one.

If you are concerned with Cannabis users who are still in prison, perhaps you can make an attempt to break them out. Either that or speak to the legislators of that particular State to have their judgment overturned.
Perhaps those who remain in gaol have not only been caught in possession of Cannabis or Heroin or some other illegal substance, but also may have been arrested for some other crime. You won't know unless you ask. Or perhaps it is someone that you KNOW. In that case, see my above recommendations.
Your ad hominem is unimpressive and my opinion of you has been lowered considerably.

Aug 26, 2019
@granvile

The first line of DEFENSE against those who would poison the bodies and minds of American children are the PARENTS. Unfortunately, there are those parents who are themselves addicted to THC, whether in edibles or pipes or whatever is used. If parents are addicted, then it is far more likely that the children will follow suit and become addicts themselves. It is a shame, but it does happen. If you don't know such humans and are unaware of their activities, it is impossible to do anything for them.
And that's where Law-enforcement comes in. And if the children are very young, they will most likely be separated from their parents/family. Perhaps adopted by better people. What can be done about such horrible situations? I can do nothing and YOU can do nothing. But IF you SEE such things going on, it is best to inform the authorities and let them handle the situation.
There are LAWS that are meant to be followed and obeyed. If not obeyed, there is ANARCHY.

Aug 26, 2019
OK I found "Cannabinoid Receptors" that are in the body, but are NOT the Cannabinoids that are found in the Cannabis/Hemp plant.

"Cannabinoid receptors, located throughout the body, are part of the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. Cannabinoid receptors are of a class of cell membrane receptors in the G protein-coupled receptor superfamily."

A 'class of cell membrane receptors' has nothing to do with the artificial use of the product of the Cannabis plant. The term 'Cannabinoids' is an unfortunate term for chemicals that occur naturally in the human body.

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