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Putting cannabis to the test

Putting cannabis to the test

Date Published: 09-May-19

Over one thousand new patients received medical prescriptions for cannabis in Australia in March this year. ChemCentre analyst Dr Chris May said the number of prescriptions for medicinal cannabis had been rising exponentially since November last year but March was the first time it topped 1000, and the rise is keeping things busy for the cannabis experts in the Primary Industries Team Chris leads.

“Medicinal cannabis is a pharmaceutical so manufacturers have certain specifications they must meet,” Chris said. “Our role is to test samples of the product to confirm they contain what they say they contain, within pre-determined tolerance levels.”

Medicinal cannabis falls within the Therapeutic Goods Administration guidelines and orders (TGO93) which specifies what can and can’t be in the cannabis.

“We perform a series of tests on the cannabis flower itself, including confirming that it is cannabis,” Chris said. “We test it for pesticide residues, heavy metals and mycotoxins (toxins from fungal contamination).”



Most medicinal cannabis manufactured in Australia is created by concentrating the cannabinoids, which is then put into a carrier oil, generally extracted from coconut or palm kernel oil. As well as its preliminary tests on the flowers, ChemCentre also tests the final dose from medicinal cannabis oil.

“We test for residual solvent used in producing the oil, and then test the cannabis oil for the presence of 11 different cannabinoids – which are the active ingredients in the oil,” Chris said. “The combination of different active ingredients gives medicinal cannabis its therapeutic properties which have been used to treat anxiety, provide pain relief and minimise epileptic seizures, amongst a range of other applications.”

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is perhaps the most widely known cannabinoid – famous for its psychoactive properties and found in high concentrations in the illicit recreational cannabis market – but is only one of the active ingredients ChemCentre tests medicinal cannabis for.

Medicinal cannabis and hemp, used in making rope, fabric and food, comes from the same plant – Cannabis sativa.

“Under current legislation, hemp must have a THC content of less than one per cent,” Chris said. “ChemCentre analyses hemp for the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), which samples hemp grown in WA.”

ChemCentre has been providing a service for testing hemp products for about three years and is one of only a few Australian laboratories accredited to test THC levels in hemp products.

For more information visit ChemCentre’s medicinal cannabis and hemp testing services web page or contact ChemCentre’s Scientific Services Division at ssd@chemcentre.wa.gov.au and highlight your enquiry in the subject line as hemp or medicinal cannabis.

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