Many countries throughout the world have started to legalize recreational and medicinal cannabis. In the United States, testing cannabis and cannabis products for potency is required. Emerging interest in the therapeutic benefits of minor cannabinoids has increased the demand for analytical methods capable of separating 17 cannabinoids. The cannabinoids targeted for testing consisted of those listed by the AOAC in standard method performance requirements (SMPRs) for dried plant material (low and high THC varieties), chocolates, and concentrates plus three additional cannabinoids of interest.
A complete HPLC workflow has been developed to simplify cannabinoid profiling and potency determination. This workflow offers the following:
• Step-by-step instructions for sample preparation and analysis of 17 cannabinoids
• Rapid high-resolution gradient method: 6 minutes on C18 column (2 µm)
• Rapid gradient method: 6 minutes on C18 (2.7 µm)
• Low pressure isocratic method: 8 minutes on C8 column (2.7 µm)
• Low flow rate for reduced solvent consumption
• Compatibility with mass spectrometry
An orthogonal analysis of a high CBD hemp strain was performed using two different stationary phases. The instructions provided below were used to prepare the hemp extract and standard solutions for cannabinoid quantitation. The Low Pressure Isocratic and Rapid High-Resolution methods were selected to determine potency (total THC and CBD) of the hemp flower.
Low Pressure Isocratic Method: Standard Solution and Blank
Rapid High-Resolution Gradient Method: Standard Solution and Blank
Rapid Gradient Method: Standard Solution and Blank
Low Pressure Isocratic Method: 17 Cannabinoids in Peak Identification Solution
Rapid High-Resolution Method: 17 Cannabinoids in Peak Identification Solution
Rapid Gradient Method: 17 Cannabinoids in Peak Identification Solution
Results: Cannabinoid profile and potency of hemp flower
A complete HPLC workflow has been developed to simplify cannabinoid profiling and potency determination. This workflow offers simple sample preparation and a choice of three methods:
Using the Rapid High-Resolution Gradient and the Low Pressure Isocratic Methods in an orthogonal approach, the total THC was found to significantly exceed the 0.3% total THC limit imposed by the United States Department of Agriculture Interim Final Rule. Results with the Rapid Gradient Method were comparable (data not shown). Although ∆9-THC levels were low, a significant amount of the acidic form (THCA) was present. The hemp sample tested here illustrates the challenges in hemp production to obtain results in a timely manner for harvesting before THC content exceeds regulatory requirements. Rapid and accurate methods support timely analysis of hemp and cannabis.
The results confirmed the high total CBD content, with the majority found to be in the acidic form (CBDA). The results from all methods were in agreement and demonstrated a high degree of selectivity despite the abundance of matrix components.
These methods can easily be adopted to quantitate cannabinoids in plant material spanning concentrations of 0.05–100% by weight. The short run times and low solvent use makes these methods cost-effective for high-throughput potency testing.