July 29, 2019

Quality Assurance Across the Cannabis Supply Chain

Cree Crawford, President of Ionization Labs, discusses the importance for quality testing throughout the cannabis supply chain.



Testing in cannabis remains clunky, complicated, and expensive. As cultivators and producers know all-too-well, testing for potency is a process in need of modernization. Ionization Labs, the brainchild of Cree Crawford, who was a former cultivator himself, addresses this dilemma head-on.

Their first product, the Cann-ID, is "The first affordable, highly scalable, accurate, and simple to use in-house marijuana and hemp testing unit." No more cumbersome and overly technical laboratory testing equipment, the Cann-ID has simplified the process, without compromising accuracy and data analysis.

Crawford, in his recent interview for A Tech Moment, explained the three core principles behind the Cann-ID product: accuracy, and simplicity. Without those three core values, Cann-ID wouldn't have been able to make the impact it has across the full breadth of the industry.

What is Cann-ID Solution?

Three years ago, Ionization Labs launched its first product, the Cann-ID. They combined hardware with combined a simple to use software component. Both of which were components typically reserved for use by Ph. D. students, but reworked for better user experience.

The two features, the high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and the overlay propriety simplified and intuitive analysis software, bring lab testing in-house without sacrificing the accuracy of the results. Crawford and his team designed Cann-ID as a complete potency test but stripped out the unnecessary, and complicated pieces of chemistry. This ensures anyone can learn to operate it, in two hours or less and no Ph.D. required.

The final component to Ionization Lab's Cann-ID program is the subscription. A subscription provides  customers with "Turn-key Sample Preparation Kits" to "take all the guesswork and variables OUT and puts accuracy & consistency IN potency testing."

As Crawford explains, "One of the greatest points of variability is sample the prep process." During sample preparation, there are too many variables to ensure consistency from one sample to the next, and from one technician to the next. With many conventional techniques and chemical profiles, there is greater room for variability in results. Ionization Labs sought to homogenize the variables through the delivery of sample preparation kits. These kits rely on in-house chemistry and formulations to minimize the number of steps in the process. 

To date, the Cann-ID is capable of testing for 14 cannabinoids:

  • THC-Δ9 
  • CBD 
  • CBN 
  • THC-Δ8 
  • CBDA 
  • CBNA 
  • THCA 
  • CBDV 
  • CBG 
  • THCV 
  • CBDVA 
  • CBGA  
  • THCVA
  • CBC 

The subscription includes pre-measured and pre-filled sample kits to reduce the time and variables required. The subscription includes all necessary consumables, like mobile phase, vials, solvent chemistry, column & guards, and complete user support.

Ionization Labs, a Data Aggregator

As Crawford stated to Cannabis Tech, "At the end of the day, we are data aggregators, and it's how you want to apply that chemical data that can make your business more efficient." The data pulled from the subscription feeds into a cloud-based analysis. It's a powerful tool for all levels of the cannabis ecosystem, from cultivators to producers.

Cultivators can use the analytics component for breeding strains with highly sought after and exotic cannabinoids. Hemp cultivators can monitor harvests to remain compliant with strictly controlled THC levels. Both sides of the cannabis universe can use the information to strengthen harvests, and better understand how to increase (or decrease) specific cannabinoids based on growing environments.

With each test, only $18 and results delivered within 12 minutes, there is no reason not to take advantage of the available data provided through on-site Cann-ID testing. Crawford was initially inspired to improve potency testing because, as he said, there had to be a better way forward. Cann-ID has done much more than simplifying the process. Its removed delays, and put the information back into the hands of the people who can use.

The Future of In-House Testing

Having potency testing checked off the list, Ionization Lab is now working on several other developments over the coming months. In three to four months, they hope to release the next product innovation: in-house terpene testing. Soon after, they want to add a residual solvent testing component. These new developments are bringing everything that was formerly done by third-party, off-site laboratories, in-house and under the control of the cultivator, producer or extractor.

Crawford ended by talking about his vision for the future of testing. He predicts a time where business can provide a complete and entirely accurate profile of a product, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and even flavonoid analysis. For the final customer, standing in front of a shelf full of product, this level of detail will aid in the purchasing decision. A detailed profile, like the one Crawford and Ionization Lab is working to provide, will paint a perfect picture of what the customer should expect, whether that's on an experiential level or medicinal one.