“Have you seen the paper?” asked Mark Raber when I stopped by the Werc Shop booth at the High Times cannabis cup in Los Angeles on Sunday. He handed me a copy of that morning’s LA Times. Prominently played on the front page of the second section was a story by Joe Mozingo about labs testing cannabis for “the industry,” accompanied by a photo of Mark himself in goggles and gloves, preparing buds for analysis. (L.A. Times Story)

Jeff Raber, Mark’s older brother, was quoted making the basic argument for testing: “‘Every pharmaceutical requires quality control and assurance, every diet supplement, every vitamin,’ said Jeff Raber, the Werc Shop founder and president, who has a PhD in chemistry from USC. ‘Why not treat this like medicine?'” Mozingo did thorough research for his article, which portrayed the labs’ situation as precarious legally and economically. “Dozens” of labs have begun testing cannabis in the last two years, Mozingo reported, but “only some top-end dispensaries test their products.”

Stacey Kerr, MD, was quoted on the importance of testing:

Doctors say testing is critical for patients with compromised immune systems. “Unless they’re growing their own, I don’t think they should buy medical cannabis if it hasn’t been lab-analyzed,” said Dr. Stacey Kerr, a family physician in Santa Rosa and a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians. “This is adding integrity to the medicine.”

Kerr’s group is keenly interested in a compound called cannabidiol, or CBD, which reportedly does not cause users to feel stoned, but has calming and pain-relieving effects that may help treat a range of problems, including arthritis, side effects of chemotherapy, asthma, sleep disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The labs are helping identify strains high in CBD and low in THC, which a few leading dispensaries are encouraging cultivators to grow. Clinicians are studying the effects. “The lab analysis is allowing patients to choose their medicine with knowledge of what is actually in it,” Kerr said.

The retro message is obvious: Dispensary and lab owners should steer patients to the SCC survey, which is overseen by Dr. Kerr, and is being promoted by ProjectCBD.org. It would be in everyone’s interests to have an independent, unbiased, physician-supervised data collection effort.

SC Labs Testing for Terpenes

SC Laboratories, based in Santa Cruz, is going to start testing for terpenoids this week. Their booth at the High Times event featured beakers filled with various terpenes for the smelling -an experience your correspondent found fascinating. Sure enough, myrcene, which is prevalent in hops, smelled like Sierra Nevada India Pale Ale tastes. And geraniol, which is present in geraniums (and other plants), lived up to its name.

SC Labs recently acquired a quantitative-Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) instrument that unwinds, amplifies, and quantifies DNA on a cellular level. Dixon says qPCR enables the lab “to rapidly and precisely identify the amount of pathogenic fungi and bacteria present on a sample in a fraction of the time needed by standard biological plating techniques.” Pathogenic microbes can be introduced by poor growing, drying, and curing practices. Although not commonly present at harmful levels, they are of serious concern to patients with compromised immune systems.

SC intends to employ the qPCR for many other purposes. Microbiologist Brian Velasquez “has developed an assay to determine the sex of a couple-of-weeks-old seedling from a hole punch of a leaf ” says Dixon. He adds, “qPCR is a pretty capable instrument, and understanding Cannabis genomics is going to really help breeders develop medically useful plants.”

Out of the Single-Issue Trap!

SC Labs’ Alec Dixon has been providing CBD-rich clones to members of the Veterans Alliance for Medical Marijuana (VAMM). Dixon describes VAMM as “a veteran-run organization seeking to take on the PTSD epidemic.” One vet dies by suicide every 80 minutes in the U.S, according to the Veterans Affairs Department. Post-traumatic stress is a major causal factor.

Dixon himself was enlisted in the US Navy from 2001-2006, stationed onboard the U.S.S. Charlotte SSN 766, a fast-attack submarine based out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Norfolk, Virginia. He was honorably discharged as a Petty Officer Second Class, Fire Control Technician (Submarine Qualified).

“It’s so backwards,” Dixon says of denying vets access to cannabis. “The number of combat troops that have died over in the middle east is less than the number of veterans who die from suicide in one year. We have plenty of anecdotal evidence that Cannabis is a useful treatment for PTSD, and the pharmaceutical alternatives are toxic and ineffective. CBD-rich Cannabis might prove to be especially useful.”

So far VAMM has attained clones of CBD-rich Omrita, Harlequin, and what Dixon calls “a really nice Cannatonic” variety with a 3:1 ratio and CBDA content peaking at 17%. (SC Labs uses liquid chromatology, a testing method that does not require heating of Cannabis samples. CBD and THC are measured in their acid form, as they are produced by the plant. In their neutral form these compounds are about 13% lighter -thus 17% CBDA transforms to 14.8% CBD.)

Dixon is also working to acquire and put into the hands of VAMM clones of three recently identified CBD-rich varieties -ACDC from Mendocino county, The Hope from Sonoma County, and a Headband cross from Southern Humboldt that SC’s initial test showed to contain 18% CBDA and

When the mother plants being grown by the VAMM members are mature enough, Dixon says, cuttings will go to several “progressive collectives” that SC labs has connected with through its partnership with WeedMaps, the powerhouse search site. The participating collectives, Dixon says, “are committed not only to distributing CBD-rich medicine, but to educating patients about its potential and encouraging them to report results through the Society of Cannabis Clinicians survey.” Comes Now the Quantacann

There was a steady crowd checking out the booth where Steep Hill Lab was demonstrating their new “Quantacann” technology. The device is meant to be installed at dispensaries, where samples are read. Data on THCA and THC and CBD levels and moisture content is relayed to Steep Hill online, analyzed, and reported back in 80 seconds, according to their on-line pitch.

A dispensary leasing a Quantacann for $5,000/month and can run unlimited tests. The prospect of finding CBD is a big selling-point: “Now you don’t have to be a scientist to discover unique strains. You can instantly identify CBD-rich strains that may have never been discovered before. CBD-rich medical cannabis is visually indistinguishable from cannabis that contains little to no levels of CBD. With a QuantaCann you will never miss an opportunity to get CBD medicine to patients.”

-Fred Gardner, Editor O’Shaughnessy’s Journal