The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Aug. 18 that it has chosen a very specific company’s portable cannabis analyzer to be used to test cannabis plants as well as products.
The analyzer was created by Orange Photonics, which utilizes spectroscopy and liquid chromatography in its LightLab 3 High Sensitivity (HS) Cannabis Analyzer. The FDA plans to “…to play a pivotal role in its efforts to regulate the national cannabis industry,” a press release stated.
Previously, the LightLab 3 HS Cannabis Analyzer was chosen by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CPB) in 2022 to be its chosen field-deployable analyzer.
“Previous to this award, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Laboratories and Scientific Services conducted a multi-phase assessment of LightLab 3 Cannabis Analyzer,” said Orange Photonics President Stephanie McArdle. “Unlike general purpose, laboratory-based HPLCs, LightLab is built to analyze cannabinoids which translates into a simplified workflow, affordability, and impressive analytical capabilities.
Year-to-date data as of September 2021 showed that the analyzer helped law enforcement confiscate $2 billion worth of illicit cannabis plants and products. At the time, Josephine County Sheriff Detective Kile Henrich praised the technology for quickly identifying the differences between cannabis or hemp. “Any region that has a drug enforcement operation should use the LightLab Cannabis Analyzer,” said Henrich. “LightLab saves time on having to take confiscated cannabis to a crime lab, a process which can take 30 days versus minutes for a test on-site. It saves months and prevents future lawsuits.”
According to Orange Photonics, the LightLab 3 “decreases the burden on forensic laboratories” by allowing the device to be simple to use, and test plants and products on-site where they are grown or manufactured, to provide instant results.
“The public deserves to have complete confidence in the safety, labeling, and marketing standards of products on retail shelves. State regulatory agencies have successfully relied upon the LightLab 3 Cannabis Analyzer technology for years,” said McArdle. “The FDA’s adoption of LightLab 3 Cannabis Analyzer is a positive step as it continues to prioritize public health within the current regulatory landscape.”
Orange Photonics offers three versions of the analyzer: the LightLab 3 Cannabis Analyzer, LightLab 3 High Sensitivity, and LightLab 3 Law Enforcement version, which roughly analyzes in 10.5 minutes.
All of which can quickly analyze up to 19 cannabinoids, including Delta-9 THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, CBN, CBG, and CBGA, in addition to others included in a “minors module.”
LightLab 3 can detect cannabis up to 0.5% (or 0.05% with the hemp compliance module), High Sensitivity up to 0.00017%/1.7ppm, and Law Enforcement version up to 0.5% (or 0.05% with the hemp compliance module).
What differs between each of the analyzers is the sample type. While the basic cannabis analyzer can test finished plant/flower, young plants, concentrates, tinctures, raffinate, and hemp compliance, the High Sensitivity version can also analyze beverage enhancers, baked goods, infused candies, pet treats, nano emulsions, and more. The Law Enforcement version focuses on dried plant/flower, young/wet plants, concentrates, edibles, and hemp compliance.
Orange Photonics’ product targets the need for quick and accurate product testing in order to maintain consumer safety. It cites the fact that over the past six years, the FDA has had to issue countless letters and safety notices to companies when they do not follow FDA regulations.
Orange Photonics plans to make numerous appearances at upcoming conventions through the rest of the year, including the California Cannabis Enforcement Summit (Aug. 22-24), TeeHC Open in Massachusetts (Sept. 8), International Drug Enforcement Conference XXXVII in Jamaica (Sept. 22), MJ Unpacked in Michigan (Oct. 10-12), and 12th Annual MJBizCon in Nevada (Nov. 28-Dec. 1).
While the LightLab 3 could play an important part in how the cannabis industry tests its products in the future, it does not affect the realm of testing in relation to the human body. Countless individuals have been punished due to THC being detected in their bloodstream long after they have consumed it.
The topic of cannabis being used as a performance-enhancing drug has been frequently revisited over the years, as many athletes have either come out in support of medical cannabis to treat sports-related conditions or dedicated themselves to the cause by creating their own cannabis brand. One of the most recent examples of this is with New Zealand-based rugby athlete, Isaia Walker-Leawere who received a one-month suspension and agreed to attend a treatment program.
Positive drug tests also negatively affect non-athletes frequently as well, with studies stating that positive workplace drug tests are at the highest levels in the past 25 years. Fortunately, some states are implementing rules to protect consumers. In Michigan, a civil service commission approved a new rule stating that no longer disqualify applicants for state positions in July.
Some legislators are also taking a stance on cannabis testing, such as Rep. Matt Gaetz recently called for putting an end to cannabis testing for military members last month. One New Jersey officer who tested positive for cannabis in 2022 was recently reinstated to his job with backpay.