Chemical expertise at Chemistry Matters

Cannabis (Marijuana)

Share this

What is Cannabis?

Most know that cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant. However, in today’s medical and recreational landscape, the cannabis plant has been extracted, isolated, and even synthesized into various forms. Depending on the jurisdiction, cannabis dispensaries offer flower, concentrates, vaporizer cartridges, tinctures, pills, edibles, and topicals for a variety of purposes. Many of these products use the designation of sativa, indica or hybrid to indicate the strain of cannabis. Although historically there may have been specific attributes and physical differences between the plant cultivars, it is no longer a useful designation due to vast interbreeding and hybridization.

Why is it important?

The legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes in Canada, several States in the US, and other countries globally has highlighted the need for consistency in product descriptions and purity testing. Medical patients, in particular, require a product that is safe and will produce the desired therapeutic effect. Currently, there is no standardization of cannabis classifications, or required purity testing.  A science-based classification of the cannabis chemovar yields a more consistent product description that is necessary for patients, researchers, and cannabis producers to make informed decisions [1] .

  • Legal Sampling
  • Chain of Custody
  • Study Design
  • Data Analysis and Visualization
  • Data Wrangling
  • Multivariate Statistical Analysis
  • Principal Component (PCA); Hierarchical Cluster (HCA)
  • Science Communication
  • Data Science/Big Data
  • Multidimensional Gas Chromatography (GC×GC)
  • Source Apportionment
  • Chemical Fingerprinting
  • Diagnostic Ratios
  • Clandestine Laboratories
  • Forensic Genetic Microbiology

Join the Chemistry Matters Newsletter

Chemistry Matters Consulting Services and Expertise

The team at Chemistry Matters Inc (CMI) is multidisciplinary. Our group consists of analytical chemists, data scientists, statisticians, forensic chemists, and environmental scientists/chemists. We have leveraged our collective expertise to bring unique solutions to our clients. We specialize in experimental design, controlling variables, managing data, and using advanced data interpretation tools. Our experience as expert witnesses for litigation also gives our clients an advantage when data defensibility and communicating scientific concepts to legal counsel is required.

Chemical Fingerprinting

We know that the cannabis plant contains a complex mixture of chemical components that include cannabinoids, terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids, fatty acids, sterols, and sugars. The chemical diversity of cannabis is what differentiates flavors, aroma and potential therapeutic effects. Understanding attributes of cannabis through chemical fingerprinting can lead to confident, data-driven decisions.  The CMI team recommends using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC×GC-TOFMS) for cannabis chemical fingerprinting.  GC×GC-TOFMS is a multidimensional analysis that can increase the number of identified chemical components compared to a typical single dimension GC-MS analysis (Figure 1). Analysis of terpenes is especially important for the characterization of cannabis aroma, flavor, and synergistic therapeutic effects. With GC×GC it is possible to analyze a wider range of terpenes (Figure 2). Obtaining a chemical fingerprint can help monitor how different strains or processes/conditions, such as isolation, purification, baking for edibles, smoking, vaporization, or temperature influence the profiles of the chemicals in the product. Through strategic partnerships, the CMI team can provide the instrumental analysis, and more importantly, the expertise required to analyze and interpret GC×GC-TOFMS data. Using statistical analysis and data visualization tools we provide our clients a detailed chemical fingerprint that can help differentiate cannabis chemovars and assess the impact of changes in growing and processing conditions on the retail product.

Figure 1: GC > GCxGC-TOFMS
Figure 1. A) GC-TOFMS cannot identify Decanal through library match due to overlapping peaks. B) GC×GC-TOFMS separates Decanal from Myrtenal for a confident identification. (Figure courtesy of LECO, St. Joseph MI.
Figure 2: Improved separation of Cannabis terpenes and terpenoids
Figure 2: Analysis of 39 Cannabis terpenes using GC×GC. Chemical classes elute in regions for easier identification. (Figure courtesy of SepSolve Analytical.


Cannabis products can be subject to contamination at both the growing and processing stage.  Contamination from pesticides, metals, microbials, and additives can all have a negative effect on the product quality and therapeutic efficacy. Assessing the safety of products is important, especially when patients may already be immune-compromised. In conjunction with our strategic laboratory partnerships, Chemistry Matters can identify contaminations through non-targeted analysis. Employing GC×GC with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC×GC-TOFMS), we can identify organic contaminants that may be negatively affecting a cannabis product.

Expert Witness

Has there been a claim questioning potency of your product?  Do you suspect that a patent on a blend or a flavour has been infringed upon? Chemovar mapping and chemical fingerprinting can help identify and monitor proprietary blends to protect or defend patent infringements. The experts at Chemistry Matters can provide support for your legal challenges.  Chemistry Matters can provide the experimental design, testing, interpretation and testimony required for your legal proceedings to provide defensible data and support.

Have a question about cannabis? Contact Us.

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Your Question