Book:Past, Present, and Future of Cannabis Laboratory Testing and Regulation in the United States/Laboratory testing of cannabis/Software
Laboratories increasingly depend on software to analyze, store, and share critical data from instruments and experiments. This has led to the development of laboratory-specific software like the laboratory information management system (LIMS), electronic laboratory notebook (ELN), and chromatography data system (CDS; sometimes CDMS). These and other software systems such as "seed-to-sale" programs can also play an important role in the cannabis testing laboratory.
Laboratories of all types use LIMS software to manage the wide variety of data, testing and analysis workflows, and other enterprise activities typical of them. This generally includes—but is not limited to—sample reception, workflow management, sample tracking and analysis, quality control, instrument data management, data storage, reporting, and document management. The cannabis testing laboratory is no exception, though its activities differ slightly from, for example, a clinical pathology laboratory. As such, a few additional features outside of what's typically found in a generic LIMS are required.
- sample loading screens optimized for the industry, including differentiation between medical and recreational marijuana
- pre-loaded compliant test protocols, labels, and reports optimized and readily adjustable for a rapidly changing industry
- tools for creating new, compliant test protocols, labels, and reports
- a web API to integrate with state-required compliance reporting systems
- chain-of-custody (CoC) tracking, when necessary
- support for inventory reconciliation
As previously discussed, industry-specific test protocols largely focus on cannabinoids, terpenes, and a wide variety of contaminates, including excess water. However, as regulations continue to be in a state of flux and not particularly standardized, most LIMS developers are including the ability for users to adjust their protocols and even add new ones. And while CoC functionality is not entirely foreign to generic LIMS, it's particularly important in an industry where currently transporting even a cannabis test sample across state lines can create huge problems.
In cases where daily sample processing is infrequent and only a couple of chromatography machines are used, laboratories may weigh a decision between a LIMS and a chromatography-specific CDS, although the ability to produce an acceptable certificate of authenticity (CoA) and document the CoC are still factors, along with any state reporting requirements.
Cannabis LIMS solutions
The following LIMS solutions in Table 1 are known to specifically offer features that support the cannabis testing laboratory:
Scientists on the research side of cannabis are certainly using CDSs from Agilent, Thermo Scientific, Waters, and other to manage the data coming out of their chromatography equipment, and slowly but surely some of those CDSs are beginning to also support spectrometer data management in a similar way. Additionally, some chromatography system developers will collaborate with CDS vendors to develop software drivers—code that essentially acts as a translator between a device and a program—so chromatography devices can interact fully with the CDS.
The CDS likely has a place in the cannabis testing lab as well, though it may depend on the lab's data management needs and goals. In more complex labs with multiple instruments and significant daily processing workflows, a LIMS may make more practical sense.
Some vendors like Thermo Fisher Scientific—discussed in the next chapter—offer a CDS in conjunction with its other chromatography systems marketed for the cannabis testing industry. Other common CDS options include:
The use of seed-to-sale software is a growing trend that is only tangentially related to laboratory testing of cannabis. Rather than at testing laboratories, seed-to-sale software is found at cultivation sites, production facilities, and dispensaries, and that software is typically designed to be able to integrate with testing laboratory or other software. The goal: create a complete record of transaction, from the grown plant to the lab, producer, and seller. This sort of tracking is mandated in various ways by many U.S. states with legalization laws. "It’s there to prevent the diversion of marijuana, which the federal government still lists as a Schedule I substance, the most dangerous class of drugs," wrote Daniel Rothberg of the Las Vegas Sun in December 2015. "Tracking also ensures product safety, assists with audits, and helps facilitate recalls." This type of software is able to track plant yields, attempted theft or diversion, patient preferences, extraction methods, batch weights, and various financial statistics for analysis.
Seed-to-sale software vendors
The following vendors are a representative sample of those that offer a seed-to-sale system for the cannabis industry:
- Ample Organics, Inc. - Ample Organics
- Bio-Tech Medical Software, Inc. - BioTrackTHC
- Chetu, Inc. - Custom software solutions
- Courier Plus, Inc. dba Dutchie - Green Bits
- Dauntless Software, Inc. - Dauntless Retail
- Entrc, Inc. - Canix
- EPIC Group, LLC dba Nugistics - Nugistics
- Far-From-Groove'N, Inc. dba Viridian Sciences - Viridian Sciences
- Flourish Software, LLC - Flourish
- Franwell, Inc. - Metrc
- KindManage, LLC - Agrisoft
- MJ Freeway, LLC - MJ Platform
- Open Systems, Inc. - ProcessPro
- Progressive Software International - ProsoftXP
- Proteus Business Solutions, Inc. - PROTEUS420
- Pyrotree, Inc. - WebJoint
- Retail Innovation Labs, LLC - Cova
- StashStock, LLC - StashStock
- Velosio, LLC - Silverleaf
- TheraCann International Corporation – ETCH Biotrace
- Trellis Solutions, Inc. - Trellis
- WeedTraQR, LLC - WeedTraQR
- Wilcompute Systems Group, Inc. - GrowerIQ
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Citation information for this chapter
Chapter: 3. Laboratory testing of cannabis
Title: Past, Present, and Future of Cannabis Laboratory Testing and Regulation in the United States
Edition: Fourth edition
Author for citation: Shawn E. Douglas
License for content: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International
Publication date: August 2022