Better quality control measures needed to regulate medical marijuana

New book offers timely information to support the manufacturing, labelling and distribution of safe and consistent medical marijuana products

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC— A new volume in the Emerging Issues in Analytical Chemistry series from Elsevier and RTI Press, "The Analytical Chemistry of Cannabis: Quality Assessment, Assurance, and Regulation of Medicinal Marijuana and Cannabinoid Preparations," provides information that could be useful in establishing standards for the manufacturing, labelling and distribution of safe and consistent medical marijuana products.  

This concise, authoritative summary of the broad field of cannabis science contains up-to-date references and "close-ups" from a variety of cannabinoid researchers.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 24 states and the District of Columbia. It is used primarily to treat nausea and vomiting, to improve appetite in patients with HIV/AIDS, and to treat pain muscle spasms. The industry is not federally regulated, and there is no central system for quality control.

"Every time a new state legalizes medical marijuana, there are new users and providers who need to understand the benefits and risks," said Brian F. Thomas, Ph.D., principal scientist for analytical chemistry and pharmaceutics at RTI International and first author of the volume. "Now is the time to apply science and get better control of the potential health risks."

Medical marijuana is taken in several ways—inhalation of smoke or vapor, ingestion of edibles, application topically in oils and balms. Plant material comes from many strains and locations and is formulated into hundreds of products. 

The absence of standards for chemical content and labelling means that dosage levels vary widely between states, dispensaries and products, and customers cannot know exactly what they are getting. 

"The result is often under-medication or dangerous overdosing. Better quality control is urgently needed," Thomas said. "Edibles are particularly problematic. Different ingredients in the same product are not tested for stability against each other, and products are inaccurately labeled."

Thomas will be participating in an e-briefing via webinar about the quality control needed for medical marijuana products on February 18 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.

The book calls attention to the need for more federal regulation and quality control measures. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any medical condition, which is one reason it is not regulated like other pharmaceuticals.

"Marijuana should be reclassified as a medicine so that research can be conducted to ensure that products are consistent with known chemical content and demonstrated performance characteristics," Thomas said.

The book is available on the websites of RTI Press, Elsevier and Amazon.