To cultivators and growers of marijuana, chemovar classification is critical.
Chemovars (also known as chemotypes) classify the plant species based on chemical composition. Testing for chemovars will determine, for instance, the CBD to THC ratio, as well as the bioavailability and presence of certain organic compounds known as terpenes.
How Chemovars are Classified
Historically, chemovar identification consisted only of identifying cannabidiol content. Today’s classification methods consider three primary phenotypes to be relevant. The chemovar classification is applicable no matter which part of the plant is used for cannabinoid extraction.
Both the fiber of the plant, known as hemp, or the high-THC flowering buds, must be analyzed and classified.
Type I: This phenotype is THC-predominant.
Type II: This phenotype offers a balance of THC and CBD.
Type III: This phenotype is CBD-predominant.Types I and II are generally considered to fall under medical cannabis guidelines.
An updated cannabis chemovar classification method was needed to accommodate the differing needs of medical and recreational marijuana users, especially as laws changed state to state. These testing methods are also necessary when creating CBD and hemp products that fall under state compliance laws.
When medical cannabis laws were adopted in Florida, the importance of chemovar classification became a local issue.
The Cultivar Method
Before today’s accepted method of chemovar classification, growers utilized the cultivar method for classification. This method classifies plants produced through varying cycles of crossbreeding.
The two primary marijuana species are Indica and Cannabis Sativa. Within these two cannabis species, however, there are over 700 cultivars, which share various identifiable traits.
While long accepted, this classification method had one major flaw – it could not reflect chemical level differences. Because of this, the technique could not provide the necessary data to the medical community when identifying the best cannabis characteristics for human use, such as for medicinal purposes. The chemovar approach was developed to address this issue. It is now accepted as the gold standard in cannabinoid classification, as the system takes into consideration the totality of potentially active constituents. ]
Types of Chemovar Testing
Testing for all classified cannabinoids ensures that users are aware of what they are ingesting, and in what potency. Dispensaries can be confident that their products are appropriately labeled. Liquid and gas chromatography is often used to identify the potency of a wide range of oils and edibles.
Testing is performed for all cannabinoids.
Terpene Testing and Classification
Liquid and gas chromatography is also used to detect the approximately 200 terpenes which can be present in cannabis. These processes are especially relevant in the production of vape oil, as the various terpenes provide distinctive flavors to the product. Some of the more potent terpenes include myrcene, limonene, linalool, and pinene.
Some terpenes have been found to increase bioavailability. Importantly, terpenes have unique biological effects which help patients obtain specific types of symptom relief.
Microbial testing includes searching for identifiable harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, and others.
Cannabis testing and classification continues to change and evolve. Medical cannabis is used for a growing list of medicinal purposes but must remain compliant to state regulations. By testing, classifying, and identifying the chemical makeup of the cannabis, physicians can ensure that Florida patients can find the relief and potency they require, within legal boundaries.
Dr. Daniel P. Stein is one of the Sarasota area’s most knowledgeable and experienced experts in neurology and cannabis.
Call today for an appointment to discuss your specific medical condition, obtaining your medical marijuana card or specific treatment options which may be right for you.