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Standards

Proposed standards for Cannabis and Cannabis products

Currently, there are no standards for Cannabis or for products containing Cannabis or cannabinoids in South Africa.

A tested and certified product should be the norm – growers, producers and consumers need to have accurate information about the product they are growing, manufacturing or consuming. An environment of testing and certification will enhance the reputation of producers, importers, suppliers of products, etc.

As a Cannabis analytics industry leader in South Africa, and part of the SABS technical committee to develop standards for Cannabis, Qure proposes the below set of standards that will give customers and consumers an indication of the quality of their products.

Our proposed standards are based on current international standards for Cannabis; World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations for Cannabis; United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP); and African and South African standards for herbal products and extracts. This wide range of references is necessary because no single source has all the parameters included in Qure’s proposed standards. Where multiple sources were available, Qure’s recommendations are based on the stricter requirements – to ensure maximum safety.

Parameters that affect the quality of cannabis products:

  1. Potency
  2. Cannabinoid profile
  3. Foreign materials
  4. Total ash
  5. Heavy metals
  6. Microbial impurities
  7. Moisture content
  8. Mycotoxins
  9. Pesticides
  10. Residual solvents
  11. Terpenes
  1. Potency

    Potency is an indication of the strength of the CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in a strain or product.

    QURE PROPOSED STANDARD:
    As defined by the client or as required by regulation.
  1. Cannabinoid Profile

    The Cannabinoid Profile is a sensitive and detailed test that identifies and quantifies cannabinoids in the plant or the product. It shows each of the cannabinoids as a percentage per mass of the tested plant or product.

    More than 120 different cannabinoids have been identified. The more well-known cannabinoids include CBC, CBD, CBD-A, CBDV, CBG, CBG-A, CBL, CBN, THC, THC-A, THCV, and Δ8-THC.

    QURE PROPOSED STANDARD:
    As defined by the client or as required by regulation.
  1. Foreign Material

    Foreign matter can be hazardous or non-hazardous. Hazardous material includes foreign vegetable matter with allergenic or toxic properties; glass; metal; stones; or physical contaminants such as insects, faecal matter, feathers, soil, hair.

    It is important to ensure that there are no foreign contaminants, particularly in plants that are to be used for medicinal purposes.

    TEST: Visual inspection by the grower or producer themselves.

    QURE PROPOSED STANDARD:
    < 2% by weight of dried plant material (in line with USP and WHO for herbal medicines).
  1. Total ash

    Plants absorb inorganic compounds such as minerals. 

    It is important to ensure that the mineral content in plant material does not exceed safety standards.

    QURE PROPOSED STANDARD:
    ≤ 20.0% by weight of dried plant material (in line with USP and TGO).
  1. Heavy Metals

    Metals that have a high density or atomic weight are called ‘heavy’ metals. These include Arsenic (As), Cadmium (Cd), Lead (Pb) and Mercury (Hg). The high degree of toxicity of these metals makes them significant with respect to human and animal health. Depending on your location and the history of the soil, these metals may be present to varying degrees. Cannabis roots will suck up and retain these harmful metals as well as other chemical contaminants, such as mining and industrial wastes, vehicle emissions, lead-acid batteries, fertilisers, paints and treated woods. (Hemp has been used successfully to decontaminate heavy metal polluted soils).
    QURE PROPOSED STANDARDS as per the table below:
    HEAVY METAL MAX PARTS/MILLION ALIGNS WITH
    Arsenic (As) < 2 ppm Chinese limits
    Cadmium (Cd) < 0.3 ppm WHO
    Lead (Pb) < 0.5 ppm California Medical Marijuana Bureau
    Mercury (Hg) < 0.5 ppm China, Malaysia and Singapore limits for herbal medicines
    Chromium (Cr) ≤ 2 ppm African Standard
    Copper (Cu) ≤ 150 ppm African Standard
  1. Microbial Impurities

    Herbal medicines are all subject to microbial contamination from soil, air and water. Microbial contamination of plant materials is mainly attributed to aerobic bacteria, enterobacteria (e.g. E. coli, Salmonella), yeast and mould. The development of the contaminants is influenced by environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, harvesting, handling and storage. In order to maintain the appropriate quality, safety and efficacy of these natural products, growers and producers, therefore, need to ensure the lowest possible level of contamination – and the way to show no/low levels of contamination is to test the products.
    QURE PROPOSED STANDARDS as per the table below:
    TEST MAX COLONY FORMING UNITS/GRAM
    Total aerobic count ≤100 000 cfu/g
    Yeast and mould ≤10 000 cfu/g
    E. Coli Absent/g
    Salmonella Absent/g or Absent/10g
    Enterobacteriaceae ≤20 cfu/g
    Staphylococcus aureus Absent/g
    Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria ≤1 000 cfu/g
  1. Moisture Content (applicable to flower only)

    Dried herbs last longer than fresh herbs because they have less water than fresh plant material. Micro-organisms, especially mould, flourish in the presence of the right amount of water. When water is removed from plant material, the microbial growth cannot be sustained and the herb lasts much longer. However, there needs to be a balance – you do not want flower that is too dry. It has been found that a water content of 4% – 13% by weight is acceptable to minimise microbial growth.
    QURE PROPOSED STANDARD:
    Water content at 4% – 13% of weight (incorporates guidelines from the Bureau of Medicinal Cannabis (BMC), California and the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists (AOAC).
  1. Mycotoxins

    Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals produced by fungi. Contamination can occur during growth; with imperfect storage conditions, such as high humidity and high temperatures; or as a result of contact with insects or rodents. Mycotoxins that naturally occur in South Africa are Fumonisins. Aflatoxins are rare in South Africa but could be found in imported products. Deoxynivalenol (DON) is a mycotoxin primarily produced by Fusarium fungi, commonly found in Europe and occurring predominantly in cereal grains.
    QURE PROPOSED STANDARDS as per the table below:
    TOXIN MAX PARTS/BILLION
    Fumonisins 2 000 ppb
    Total Aflatoxins 20 ppb
    Aflatoxin B1 5 ppb
    DON 1 000 ppb
  1. Pesticides

    Despite the fact that pesticides are harmful, many growers still use pesticides to improve their yields. Setting limits on the maximum levels of pesticide residues ensures that plants and their products are safe to use and ingest. As a result of the wide range of pesticides used around the world, regions have diverse Pesticide Residue regulations. For South Africa, Qure suggests testing for pesticides referred to in the African Standard for African Traditional Medicine (“ATM”) and The South African Foodstuffs Act. Where discrepancies between the two are found, ATM is given precedence as it specifically applies to herbal medicines.
    QURE PROPOSED STANDARDS as per the table below:
    PESTICIDE MAX PARTS/MILLION
    Abamectin 0.01
    Acephate 0.20
    Acetamiprid 0.50
    Aldicarb 0.07
    Alpha-cypermethrin 0.05
    Azinphos-methyl 0.50
    Azoxystrobin 0.01
    Benthiavalicarb-isopropyl 0.01
    Beta-cyfluthrin 0.02
    Bifenthrin 0.03
    Boscalid 2.00
    Bromide ion 400.00
    Captan 15.00
    Carbaryl 0.80
    Carbendazim 0.10
    Carbofuran 0.10
    Carbosulfan 0.07
    Cartap HCl 1.50
    Chlorantraniliprole 0.50
    Chlorothalonil 1.00
    Chlorpyrifos 1.00
    Chlorpyrifos methyl 0.30
    Clothianidin 0.01
    Copper oxychloride & other salts 20.00
    Cyantranilipole 0.50
    Cyfluthrin 0.03
    Cyhalothrin 0.03
    Cypermenthrin 0.10
    Deltamethrin 0.03
    Demeton-S 0.20
    Diazinon 0.10
    Dichlorophen 0.50
    Dichlorphos (DDVP) 0.10
    Dicofol (Dichlorobenzophenone) 0.10
    Difenoconazole 0.10
    Diflubenzuron 0.01
    Dimethoate 0.50
    Dimethomorph 0.01
    Dimethyl didecyl ammonium chloride 0.20
    Dinocap 0.50
    Diquat 0.05
    Disulfoton 0.05
    Emamectin 0.01
    Endosulfan 5.00
    Epoxiconazole 0.01
    Ethion 5.00
    Ethoprop(hos) 0.01
    Fenbutatin Oxide 0.20
    Fenhexamid 5.00
    Fenitrothion 1.00
    Fenvalerate and Esfenvalerate 0.03
    Fipronil 0.05
    Fludioxonil 0.02
    Fluopicolide 0.05
    Fluquinconazole 0.10
    Flusilazole 0.01
    Flutriafol 0.10
    Folpet 0.50
    Furfural 0.50
    Glyphosate 2.00
    Guazatine 2.50
    Hydrogen Phosphide 0.01
    Indoxacarb 2.00
    Imazalil 2.00
    Iprodione 0.10
    Kresoxim-methyl 0.05
    Lambda-Cyhalomethrin 0.10
    Lufenuron 0.10
    Malathion 1.00
    Mandipropamid 0.01
    Mercaptothion 3.00
    Metalaxyl 5.00
    Methamidophos 0.10
    Methiocarb 0.07
    Methomyl 0.10
    Methoxyfenozide 1.00
    Metrafenone 0.50
    Mevinphos 0.10
    Milbemectin 0.01
    Novaluron 0.05
    Omethoate 0.01
    Oxydemeton-Methyl 0.20
    Parathion 0.20
    Parathion-methyl 5.00
    Permethrins 0.05
    Phenthoate 7.00
    Phorate 0.10
    Phosalone 2.00
    Piperonyl butoxide 5.00
    Pirimicarb 5.00
    Pirimiphos-methyl 0.50
    Profenofos 0.07
    Propioconazole 0.02
    Propyzamide 0.10
    Proquinazid 0.20
    Prothioconazole 0.20
    Pyraclostrobin 0.50
    Pyrethrins 1.00
    Pyridalyl 0.01
    Pyrimethanil 0.50
    Quinoxyfen 0.50
    Quintozene 0.02
    Spinetoram 0.05
    Spinosad 0.02
    Spirodiclofen 0.01
    Spiroxamine 0.05
    Sulfoxaflor 0.05
    Tau-fluvalinate 0.05
    Tebuconazole 0.50
    Thiacloprid 1.00
    Thiamethoxam 0.02
    Triadimefon and Triadimenol 0.50
    Triazophos 0.07
    Trichlopyr 0.10
    Trifloxystrobin 0.10
    Trifluralin 0.05
    Vinclozolin 0.05
    Zoxamide 1.00
  1. Residual Solvents

    Residual Solvents are residues of organic solvents used to process herbal extractions. Testing for residual solvents gives an indication of whether or not the extraction solvent was removed properly. Solvents are classified into three categories, based on their potential to cause harm. Class 1 solvents should be avoided. They include carcinogens, toxic substances and environmental hazards, for example, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, dichloroethane. Class 2 solvents have limited toxic potential. Examples include methanol, hexane, chloroform. Limits for daily exposure to each of these have been individually determined. Class 3 solvents have low toxicity. However, the residual solvent should not exceed 0.5% of the final medicinal product. Examples include ethanol, acetone, isopropanol, butane.
    QURE PROPOSED STANDARDS:
    Class 1: Absent
    Classes 2 and 3: as per the table below
    SOLVENT CLASS MAX FOR INHALATION MAX OTHER
    Acetone 3 750 ppm 5 000 ppm
    Acetonitrile 2 60 ppm 410 ppm
    Butane 3 800 ppm 5 000 ppm
    Chloroform 2 2 ppm 60 ppm
    Cyclohexane 2 20 ppm 3 880 ppm
    Dichloroethane (1,2-Dichloroethane) 2 2 ppm 5 ppm
    Dichloromethane (DCM, Methylene chloride) 2 125 ppm 600 ppm
    Diethyl ether (Ether, Ethyl ether) 3 500 ppm 5 000 ppm
    Ethanol 3 1 000 ppm 5 000 ppm
    Ethyl acetate 3 400 ppm 5 000 ppm
    Heptane 3 500 ppm 5 000 ppm
    Hexane 2 50 ppm 290 ppm
    Isopropanol (Isopropyl aclohol, Isoprop) 3 500 ppm 5 000 ppm
    Methanol 2 250 ppm 3 000 ppm
    Pentane 3 750 ppm 5 000 ppm
    Propane 3 2 100 ppm 5 000 ppm
    Toluene 2 150 ppm 890 ppm
    Trichloroethene (Trichloroethylene) 2 25 ppm 80 ppm
    Xylene 2 150 ppm 2 170 ppm
  1. Terpenes

    Terpenes are fragrance molecules. They typically occur in amounts of less than 1% in Cannabis flower, but even in these low quantities, they contribute significantly to the flavour experience and medicinal value. Terpene analysis gives the quantity of each terpene present in the sample, enabling plant cultivators, processors, healthcare providers, consumers and researchers to identify terpenes; ascertain which terpenes are best suited in medicinal applications; build information on flavour profiles between growth batches – facilitating consistency and allowing growers to selectively modulate the terpene ratios of their strains so as to maximise desired benefits, and provide proof that the product/s contains certain amounts of specific terpenes; etc.
    QURE PROPOSED STANDARDS:
    No standards are necessary for terpenes in Cannabis, as each grow will have its unique combination.

Qure | April 2023

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    Pesticides we can test for

    The standard multi-residue analysis includes testing for:

    2-Phenylphenol
    2,4′-DDE
    2,4′-DDT
    4,4′-DDE
    4,4′-DDT
    Abamectin B1a
    Abamectin B1b
    Acephate
    Acetamiprid
    Acetochlor
    Acibenzolar-S-methyl
    Acrinathrin
    Aldicarb
    Aldicarb sulfone
    Aldicarb sulfoxide
    Aldrin
    Ametoctradin
    Amitraz
    Azadirachtin
    Azinphos-ethyl
    Azinphos-methyl
    Azoxystrobin
    BAC-C10
    BAC-C12
    BAC-C14
    BAC-C16
    BAC-C8
    Benthiavalicarb isopropyl
    Bifenthrin
    Bitertanol
    Boscalid
    Bromophos-methyl
    Bupirimate
    Buprofezin
    Cadusafos
    Captan
    Carbaryl
    Carbendazim
    Carfentrazone-ethyl
    Chinomethionate
    Chlorantraniliprole
    Chlordane
    Chlorfenapyr
    Chlorothalonil
    Chlorpyrifos
    Chlorthal-dimethyl
    Clofentezine
    Clothianidin
    Coumaphos
    Cyfluthrin
    Cyhalothrin-lambda
    Cymoxanil
    Cypermethrin (sum of isomers)
    Cyprodinil
    DDAC-C10
    DDAC-C8
    Deltamethrin
    Demeton-S-methyl
    Demeton-S-methyl sulfone
    Diazinon
    Dichloran
    Dichlorophene
    Dichlorvos
    Dieldrin
    Difenoconazole
    Diflubenzuron
    Dimethoate
    Dimethomorph
    Diphenylamine
    Dodine
    Emamectin benzoate B1a
    Emamectin benzoate B1b
    Endosulfan-alpha
    Endosulfan-beta
    Esfenvalerate
    Etaconazole
    Ethofenprox
    Ethoprophos
    Etoxazole
    Famoxadone
    Fenamidone
    Fenamiphos
    Fenarimol
    Fenazaquin
    Fenbuconazole
    Fenbutatin oxide
    Fenhexamid
    Fenoxycarb
    Fenpropathrin
    Fenpyroximate
    Fenthion
    Fenvalerate
    Flufenoxuron
    Flumioxazin
    Fluopicolide
    Fluopyram
    Flusilazole
    Flutriafol
    Fluxapyroxad
    Folpet
    Forchlorfenuron
    Formetanate (hydrochloride)
    Fosthiazate
    Hexaconazole
    Imazalil
    Imidacloprid
    Indoxacarb
    Iprodione
    Iprodione (GC)
    Iprovalicarb
    Isazophos
    Isofenphos
    Kresoxim-methyl
    Lufenuron
    Malathion
    Mandipropamid
    Metalaxyl-M
    Methamidophos
    Methidathion
    Methiocarb
    Methomyl
    Methoxyfenozide
    Metrafenone
    Mevinphos-cis
    Mevinphos-trans
    Monocrotophos
    Myclobutanil
    Omethoate
    Oxamyl
    Oxydemeton-methyl
    Oxyfluorfen
    Paclobutrazol
    Parathion
    Parathion-methyl
    Penconazole
    Permethrin (sum of isomers)
    Phenthoate
    Phosmet
    Piperonyl butoxide
    Pirimicarb
    Prochloraz
    Procymidone
    Profenofos
    Propamocarb
    Propargite
    Propiconazole
    Propoxur
    Propyzamide
    Proquinazid
    Prothiofos
    Pymetrozin
    Pyraclostrobin
    Pyrimethanil
    Pyrimethanil (GC)
    Pyriproxyfen
    Quinoxyfen
    Simazine
    Spinetoram
    Spinosad
    Spirodiclofen
    Spirotetramat
    Spiroxamine
    Sulfoxaflor
    Tau-fluvalinate
    Tau-fluvalinate
    Tebuconazole
    Temephos
    Terbufos
    Tetraconazole
    Tetradifon
    Thiabendazole
    Thiacloprid
    Thiamethoxam
    Thidiazuron
    Thiophanate-methyl
    Triadimefon
    Triadimenol
    Triazophos
    Trichlorfon
    Trifloxystrobin
    Triflumuron
    Trifluralin
    Triforin
    Vinclozolin
    Zoxamide

    Please enquire for specific tests.