AOAC and Industry Partners to Set Voluntary Consensus Standards for Cannabis Potency

AOAC and industry are partnering to develop Standard Method Performance Requirements (SMPRs®) in an effort to find fit-for-purpose method(s) for cannabis potency. The AOAC Stakeholder Panel on Strategic Foods Analytical Methods (SPSFAM), chaired by Erik Konings of Nestlé, endorsed a fitness-for-purpose statement, and draft SMPRs are underway. Quantitative methods are needed for various measurements of cannabinoids in raw materials, extracts, topical applications, and foods.

“Analytical testing in the cannabis sector is greatly suffering from a lack of standardization and appropriately vetted methods that have been rigorously evaluated,” said Susan Audino of S.A. Audino & Associates and chair of the AOAC SPSFAM Working Group on Cannabis Potency. “The result is diminished consumer safety and insufficient knowledge about a legally acquired and purchased commodity.”

Even though cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, individual states have developed legislation for testing certain components, but the testing has not been standardized across states. The goal of the working group is to develop SMPRs that are applicable for industry and regulators alike.

Standards development activities for cannabis potency are supported by AOAC Organizational Affiliate (OA) companies SPEX, Sigma-Aldrich, GW Pharmaceuticals, SCIEX, CEM Corp., and SC Labs through AOAC’s working group initiative.

“The working group initiative is a valuable opportunity for stakeholders to raise standard needs, and the food panel is an excellent forum to initiate this work,” Konings said.

Added AOAC Executive Director James Bradford, “This approach offers companies opportunities to solve challenges without waiting on priorities of existing stakeholder panels. The goal is to engage current and potential OAs in the important work of AOAC. OAs can solve immediate needs shared across their industry through standards development and fit-for-purpose methods.”

Perhaps the most significant analytical issue facing the cannabis industry is the lack of consensus or standard test methods. Results can vary greatly from laboratory-to-laboratory, leading to lack of confidence in analytical results.

Of the 15 compounds of interest, the working group narrowed the focus to five cannabinoids required for the initial SMPR, THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, and CBN. Based on fitness-for-purpose, draft SMPRs were developed by the working group, and are posted on the AOAC website at SPSFAM SMPRs for Public Comment: Cannabis and Proanthocyanadins in Cranberries  and is open for public comment. All interested parties are encouraged to submit comments by January 27, 2017. Comments will be compiled and reviewed, and the SMPRs revised, if necessary, based on the comments received.


It is anticipated that the draft SMPR will be reviewed for possible approval by SPSFAM in March 2017 during the AOAC Mid-Year Meeting in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.

For more information on SPSFAM, click here or contact Dawn Frazier, executive for scientific business development, at or Tel: +1-301-924-7077, ext 117.

Full coverage appears in the November/December 2016 issue of Inside Laboratory Management.