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Cannabis Testing in the Home of the Coffee Shop

By Jack Rudd

Published: Oct 18, 2017   
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The Netherlands has long been known for its relatively liberal approach to cannabis. However, few realise that in many ways, the cannabis industry here has been held back by the law, just like it has around the world. Whilst it is entirely legal to purchase cannabis in a coffee shop, due to restrictions on growing and purchasing the drug these shops often have to turn to the black market to acquire their product. Therefore, unlike legal states in the US, it is very hard to find cannabis with tested cannabinoid content. But, that isn’t the biggest problem. Pesticides are the real issue. With one recent paper from the Ministry of Environment and Health has shown that over 90 percent of cannabis had pesticides on them.

One company who is on a mission to change how the cannabis industry operates in the Netherlands and the lead way in overcoming these challenges is Shamanics. They work with cannabis, in particular, the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) to produce high quality CBD oil. But, what really sets them apart is their passion for cannabis testing. Unlike many of their competitors, they conduct a number of key analyses on their product before it's taken to market including, cannabinoid profiling, pesticide residue testing, terpene testing and soil analysis. They understand that this kind of rigorous cannabis testing is the only way to provide safe and reliable medicine to consumers. 

To learn more, we spoke to Bart Roelfsema, co-founder of Shamanics about cannabis testing and their partnership with leading independent chromatography instruments manufacturer, Ellutia.

JR: Could you tell us a bit about when and why you decided to start offering cannabis testing? 

BR: Cannabis has been a great passion of mine for many years now, previously working in a shop for smart products. I, like a lot of growers here in the Netherlands, was growing my own product and realised the quality on the market was generally very poor but the demand was very high. It was at this stage that I, along with my colleague and co-founder Henjo Hielkema, wanted to create a better product and do what no one else in the market was doing. We wanted to sell tested, high-quality CBD oils. We moved this forward through a combination of Henjo’s skills and our general desire to produce a better cannabis product than that which was available in the market.

JR: Why did you choose Ellutia gas chromatography technology for your testing needs? 

BR: Originally we were working with a small company who were completing CO2 extractions in Holland but they moved to Poland and we stayed. So, we decided to complete our own production. It was at this stage that we realised that we needed more quality control. We heard about Ellutia at a conference and started to talk to them about a partnership. We had looked at other companies, however, our feeling was that Ellutia was more sophisticated and better suited to our needs. The decision was made not just on the instruments that Ellutia could provide but also on its expertise in chromatography.

JR: How has cannabis testing impacted your business? 

BR: Cannabis testing is not only our business but our passion and, although the improvements have been huge, there is still some way to go. For a long time the cannabis market has been a grey area but we want to see more testing and regulation for this. Our products have become more reputable because we have the proper testing methods in place which set us apart from many other similar companies in the Netherlands. Testing is still very rare in Holland but there are some companies that are using techniques such as near-infrared spectroscopy and HPLC to conduct safety and quality testing. The only other labs doing GC testing are forensics labs, which are state-owned laboratories. We are certainly in the minority of labs completing GC analysis on cannabis in Holland. We are focused on keeping up with the latest developments in the industry so that we can continue to be innovative and deliver high quality cannabis products to consumers whilst also leading this field in the Netherlands.

JR: Have you had any interesting results since you started testing your cannabis products?

BR: We have had the 200 series GC in our facility for around 6 months now and have received training from Ellutia during the summer. With little GC experience between us, the training was extremely beneficial. The equipment has resulted in very consistent analysis. Since installation, we have been using the instrument every day. My vision is to see the entire cannabis scene here in the Netherlands upgraded which would be very welcome for all concerned. There is little or no testing being done here but a lot of cannabis being sold and this needs to change in order to protect and grow the market.

On a global scale there is so much potential, particularly due to the legalisation of cannabis in several states in the US and other countries such as Uruguay, Mexico, Canada and Portugal. As a result, there is finally an opportunity to investigate the cannabis plant and its benefits for health and the economy.

Bart Roelfsema was speaking to Jack Rudd, Senior Editor for Analytical Cannabis. 

Jack Rudd

Editorial Director, Analytical Cannabis

Jack has been working in science publishing since 2015 and has been the editorial lead of Analytical Cannabis since its launch in early 2017. He holds a 1st class Bachlor's in Biological Sciences from Essex University, where he received the distinguished Eliahou Dangoor scholarship for his work. He is also a member of ASTM Committee D37 on cannabis and attends a number of annual international cannabis science conferences. Prior to the launch of Analytical Cannabis, Jack worked in editorial for our parent publication, Technology Networks, where he focused on covering developments in cancer research, genomics, and informatics.


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