Discussing Chemistry, Testing Equipment & Cannabis W/ Dr. Kuhn from Shimadzu Scientific Instruments |The HempList #55|

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In Summary

Eberhardt Kuhn with Shimadzu Scientific Instruments joins us on the HempList this week, hosted By Chase Nobles, Founder of Kush.com

Chase and Dr. Eberhardt Kuhn have a great discussion starting with some basic Chemistry questions surrounding the differences between different cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Then Dr. Kuhn explains the differences between different methods of testing cannabis such as Liquid Chromatography, mass spectrometry, how they work, and what is specifically used for Cannabis. Chase also has a ton of cannabinoid questions for the PHD Chemist, everything from reading Cannabis Test Results on labels, to CBN conversion in cannabis smuggled from Mexico!

Shimadzu is the leading provider of analytical measurement and testing instrumentation for a broad range of applications in science and industry, including foods and cannabis. Shimadzu instruments are used by top researchers across the globe, customers who can count on the stability, experience, and support only Shimadzu offers.


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Transcript (Auto-Generated)

hey everybody chase nobles here founder
of kush.com i’ve got dr kuhn with Shimadzu scientific
instruments dr kuhn how are you today
i’m doing well thank you chase how are
i’m doing wonderful well i love these
science episodes we do a lot of episodes
with farmers which has experiment
and we’ve done a couple of interviews
with um incredibly advanced people
around extractions we have not done
many interviews with people that have
even remotely the knowledge base that
you do you have a phd in chemistry
you’re you’re the marketing manager at
shimadzu scientific instruments focusing
in on testing equipment how did you get
in chemistry what and then what drove
you to this path of hippie cannabis dr
well i actually got started in chemistry
i had a really good science or chemistry
teacher in high school
and he just really got me excited about
the topic we did some fun experiments in
the lab and thought you know what this
would be a fun career there’s so many
different ways this can go
and so here i am you know so many
decades later and uh you know working
starting as a as a lab chemist and you
know doing all kinds of fun stuff in the
lab and then slowly sort of
moving out of the lab and into more of
this this marketing role which now gives
me a chance to really interact more with
the customers and and the users really
of these these instruments and and learn
about you know new things like this
cannabis space that is relatively new
for the scientific community
now i enjoy chemistry but chemistry in
college is incredibly tough to have a
phd in in chemistry is no joke it is one
of the hardest
uh phds i could imagine getting just how
complicated history is
and including how much you have to
memorize in chemistry right there’s
there’s a lot to it when it comes to um
chemistry in cannabis
what what are the what are the like the
the key factors that you think of
say there’s somebody out there that’s
interested in him cannabis and loves
chemistry at the same time what are the
biggest focus points or the biggest
factors that they would want to learn
first in order to understand the
fundamentals of this plan
to understand the fundamentals that’s
that’s quite a challenge because
cannabis is a fascinating plant it’s
made up of so many different compounds
and they’re compounds in different
classes or categories you know there is
what’s you know what we call the potency
which are the cannabinoids of which
there are well over a hundred
then there are the the terpenes you know
the the essential oils the volatiles
that give uh the cannabis and hemp that
characteristic smell
there are actually over 30 000 of those
in the entire plant world now
in in cannabis there’ve only been maybe
two to three hundred identified but
again that’s all a lot of these these
and and so from just the ingredients
perspective what these plants have and
how these different
compounds these cannabinoids and these
influence the
effect really that these plants have
because there is the
aspect of these plants and then there is
aspect of these plants and how these
different uh terpenes and cannabinoids
in the how they interact with the
biochemistry of of your body i think
that’s really the fascinating part from
our from a chemist’s perspective
and let’s talk about biology and
chemistry because they’re so tied
what what does the purp what is the
purpose of these cannabinoids in these
terpenes in the plant for survival of
the plant for the for the you know
as an essential function of the plant
what is their what is their function
within the plant although we use them
medicinally or recreationally for many
other reasons what is their actual
function why are they there in the first
uh that’s a good question i’m not a
biologist i might be in a little bit
over my head here but
i think the like the terpenes because of
their aroma they will attract the uh
pollinators i guess if you will the
butterflies and the birds and the bees
and so forth and then the cannabinoids
will protect the the plant against
predators to to to some degree
because they get really high and then
they fall asleep yeah
or maybe it will attract certain
predators like like humans right
right right right okay well let’s let’s
jump into it a little bit more on the
chemistry side before we talk about
shimazu too much because you all are
doing some incredibly interesting things
in the space
cbd cbn thc thc delta 8 delta 9 delta 10
you know cbg all of these different
cannabinoids how from a chemist
standpoint not from an effect but from a
chemist standpoint how different are
these cannabinoids actually or is it
very small changes to make a different
cannabinoid are they pretty pretty
from chemists looking at them
from a chemical structure perspective
they’re actually very very similar which
makes it uh more challenging to identify
them for instance you’d mention you know
the delta eight nine and ten so
in if you look at the cannabinoids there
is a a ring structure and then there is
a chain attached to that within that
ring structure without getting too
technical but there is a double bond and
you can move so it’s a six membered ring
and so you can move that double bond
around that ring and so you go from you
know delta a delta nine delta ten
so it’s a a
very subtle change in the chemical
structure between those different
isomers of thc for instance
and how about cbn cbg cbd are those
still very closely you know connected to
the thc molecule are they vastly
different and how they how do they
become within the plant i know cbg is
kind of this originator cannabinoid and
a lot of things become whatever
cannabinoid they’re going to finally be
and cbn is kind of the one of the final
components but
how does this happen from a chemistry
standpoint in and how are these how are
these all of these different molecules
they’re all related with a with just a
basic functional structure and so
there’s just subtle differences like
changing a hydroxyl group from here here
to there so they’re still all very
similar but very small changes in the
chemical structure will change
how they react with the
receptor sites within your body now we
have this endocannabinoid system within
our body that
acts as receptors to these different
cannabinoids and
as we know you know like a cbd will act
very differently than than a thc so it’s
very subtle differences in the structure
so they’re all still
related they’re all cannabinoids so
their fundamental structure is very
similar they’re subtle differences and
that account for their difference in the
way they interact with with the human
and that that always surprises me
because they if you do look at them on
it on a chart you know like a chemistry
chart where it shows the ring that
you’re talking about and the tail and
the the different bonds they all look so
so so similar it’s hard to imagine how
much differently they affect everybody
you know our bodies um
right fight final major question on on
the cannabinoid structure of the plant
and and the effects and even terpenes as
is there is there a lot of credence to
entourage effect within the body do they
actually work well together and how do
you know how they work together within
the body to have certain effects
i don’t think that has been fully
characterized or explained yet the the
entourage effect
but i mean you mentioned the terpenes
terpenes by themselves have a very
beneficial effect you know terpenes are
essential oils so there are the main
ingredients in aromatherapy so in and by
themselves the terpenes have a very
beneficial effect on the on the human
body so
and they’re they’re all
structurally similar-ish again to the to
the cannabinoids so
i i don’t think the full entourage
effect you know the the terpenes
supporting the effect of the
cannabinoids has been fully explored but
just the fact that the terpenes by
will offer uh health benefits i think
that in itself can be described as the
entourage effect
and that kind of leaves me you know
curious about one more thing
natural occurring terpenes and
cannabinoids that
the you know cannabis species produces
are there any ones that are that are
dangerous that you should be concerned
if you consume them or smell them in too
high of a potency um any specific
terpenes that you should be like oh well
you might not want
to smell too much of that or intake too
much of a specific cannabinoid or
terpene have you come across anything
like that i haven’t read anything across
there being too much of a like a
cannabinoid or a terpene and
i think
part of that is that they’re at at the
state of regulations there are no
regulations or limits on terpenes so
terpenes are are good they’re not
regulated as far as keeping them below a
certain level so but as far as any kind
of toxic effects i mean it’s probably
like you know anything if you you know
too much of a good thing is is bad you
know you have a bottle of water it’s
pretty good for you you have a tsunami
coming at you
little too much water so
so it’s kind of uh you know it could be
more of a
just an
overdose for lack of a better word where
you just get maybe overstimulated by a
certain because they’re very volatile
and stimulating you know whether it’s
you know the pioneer or linen law or
what have you but
i don’t think there’s a as far as i know
there isn’t a truly toxic propane or
now let’s talk about what you’re doing
with shimadzu shamadzu scientific
instruments is a leader in the space
when it comes to analyzing the actual
potency and contents of whatever you’re
consuming you all are able to do this
with cannabis but you’re also able to do
it with food any any other herbs or
supplements things like that you’re the
person you’re the company that builds
the equipment that can take a sample
homogenize it and tell you exactly
what’s it by the molecule
how does that work i in for anybody
listening this is this is not the phd
explanation if if you’re going to
explain this as somebody that has no
idea what you’re talking about what
would you tell them how do you actually
identify the specific
like tt molecules that are in whatever
the sample has how do you do that what
what does it take
uh there’s a couple of fundamental
techniques one is called chromatography
which is a separation where you have a
that sample
and you you physically separate that
cannabis sample into the different
and then there’s a second part which is
the uh the spectroscopy which then helps
identify and that’s based on a on a
library so each of these cannabinoids
will then have a very distinct
signal so it’ll give a very distinct
signal and have the what’s called a mass
spectrum so it’s dependent on the on the
overall mass but also on the fragments
so those subtle differences in the
structure will give you slightly
different fragments and then you can
identify those and you know that you can
go into very very low concentration in
some instances down in your parts per
billion so
that would be like you know like a drop
in a in a swimming pool for instance you
can you can still identify
but those are the two main
types of equipment that is being used
for for the analysis of
now there’s liquid chromatography and
gas chromatography you see both of them
on occasion um
there’s some advantages and
disadvantages to each what do you think
is best to test potency within a sample
gas or liquid chromatography
for potency that would be liquid
because uh in order to do gas
chromatography like the name implies it
has to the sample has to be in a in a
gas so you have to heat it up and when
you heat up the certain cannabinoids
they will break apart and form other
forms so for instance you can do like
the the cbd and you heat it up under
certain conditions and it produces the
delta eight thc
which is not what you want you want
you want the analysis of what’s actually
in your sample so that’s where the
liquid chromatography because now it’s
it’s just in the liquid you extract it
from the plant it’s in a liquid and you
look at it at room temperature basically
and now the cannabinoids aren’t
chemically altered they’re not destroyed
by by heat and so you can actually see
each of the cannabinoids
by a by liquid chromatography
for a smokeable product though where you
are heating it up and combusting it
would gas chromatography give you a
better idea of what your body is
actually intaking consuming
uh that that’s a good point there chase
because it it would give you maybe a
more representative of what your body is
is taking in but it would depend on the
actual uh conditions then of that
heating so that could be temperature
and i mean as far as the actual sample
then it it depends on what you want to
measure is it what you measure what goes
into your body or what’s in
in the vial or in the in the product
because ultimately the the product as it
is on the shelf
it’s what’s regulated what you do with
it after you purchase it you know that
part is is not regulated so the the
testing has to me that the regulation
and the regulations apply to the product
on the shelf not the product as you are
smoking it
also i mean with cannabis now
go ahead you know there are other things
like edibles and things too that that
you don’t heat up so you have that
aspect as well
right right well you know one of the one
of the most common questions i appear in
washington is whenever somebody buys
some weed and apparently i’m the expert
because people come to me and they ask
me they expect me to know everything
they look at the back of the package up
here in washington specifically and
it’ll tell you
denying thc thc a
and total thc
from my understanding
the thc a is more or less the the
identifier of how potent the product is
because you decarboxylate it to delta 9
and then there’s a formula and some math
you can do to get total thc what number
if you’re and i’m talking just smokeable
flour right now you’re gonna put it in a
bowl and you’re gonna smoke it what
number should people actually be paying
attention to when it comes to potency of
i mean when when you use our cannabis
analyzer and that’s a product that we
develop specifically for the cannabis
industry and it’s a easy to use a little
liquid chromatograph and it gives you
the the print out so it’ll have the the
a and the delta knight but it’ll also
give you a total thc and that’s
ultimately the number that that you
should be looking at
as far as like what you’re going to be
consuming great
great exactly as far as you the potency
because there are these different
isomers and they behave slightly
different depending on the on on on the
if if something is high in delta 9 thc
and you go to combust it does that does
that turn into cbn when you smoke it
oh now you’re asking me there are kind
of biological questions that uh i don’t
know enough about to give you an
intelligent answer
okay all right well moving on uh does
the cbn break down from thc i guess is
one of the kind of big questions from a
chemistry standpoint does thc break down
into cbn over time or with heat things
like that
yeah i mean there certainly are
conversions like that definitely there’s
a number of uh cannabinoids that convert
into other forms you know like i said
earlier there that the cbd can convert
to the delta a th9 and and then the thc
to cbn so you have these different
conversions depending on the on the
conditions yeah definitely
and um
i heard this theory up here and the
theory was back in the day a lot of
cannabis was coming from mexico and
people would take the cannabis and they
would put it inside the car tires to go
across the border and when the car tires
were driving from mexico all the way up
to washington it would heat it up a lot
and people love this weed because it
knocked them out which cbn is known to
do to some people
is there is this just some made up story
that people tell or is there any
to that that could make it true or is
this just kind of like a myth that that
we hear about up here in washington
that that’s uh
i you know i i hadn’t heard that uh myth
but i mean it would make sense if you
know if you wanted to smuggle a
cannabis from mexico to to washington
state to put it inside the tires and and
yes the tires would heat up and there
could be some chemistry happening that
increase the thc content or could
increase the thc content so you could
get a more
noticeable high from from that kind of
okay so that that is possible it is
possible yeah i mean i like i said i
hadn’t heard it it would be an
interesting experiment to to actually do
well let’s uh let’s rent a car let’s
take it down to southern california
we could drive really far all the way to
northern california with some weed in
the tires and let’s see what happens all
right yeah
shimanzu scientific instruments you all
are are producing and selling liquid
chromatography for lab testing that can
be certified and used for regulations in
the state wherever you are or federally
for hemp you know under 0.3 thc at an
accurate potency range that you can
depend on
yeah how has it
how how has it gone you know
building these machines
when there’s so much riding on the
accuracy of these potency results and
then and then
what do you say about the variability of
you know different machines and
different labs and different standard
operating procedures how is how is a
farmer or
somebody that’s a manufacturer supposed
you know make decisions when there is
some variability in this space
is it is it the machine is it the sops
is it time is it the product sample how
do you
have that conversation with somebody
that wants to know what their product
actually has to make sure that they’re
legal from a regulatory standpoint
uh well there are a couple of different
machines there is what’s called an an ir
infrared which is a little device that
you can hold up to or you can just take
a a bit of uh crumbled up leaves and
measure it and and it’ll it’s supposed
to be good for distinguishing him from
cannabis and but the accuracy of that
for instance is not as great as um
liquid chromatography liquid
chromatography gives you much more
and that can be accurate to 0.1 or 0.01
percent so you know pretty pretty good
what you what you have
uh some of the variants that you
may see from different testing labs
could be in the way the sample is
because you have a plant and you need a
liquid sample so you do an extraction so
there is different
solvents that may extract more so just
the extraction process may have a little
bit of variability uh the analysis
itself really shouldn’t
i mean that’s pretty standard it’s a a
an hplc a high performance
chromatography you have the separation
the detection so that all should be
pretty good so it’s the the sample
itself the sample extract but
they also depend so uh we did a little
experiments and we’re working with this
company uh fridge milling that does the
the grinding of the actual the whole
plant into a powder that can be analyzed
and they’re down in north carolina and
they were out on a hemp farm and they
followed the
north carolina department of agriculture
inspector he went around and sampled and
they followed the him around and and
sampled from the same things different
parts of the of the greenhouse and then
send us the sample
and what was interesting that
not only was the variation from
one cultivar to another but also a small
variation in the cannabinoid profile
based on whether it’s the south end of
the of the greenhouse or the north end
within the same
batch if you will of plants there can be
differences depending on where the
sample comes from so
that could also then account for some of
those uh those differences that you
might experience
i’ve seen a number of these mobile
you know almost handheld briefcase
looking testing machines
for anybody that wants to be able to be
in the field take a sample you know
try to homogenize it whatever i don’t
know exactly how it works and get a get
a you know kind of a baseline guide in
the field how accurate are these
machines actually are they
you know worth the
five to ten thousand dollars you’re
probably going to spend on it or is it
uh is it is it a waste of money
i think some of them are quite accurate
especially if you’re just looking for a
yes no is it hemp or is it cannabis
you’re basically if you’re out there
inspecting a hemp farm and say okay this
is going to be below 0.3 or above
in those cases i think they they can be
relied on it
i would be a little cautious if if the
results come out real close
but certainly if you are in the yes this
is hemp or yes this is uh cannabis if
you’re far away from that point three on
either side i would say with with
confidence that you can say yes those uh
those um
devices will give you
good results and you know we haven’t
tested one personally against our hplc
but i have seen studies where those were
tested against an a liquid chromatograph
and there was pretty good correlation so
they can be used as a what i would call
a a
screening tool you know it won’t give
you an accurate
cannabinoid profile or for the potency
but i think for a screening or whether
it’s cannabis or
hemp but also
if you’re a farmer and you want to
pick the best harvesting time so the you
know the the plant as it grows the
potency will change that will be you
know from a early stages to the later
stages so there’ll be a
a peak in the potency of the plant and
with that device you can you can monitor
i’ve seen somewhere they’re basically
non-destructive and you don’t have to
a part of the plant and grind it down
and do all the stuff that you need for
for liquid chromatography so it can be
done in the field and for a farmer you
can monitor and and pick the
cannabis or the hemp at the peak of its
right right which is really important if
you’re trying to get the most value out
of your harvest right exactly exactly so
for people looking at shimazu as a
company to work with and to you know be
a supplier of their machines who is your
typical client are you serving just test
laboratories or are you also serving
individual farmers or are you serving
you know distributors and manufacturers
where do your machines actually go who’s
who’s buying these and how you know how
big is the market to be able to to
reach people to say hey you might be
able to use one of these machines to
help make more money
the market is big and we are selling
primarily to the to the testing labs
average farmer
typically doesn’t have a lab to to test
it they will they will send it out and
there’s a lot of third-party testing
labs that specialize in just that
because you need to have
uh you need to have a lab right and you
need to have the equipment you need to
have the expertise and if you’re out in
a farm you typically don’t have those
the facilities and and so forth so it is
the the big testing labs you know the
cages the steep hills and and some of
those uh
and and those are the ones that do all
the all the testing so for us those are
the main ones we’re also seeing some of
the uh
edible manufacturers then that take the
uh raw ingredients manufacture the the
edibles and then do the final quality
they’re they’re doing some of their own
testing in-house i’ve seen a fair number
of manufacturers that have their own
hplc machines
i think it could be a valuable
investment now how much expertise does
it take to actually run one of these do
you need a phd to be able to operate
this machine or is it can it be a set
and forget
system where you just know how to take
the sample and you know how to run it
one of the nice advantages of our
cannabis analyzer is that it is a very
user friendly easy to use instruments so
you don’t need a don’t need the phd you
might not even need a college degree
just a willingness to learn but it is a
pretty self-contained unit that comes
with all the methods and everything you
need so
the hardest part will probably be your
your sample prep so to take the the
plant and turn it into a sample that can
be injected but after that it’s pretty
much all automated you put it in and
it’s like i said it comes with the
method that runs the chromatography and
then you get a nice report that gives
you the individual cannabinoids and then
thc total cbd so uh that part you don’t
need to be uh
you know a chemist you need to you don’t
need to have a degree in chemistry to
run those uh instruments so
a lot of people can run it so some of
the you know when i said some other
manufacturers it ultimately depends on
the on on the size of the operation
and we actually have a little brochure
that has roi return and investment
calculations where if you’re say a
manufacturer of edibles and you’re
sending out these samples and you’re
spending say a thousand dollars a month
paying this lab to analyze it for you
and you versus purchasing one of our
instruments you know how long how many
months or years before you recover that
investment and we have all those
calculations so there comes a point for
any business as they grow
where it makes more sense to purchase
one of those instruments and bring it
in-house to a save money but ultimately
also have better control over the the
lead time and and overall the overall
quality of the product
there’s been moments in history when
getting your lab results back could be
very detrimental to your business
because they took so long especially in
california right exactly yeah that’s one
of the big big drivers actually
right right one of the other big issues
that we’ve seen in california is
and pesticides has really changed the
way people think about
labs and analysis and potency it’s not
just potency anymore it’s actual content
and are there harmful pesticides in
there because
you know
the a lot of light was shed on
how many
i hate to say it
but unethical pesticides may have been
used in the past
and how prevalent that was
also if you you know started growing
cannabis in an old potato farm
they use a lot of pesticides on many
other different crops that you don’t
want to combust and consume
what did pesticides do to this market
and how did shimadzu
um play a role in helping identify that
those could be a problem was there an
adjustment period that your company had
to go through whatever
the you know
conversation around pesticides came such
a forefront in the conversation for the
whole industry
yeah now for us that was relatively easy
because we already had expertise in
pesticide analysis through other crops
you know and we have the the
instrumentation now we’re talking about
a liquid chromatography coupled to a
mass spectrometer so it’s a little more
sophisticated instrument a little more
uh expensive but
pesticides like you said have been used
on all crops all the time so we have a
lot of experience in analyzing for for
to be honest the biggest challenge is
the lists
because each state has their own list of
pesticides and you mentioned california
that’s currently the biggest u.s list i
think it’s 66 and then oregon had 59 and
colorado had one and washington and then
canada has one that’s like 90 something
so we are actually currently working
with a uh testing lab in new jersey and
there is an organization called aoac the
american organization of analytical
and they are proposing a method now 404
pesticides so that’s bigger than
california bigger than canada
and so we’re working with this this
cannabis testing lab to develop a a good
method for these the pesticide
testing and so
from our perspective yes we can we can
do it it’s just a matter of keeping up
with with the lists and one of the
challenges there is um
available reference standards you know
if you want to calibrate the instrument
basically you can identify yes i have
these and these and these pesticides but
if you want to know how much of that
then you need to calibrate it against
the standard and sometimes the
availability of those standards is the
the limiting factor for for developing a
method for those pesticides
so your machine can pick up pretty much
anything it’s just a matter of the
standardization of what one is allowed
and two calibrating to be able to detect
it so
right yeah it’s a that was a huge
headache for a lot of people you know 90
pesticides being removed you know for
consumer health purposes is a big deal
especially for a lot of farmers you know
a lot of people maybe didn’t realize
that those could be harmful pesticides
and then you know had to overcome
whatever remediation or things they may
do to save their crops so that was an
interesting period uh i’m i’m sure you
helped a lot of farmers figure out which
way was up and which way was down when
it comes to pesticides
dr everhart khan it’s been a pleasure
talking with you today thank you so much
for sharing all your knowledge sharing
all of your information letting people
know about shamans even more even though
y’all could probably work a little bit
in the background
y’all are out there serving this
industry making sure that they know what
they have in their field or in their
package or on their store shelves so
thank you very much for being a part of
this industry partcoach.com and we’re
happy to have you
it’s my my pleasure chase um it was was
great talking with you and i’m always
happy to share some of that information
because part of my role is uh you know
educating the public too about what’s
going on in in the cannabis industry
starting from the benefits of the plants
themselves but also some of the things
that they should be looking for like the
pesticides and then there is you know
the mycotoxins and some of the things
that we haven’t touched on but yeah so
definitely it’s been a pleasure be being
on on your show
the the rabbit hole is deep you’re going
to be at texas him convention 2021 as
well correct so if anybody wants to meet
dr khan a leader in the space uh come on
out to the show we look forward to
seeing you ask him as many questions as
you want and then write a blog post
about it so we can all learn the answers
all right dr cole it was a pleasure
talking to you we’ll be in touch thank
you so much for your time today okay
thank you chase take care

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