Solid Phase Microextraction

Written by Asia Mayfield

Analytical chemists working in the cannabis industry are working overtime to keep up with the demands of new regulations. Legalized cannabis is a giant boon for millions of people but it introduces a host of challenges.

As cannabis is dragged out of the underworld and into the spotlight, consumers’ demands are changing. It’s not enough to produce dense nuggets of THCA-rich flower anymore. People want to know what’s in their cannabis. Are there pesticides? Contaminants? What’s the terpene profile?

That’s where the testing laboratories come into play. Industry leaders are looking for fast, affordable ways to analyze the chemical profile of their cannabis products. Solid phase microextraction (SPME) provides a way to do this. The method is fast, fairly simple, and doesn’t use solvents.

Chromatography Online writes that: “Essentially, SPME consists of two discrete steps: solute absorption from the sample… into a thick layer of silicone or related adsorptive material, followed by transfer of the absorbed analytes into a chromatography inlet system…”

The process won’t tell you if your cannabis is tainted but it will aid in accurately analyzing the terpene profile. There’s a huge and growing interest in terpenes because research indicates that they’re intimately related to the beneficial effects of cannabis. People focus their attention on cannabinoids like THC and CBD but terpenes are proving to be equally important.

There are many ways to determine the terpene profile of a cannabis flower. However, what the industry needs now is a method that’s fast, reliable, and won’t break the bank. Many states that have legalized recreational or medical cannabis require dispensaries to list as much information as they can about their products, including the terpene profile.

Chromatography Online reports that solid phase microextraction “… provided results comparable to a conventional solvent extraction procedure. However, the former technique offered several advantages compared to the latter, including fewer hands-on steps, no organic solvent, less consumables, and a sample injection into the GC (gas chromatography) system that is free of interfering background.”

The changing world of cannabis is creating a lot of new opportunities for chemists working in the industry. Solid phase microextraction is just the beginning. Talented chemists and researchers are working hard to make the process of analyzing cannabis more precise.

About the author

Asia Mayfield

Asia Mayfield is a freelance writer who focuses on the cannabis industry. She can be reached at

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