The Latest Dedicated Cannabis Potency Testing and Profiling Systems

Legalization of cannabis in Canada and throughout a growing number of states in the US has led to the availability of many cannabinoid-containing products, such as dried flower, extracts, beverages, and a variety of edibles. Cannabinoid potency is a primary factor that determines the value of a product and its medical and/or recreational effects. Depending on state or provincial laws, each product must be tested and labeled according to a cannabinoid profile that describes composition and abundance, particularly the amounts of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Due to the ever-expanding menu of available cannabis products, and an overall lack of standardization in testing, the need for dedicated cannabinoid potency profiling technologies and methodologies has never been greater. The window of opportunity for cannabis-specific innovation has driven manufacturers to produce accessible technologies geared towards high-throughput, simplified workflows for accurate and efficient cannabis potency analysis. To complement the hardware and promote standardization, industry leaders have been developing entire suites of easy-to-implement cannabis-centric products. These solutions include reference standards, reagents and consumables kits, as well as intuitive, specialized reporting software.

Shimadzu Cannabis Analyzer for Potency (HPLC)

Image of Shimadzu Cannabis Analyzer for Potency
Shimadzu’s Cannabis Analyzer for Potency is recognized as one of the most cost-effective all-in-one solutions for cannabinoid testing. The original turnkey unit has become an industry staple, capable of reliably analyzing 10 cannabinoids of interest. Shimadzu has continued to improve upon the unit as industry demands have changed, adding different methods packages and hardware improvements to increase sensitivity and resolution depending upon analysis requirements. This approach has resulted in a unit that’s well-suited to adapt to changes in the marketplace.

Shimadzu’s Cannabis Analyzer for Potency can be upgraded to detect between 10-21 Cannabinoids and is UHPLC-capable. Features include:

  • Flexible method selection options featuring specified packages: High Throughput (10 cannabinoids in under 10 minutes), High Sensitivity (11 cannabinoids in 10 minutes), or High Resolution (16 cannabinoids, most suitable for research purposes)
  • HPLC or UHPLC compatible, both available in either integrated (single machine) or modular format (stack of multiple, swappable devices)
  • Integrated or Modular configurations - each offers a choice between two detectors, UV/Vis or Photodiode Array
  • Recently developed new methods capable of quantifying 21 cannabinoids in flower and tinctures when using HPLC and LabSolutions software in combination with standard sets available from Shimadzu, Cayman, and Cerilliant (CBDV, THCV, CBD, CBG, CBDA, CBGA, CBN, Δ9-THC, Δ8-THC, CBC, THCA, Δ9-THCP, Δ8-THCA, CBDP, CBCO, CBCV, CBT, CBDVA, THCVA, CBL, CBCA)

Knauer Cannabis Profiler (HPLC)

Image of Knauer Cannabis Profiler
Originally brought to market as a cannabinoid testing solution for meeting medicinal compliance standards under German Pharmacopoeia law, the first-generation Cannabis Profiler from Knauer was used to quantify six common cannabinoids including THC and CBD.

The latest generation Cannabis Profiler is based upon the Azura HPLC plus system operated in reversed-phase mode using a Eurospher II C18P 100-3, 100 x 4.6 mm column and equipped with a multi-wavelength UV/VIS-based detector. Optimized methods reduce analysis time and accurately quantify up to 16 cannabinoids in samples from various cannabinoid sources. This workflow for cannabinoid potency testing has been validated according to ICH Q2 R1 guidelines with standard method performance requirements of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC).

Features of the Knauer Cannabis Profiler include:

  • Method- and column-optimized protocols for high-resolution 22-minute quantification of CBC, CBCA, CBDV, CBDVA, CBD, CBDA, CBG, CBGA, CBL, CBN, CBNA, Δ8-THC, Δ9-THC, Δ9-THCA, THCV, THCVA
  • Cannabinoid quantification validated for AOAC compliance using three sample matrices: cannabis flower, CBD oil, and hemp seeds
  • Bundled with intuitive ClarityChrom software for workstation data and analysis and autosampler control

Image of PerkinElmer LC 300 HPLC for Cannabis AnalysisPerkinElmer LC 300 (HPLC or UHPLC) and Spectrum Two N (FT-NIR)

PerkinElmer offers a complete line of analytical devices for cannabis product compliance. These devices are capable of determining pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, terpenes, residual solvents, pathogens/microbes, as well as two dedicated cannabinoid potency testing solutions relying upon either the gold standard of HPLC/UHPLC or FT-NIR. By taking advantage of two common industry technologies, PerkinElmer has developed tools customizable to varying analytical needs, whether it’s greater resolution or higher throughput. Notably, their LC 300 HPLC/photodiode array method was recognized with the Potency in Solution award by the Inter-Laboratory Comparison Proficiency Test conducted by The Emerald Test.

LC 300 HPLC/UHPLC reliably generates profiles for 16 cannabinoids. Features include:

  • Fast methods for high resolution of 16 cannabinoids in under seven minutes (Δ9-THC, Δ8-THC, CBD, CBDA, CBDV, CBDVA, CBN, CBNA, CBG, CBGA, CBC, CBCA, CBL, THCA, THCV, THCVA)
  • Choice between five detector technologies that can be customized or upgraded depending upon analytical requirements: Photodiode Array, Multi-Wavelength, UV/Vis, Fluorescence, and Refractive Index
  • Choice between HPLC (10K psi) or UHPLC (18K psi) pumps/autosamplers if faster separation speed is required with both options supporting diverse plate/tray types and sample volumes
  • Integrated color display for real-time readouts and user-friendly SimplicityChrom CDS software for  standard method reports, compliance, and auditing

(FT-NIR) provides non-destructive cannabinoid snapshots with minimal sample prep or analyst training.  Image of Perkin Elmer Spectrum Two N FT-NIRFeatures include:

  • Ultra quick method for determining total THC and total CBD by comparing milled cannabis flower to validated spectra data in Spectrum Standard software
  • Near Infrared Reflectance Module (NIRM) reduces the issue of cannabis flower/plant heterogeneity by allowing rapid averaging of many samples
  • No consumables or reagents are required
  • Mobile design (small, 13 kg) though it requires DC power source (no battery pack option)
  • USB, ethernet, and Wi-Fi communication options to quickly offload data for further analysis


Currently, there are multiple high-quality cannabinoid potency testing devices - using different technologies at varying price points - that are available to both experts and non-experts. Attractive qualities of these systems include the built-in analytical methods that avoid the need for potentially frustrating and costly methods development processes. A wide range of technical resources and support are available as well, in the case of hardware or software issues. Ultimately, the key points when deciding upon new technology are budgetary concerns, the required throughput, analyst experience level, and the needs of specific cannabinoid testing lab locations and performance requirements.

Visit the LabX Cannabis Application Page for further information and product listings.

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