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“Merck” introduces quality workflows and tools for hemp and cannabis extracts testing for growing demand market

“Merck” introduces quality workflows and tools for hemp and cannabis extracts testing for growing demand market

Hemp and cannabis have become mainstream locally and globally because they are among the world’s most valuable kinds of plants. The market size of medical cannabis forms 60% of the overall cannabis market value and recreational cannabis accounts for the rest 40%. The cannabis market size in Thailand in 2021 is estimated at 3,600-7,200 million baht (according to the National Health Foundation) as the government has legalized the use of cannabidiol (CBD) and, through the Ministry of Public Health, has a policy to actively promote hemp and cannabis as the new cash crops of the country. Undeniably, investors are interested in mushrooming business related to hemp and cannabis in many industries and there have been innovations to apply them to increase the value of various types of business related to medicine, foods, beverages and cosmetics among others. However, the use of hemp and cannabis extracts is subject to the standards and quantities set by the government to ensure people have safe hemp and cannabis products.

Myriam Faouzi, GM Research and Applied, SEA – Singapore, Merck Life Science

This prompted Merck Company Limited, a leading player in the business of medicine, chemical products and innovative products, to organize a webinar on “Cannabis Testing The Series EP1” to answer all questions about hemp and cannabis and present the future use of hemp and cannabis extracts in manufacturing which is the trend that every industry cannot miss.

Assoc. Prof. Weerachai Phutdhawong, Assistant to the President for Innovation and Social Engagement at Kasetsart University, said: “Many countries have liberalized the use of CBD because it has herbal properties. It has relaxing effect, boosts immune system activity, reduces inflammation, widens blood vessels and stimulates appetite. Therefore, CBD was initially administered in HIV and cancer patients who as a result build up their appetite. At present CBD is widely used in food and beverage products as well as cosmetics in Europe and America. Thailand is the first Southeast Asian nation to legalize the use of cannabis extracts including CBD for medical purposes and in food, beverages and cosmetics. In January 2021, the country’s latest law related to the matter supports Thai farmers in growing cannabis and hemp for local consumption and export. The import of cannabis and hemp is suspended for five years to encourage farmers to invest in the cultivation, especially to make hemp a new cash crop because it can be grown and harvested within only four months. There is huge demand for hemp and cannabis and their prices are thus high. All parts of hemp can be sold including trunks, flowers, leaves, stems and roots which can be used to make herbal remedies. Therefore, hemp is a new cash crop worth investment. From my point of view, CBD from hemp will be used like caffeine or vitamins and become an ingredient of beverages available at convenience stores, an ingredient for food preparation and a content in products for everyday use.

What farmers and investors must take seriously is to obey the law. Those who use hemp and cannabis in industries and products must be strict about the amount of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The law limits the content of THC at 0.2%. Therefore, growers must choose the hemp varieties that possess high CBD and low THC. They can conduct initial checks with test kits that the government sells. Otherwise, they can send samples for lab tests and wait 3-4 months for results. For industries, it is convenient, time-saving and economical to have test kits to analyze the content of CBD and THC. They are not expensive, available at 20,000-25,000 baht each.”

Dr. Wattanapong Sittisaree, a specialist in chromatography at Merck Company Limited, said: “There are many methods to test hemp and cannabis extracts. A standard one is the Thai Pharmacopoeia method 2020 by the Department of Medical Sciences. At Merck, we import chemical products, materials and instruments for the testing of hemp and cannabis extracts that meets international standards. We also share knowledge and methods about the comprehensive testing of hemp and cannabis extracts and products, especially those concerning the testing of CBD and THC extracts to guarantee compliance with the law and maximum safety.

For the testing of CBD and THC, Merck imports the chemical products and instruments that respond to the demand of different groups of operators. The tools belong in 3 following categories.

The elementary level applies thin layer chromatography (TLC) method which is simple, convenient and economical. It does not require an expert and is able to check the content rapidly with a certain degree of precision. It suits the operators who do not have a large fund and want to conduct initial testing before lab tests.

The intermediate level uses the high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method which meets laboratory standards and supports content analyses at laboratories. It is convenient and quick and must be operated by specialists.

The advanced level implements the liquid chromatography mass spectroscopy (LCMS) which is for advanced content analyses at large laboratories. Results from the method are highly precise and reliable. Implementers must be experienced specialists.

Merck

Mr. Jirapan Lohtrakulchai, Senior Field Application Manager at Merck Company Limited, said: “Merck has conducted business negotiations with groups of customersfor three years andhas been researching and developing analytic technologies. The testing of hemp and cannabis extracts in products is a new and interesting business highlight of Merck. We have two groups of customers – the government sector and the private sector. We focus on the private sector and expect a 90% growth of customers in this group in 1-2 years. We foresee a 100% expansion of this business in response to the booming hemp and cannabis business.”

Hemp and cannabis are interesting industrial crops. Thailand is the first Southeast Asian nation that legalizes the use of cannabis extracts in product development to unlock its potential to be the hub of the region. The use of CBD in products must be based on the safety of consumers. CBD and THC must undergo tests and their content must be analyzed with standard methods as required by the government. For more information, please visit the Facebook page: Merck Life Science Thailand.

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Kullaya Kassakul
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