Book:Past, Present, and Future of Cannabis Laboratory Testing and Regulation in the United States/Laboratory testing of cannabis/Software

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3.6 Software

Laboratories increasingly depend on software to analyze, store, and share critical data from instruments and experiments.[1] This has led to the development of laboratory-specific software like the laboratory information management system (LIMS), electronic laboratory notebook (ELN), and chromatography data system (CDS; sometimes CDMS). These and other software systems such as "seed-to-sale" programs can also play an important role in the cannabis testing laboratory.

3.6.1 LIMS

Laboratories of all types use LIMS software to manage the wide variety of data, testing and analysis workflows, and other enterprise activities typical of them. This generally includes—but is not limited to—sample reception, workflow management, sample tracking and analysis, quality control, instrument data management, data storage, reporting, and document management.[2] The cannabis testing laboratory is no exception, though its activities differ slightly from, for example, a clinical pathology laboratory. As such, a few additional features outside of what's typically found in a generic LIMS are required.

Features that may be incorporated into a cannabis testing LIMS that you might not necessarily find in an all-purpose LIMS include[3][4][5][6][7]:

  • sample loading screens optimized for the industry, including differentiation between medical and recreational marijuana
  • pre-loaded compliant test protocols, labels, and reports optimized and readily adjustable for a rapidly changing industry
  • tools for creating new, compliant test protocols, labels, and reports
  • a web API to integrate with state-required compliance reporting systems
  • chain-of-custody (CoC) tracking, when necessary
  • support for inventory reconciliation

As previously discussed, industry-specific test protocols largely focus on cannabinoids, terpenes, and a wide variety of contaminates, including excess water. However, as regulations continue to be in a state of flux and not particularly standardized, most LIMS developers are including the ability for users to adjust their protocols and even add new ones. And while CoC functionality is not entirely foreign to generic LIMS, it's particularly important in an industry where currently transporting even a cannabis test sample across state lines can create huge problems.

In cases where daily sample processing is infrequent and only a couple of chromatography machines are used, laboratories may weigh a decision between a LIMS and a chromatography-specific CDS, although the ability to produce an acceptable certificate of authenticity (CoA) and document the CoC are still factors, along with any state reporting requirements.

Cannabis LIMS solutions

The following LIMS solutions in Table 1 are known to specifically offer features that support the cannabis testing laboratory:

Table 1. Known LIMS solutions publically marketed as addressing the needs of cannabis testing labs
LIMS solution Developer
ApolloLIMS Common Cents Systems, Inc.
Bika LIMS Bika Lab Systems (Pty) Ltd. and
the SENAITE Foundation
CannabLIS Cannabliss New England, LLC
CannaLIS Specialty Testing Solutions Ca, LLC
CannaQA LIMS LabLynx, Inc.
CGM LABDAQ CompuGroup Medical AG
Clin1 Cannabis LIS Clin1, LLC
CloudLIMS|CloudLIMS and FreeLIMS, LLC
Confident Cannabis LIMS CC Software, LLC
Element LIMS Promium, LLC
LabWare GROW LabWare, Inc.
LabFlow AINZ Corp.
LabLite SQL LIMS LabLite, LLC
Lockbox LIMS Third Wave Analytics, Inc.
Matrix Gemini Autoscribe Informatics, Inc.
Omega LIMS Khemia Software, Inc.
QBench Junction Concepts, Inc.
QLIMS OnQ Software Pty. Ltd.
reLIMS Carobar Business Solutions, LLC

3.6.2 CDS

Scientists on the research side of cannabis are certainly using CDSs from Agilent, Thermo Scientific, Waters, and other to manage the data coming out of their chromatography equipment[8][9][10], and slowly but surely some of those CDSs are beginning to also support spectrometer data management in a similar way.[11] Additionally, some chromatography system developers will collaborate with CDS vendors to develop software drivers—code that essentially acts as a translator between a device and a program—so chromatography devices can interact fully with the CDS.[12]

The CDS likely has a place in the cannabis testing lab as well, though it may depend on the lab's data management needs and goals. In more complex labs with multiple instruments and significant daily processing workflows, a LIMS may make more practical sense.

CDS solutions

Some vendors like Thermo Fisher Scientific—discussed in the next chapter—offer a CDS in conjunction with its other chromatography systems marketed for the cannabis testing industry. Other common CDS options include:

3.6.3 Seed-to-sale

The use of seed-to-sale software is a growing trend that is only tangentially related to laboratory testing of cannabis. Rather than at testing laboratories, seed-to-sale software is found at cultivation sites, production facilities, and dispensaries, and that software is typically designed to be able to integrate with testing laboratory or other software. The goal: create a complete record of transaction, from the grown plant to the lab, producer, and seller. This sort of tracking is mandated in various ways by many U.S. states with legalization laws. "It’s there to prevent the diversion of marijuana, which the federal government still lists as a Schedule I substance, the most dangerous class of drugs," wrote Daniel Rothberg of the Las Vegas Sun in December 2015. "Tracking also ensures product safety, assists with audits, and helps facilitate recalls."[13] This type of software is able to track plant yields, attempted theft or diversion, patient preferences, extraction methods, batch weights, and various financial statistics for analysis.[14][13]

Seed-to-sale software vendors

The following vendors are a representative sample of those that offer a seed-to-sale system for the cannabis industry:


  1. "Laboratory Informatics". 9 April 2011. Archived from the original on 25 April 2015. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  2. Skobelev, D.O.; Zaytseva, T.M.; Kozlov, A.D. et al. (2011). "Laboratory information management systems in the work of the analytic laboratory". Measurement Techniques 53 (10): 1182–1189. doi:10.1007/s11018-011-9638-7. 
  3. Biros, A.G. (23 October 2015). "Using LIMS in Cannabis Laboratories". Cannabis Industry Journal. Innovative Publishing Co. LLC. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  4. "LIMS for Cannabis Testing". Promium, LLC. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  5. "LabLynx LIMS - Cannabis". LabLynx, Inc. 20 January 2017. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  6. Audino, S. (7 February 2018). "Managing Cannabis Testing Lab Workflows Using LIMS". Cannabis Industry Journal. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  7. Paszko, C. (27 November 2018). "Selecting a LIMS for the Cannabis Industry". LabCompare. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  8. Purschke, K.; Heinl, S.; Lerch, O. et al. (2016). "Development and validation of an automated liquid-liquid extraction GC/MS method for the determination of THC, 11-OH-THC, and free THC-carboxylic acid (THC-COOH) from blood serum". Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 408 (16): 4379-88. doi:10.1007/s00216-016-9537-5. PMC PMC4875941. PMID 27116418. 
  9. Albertini, T.; Caruso, A. (2015). "Determination of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Its Main Metabolites Using GC Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometry" (PDF). Thermo Fisher Scientific. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  10. Layton, C.; Reuter, W.M. (23 January 2017). "Analysis of Cannabinoids in Hemp Seed Oils by HPLC Using PDA Detection" (PDF). PerkinElmer, Inc. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  11. Davies, A.N. (12 April 2016). "Central spectroscopic data systems: Why are chromatographers so much better equipped?". Spectroscopy Europe. John Wiley & Sons Ltd; IM Publications LLP. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  12. "Waters Empower Shimadzu GC Driver Version 2". Shimadzu Scientific Instruments. Archived from the original on 24 June 2016. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Rothberg, D. (29 December 2015). "Software Firms Benefit from Government’s Seed-to-Sale Marijuana Tracking". Government Technology. e.Republic, Inc. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 
  14. Smyth, H. (21 June 2016). "Track and Trace vs. Seed to Sale". MJ Freeway Blog. MJ Freeway, LLC. Retrieved 05 August 2022. 

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Citation information for this chapter

Chapter: 3. Laboratory testing of cannabis

Title: Past, Present, and Future of Cannabis Laboratory Testing and Regulation in the United States

Edition: Fourth edition

Author for citation: Shawn E. Douglas

License for content: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Publication date: August 2022