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ACS Omega. 2017 Sep 30;2(9):6091-6103. doi: 10.1021/acsomega.7b00996. Epub 2017 Sep 22.

Chemical Profiling of Medical Cannabis Extracts.

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Centre for Molecular Design and Preformulations, and Division of Experimental Therapeutics, Toronto General Research Institute, Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, Toronto General Hospital, and Multi-Organ Transplant Program, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1L7.
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3M2.
Department of Anesthesia, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1E2.


Medical cannabis has been legally available for patients in a number of countries. Licensed producers produce a variety of cannabis strains with different concentrations of phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids in medical cannabis are decarboxylated when subjected to heating for consumption by the patients or when extracted for preparing cannabis derivative products. There is little understanding of the true chemical composition of cannabis extracts, changes occurring during heating of the extracts, and their relevance to pharmacological effects. We investigated the extract from a popular commercial strain of medical cannabis, prior to and after decarboxylation, to understand the chemical profiles. A total of up to 62 compounds could be identified simultaneously in the extract derived from commercial cannabis, including up to 23 phytocannabinoids. Upon heating, several chemical changes take place, including the loss of carboxylic group from the acidic phytocannabinoids. This investigation attempts to reveal the chemical complexity of commercial medical cannabis extracts and the differences in the chemical composition of the native extract and the one subjected to heat. Comprehensive chemical analyses of medical cannabis extracts are needed for standardization, consistency, and, more importantly, an informed employment of this substance for therapeutic purposes.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare the following competing financial interest(s): L.P.K. and H.A.C. serve on the scientific and medical advisory board of Scientus Pharma, Inc. and receive a consulting fee.

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