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Tuesday June 20th at 11am MDT - Ask Me Anything with Marco from Digamma Consulting

We’re hosting an Ask Me Anything event on Tuesday June 20th, 2017 at 11am MDT with @Marco Troiani from Digamma Consulting to answer your questions about lab testing.

Register for the event here.

Click here to add the event to your Google Calendar or download and open this attachment to add to Outlook and other calendar programs. Digamma_Consulting_Ask_Me_Anything_on_Growers_Network.ics (1.3 KB)

About Marco:
-Laboratory Manager / Quality Officer / Chemical Analyst
Marco Troiani was the laboratory manager of DB Labs from its founding 2015-2016. His responsibilities included developing methods for the detection of terpenes and solvents (GC-MS), metals (ICP-MS), pesticides (GC-MS-MS), and Total Yeast and Mold, Total Aerobic Bacteria, Total Coliform Bacteria, and Salmonella spp. In cannabis and associated products, as well as hiring, training and managing lab employees. Additionally, Mr. Troiani was responsible for writing and maintaining the laboratory QAQC manual, and was responsible for personally signing each certificate of analysis released to a client. Mr. Troiani’s previous experience includes assisting as a lab technician at Steep Hill under Mr. Sguera, and previously working at the Lokey Research Group in Santa Cruz, CA on synthesizing and assaying for membrane permeability a series of novel peptides derived from natural venoms.

Mr. Troiani has many years of experience in a manager role, supervising technicians and employees in commercial laboratories, academic laboratories, and non-scientific commercial settings. Mr. Troiani is the co-founder of Digamma LLC, a consulting firm specializing the science aspects of the cannabis industry established in 2013. Digamma’s work with analytical laboratories includes: developing new methods, validating existing methods, increasing the robustness of quality and client data generated by a laboratory, often to meet accreditation standards.

Digamma’s work with extraction laboratories includes: increasing yields, purity and terpene retention of cannabis concentrates. Work with medical laboratories includes: presenting data generated by peer-reviewed publications on the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a medicine, educating doctors and clinicians on the chemical composition of cannabis, education on analysis performed on cannabis for potency and safety standards, education on the endocannabinoid system and the properties of cannabinoids in the human body.

In his capacity as a consultant to the industry, Mr. Troiani has authored many articles, documents and reports detailing the effects of scientific elements of a cannabis company and how these elements affect the purity and quality of the product, and the final revenue for the company. In addition Mr. Troiani has lectured on the science of cannabis in various contexts, most recently at the ACS conference in September 2016 where he presented his research on the extraction and detection of pesticides from cannabis, and at CannMed conference in April 2017 where he presented his research on the prevalence, grouping and medical efficacy of the terpenes in cannabis and their effects on patient health.


This part of Digamma’s work piqued my curiosity. Can you elaborate on how extraction labs can better achieve these goals?


Thank you Nicholas for the fantastic introduction. I will be available now for the next hour at least to answer any questions you may have on science in the cannabis industry. Ask me anything!


How did you get into cannabis laboratory work?

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A couple of labs I’ve talked to estimated that 3-5% of the flower samples fail the yeast/mold/bacteria contamination tests. Does that match up with your experience and do you think there are ways to improve that percentage overall?

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@marco Could you please share some of your public research with us? You are welcome to reply with links or upload the actual files.

That is a good question, Nate, and the answer is can be broad in scope. The goals stated where the following:

A. increasing yields
B. increasing purity
C. increasing terpene retention

A leads to more cost effective extraction and more dollars of revenue. B and C can lead to more revenue over the long run, but generally mean getting less $ / extraction batch in exchange for superior quality (B meaning “cleaner” and C meaning more “flavor”).

Often times A and B (yield vs. purity) are at odds with each other, as chemical process that capture all compounds of interest also capture impurities. On the flip side, if you have a chemical process that is very selective to your compound of interest, say THC, then it will leave some of the THC behind in the extraction material with the impurities. A good chemist can optimize both of these properties easily, but they are fundamentally at cross purposes and so a extractor needs to think about what type of product he or she is hoping to produce and what markets they are dealing with.

C, terpene retention, is a little more independent chemical process. Many labs are now distilling off terpenes in their input plant material, storing it, and then reintroducing it into their final extract. Some labs use their distilled terpenes as a solvent to reduce the viscosity of their extract, like many people have done with propylene glycol. Except terpenes don’t cause the same health problems as glycol and therefore can be marketed as organic or all-natural. This last component is very important for consumers and branding, because if you hit a vape pen that tastes a whole lot like the label strain, say “Cherry Diesel”, you build consumer confidence. Also the medical effects are more strongly felt by the patient when terpenes are in high numbers, as many of the medical benefits of cannabis actually come from the terpenes and not the cannabinoids.


Given the current fragmentation of cannabis laws varying from state to state, how would you advise a single location laboratory to expand their business in other medical/recreational states?

How do you envision the future landscape of cannabis laboratories changing with federal legalization?

Good question. I studied Biochemistry and Cellular Biology in California at Santa Cruz and that got me into the laboratory world. I started synthesizing sea snail toxins for cellular studies for universities in California and Florida. After that I moved up to San Francisco where I met my business partner Savino Sguera, a fellow scientists from Columbia in New York who was the laboratory director of Steep Hill Labs, at that time in Oakland, CA. I started helping him run the lab in a technician capacity and learned some of the basics of cannabinoids, terpene, and mold testing.

After California we moved to Las Vegas where we opened a lab called DB Labs, the first cannabis testing lab in Nevada. There I functioned as Lab Manager, getting samples in and results out everyday. This is also were I began to learn about pesticide and heavy metals testing in cannabis, and started doing some research to collect some data on these testing processes.

After Las Vegas we returned to California were we are helping 2 sets of investors set up new testing laboratories in Northern and Southern California respectively. In between we continue to help extractors, doctors, and researchers however we can.


Thanks for the response @marco!

What other lab tests would you like to be able to run? Is there any research you’re hoping to come out?

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Which state do you think currently has the best overall structure for cannabis laboratory testing? And why?

Do you think other states should follow suit?

In my experience that number sounds low, but it sounds also about accurate for a community of mature, seasoned growers such as I’ve experienced in Northern California and Colorado. In Las Vegas we saw about 50% mold failures. This was mostly because the Nevada industry popped up over night and many of the growers either lacked experience with cannabis or lacked experience growing in the desert. In the Nevada desert, mold is very aggressive because of the lack of water is has adapted to. Also Nevada requires that all grow operations are indoor, which helps mold contamination in particular thrive.

In California we saw more of a 10-20% mold failure rate, but most of those numbers were coming from inexperienced growers or growers with moldy buildings. We found actually did a lot of mold testing to help growers find the source of mold in their building and then call in mold remediation experts to wipe it out. but 3-5% sounds like a natural end point once a regional industry matures and masters mold management.


That makes sense. The labs I’ve talked to are in Colorado, which is one of the most mature industries at this point.


What do you think of the current state of pesticide testing in the various states? And where would you like to see that testing be in an ideal world?


I’ll have to go one at a time due to file size limits:

Here is ACS 2016 Pesticides

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I’ll have to go one at a time due to file size limits:

CannMed 2017 Terpens
Troiani.CannMed.pdf (7.6 MB)

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I’ll have to go one at a time due to file size limits:

Yield Calculations

Optimizing Harvest Time
OptimizingHarvestTime (1).pdf (190.0 KB)

Cannabis and Psychosis
Cannabis and Psychosis.pdf (45.1 KB)

Ingested Cannabioids
IngestedCannabinoidsText.pdf (3.1 MB)

decarboxylation of cannabinoids


Loving this research! Breathtaking work @marco.


The federal ban on cannabis is a very unique situation in our industry. Any commercial transaction that crosses state lines is automatically the jurisdiction of the federal government, which at present is very hostile to medical and recreational cannabis. Having any business cross state lines could mean DEA raids and federal charges, especially under Jeff Sessions.

With the laboratory business, we have seen many options. Steep Hill franchised its brand name to a owner who bought into the franchise when expanding from California to Nevada. Although this protected California Steep Hill from legal block back from their franchise, it gave them little to no control over their Nevada branch’s operation and the loss of money during long down times was catastrophic.

DB Labs was at one point partially funded by investors who ran a laboratory in Colorado, albeit not a cannabis industry connected laboratory. The way this process was handled was that the owners of the lab in Colorado withdrew the company profits into their personal accounts, then used that capital to found a new legal company in a new state, so technically the only connection between the two businesses was that is had owners in common. This allowed the businesses to be linked but in a way that allowed the two businesses to be legally separate but practically interconnected due to personnel and staff. We’ve helped clients expanding from Arizona into California with similar legal dances.

As for federal legalization, I’m not sure what will happen. I am hoping that state-level actors that have proven themselves to be effective and trustworthy in the public eye will be given a leadership role in defining the federally compliant cannabis industry. What I fear is that lobbyists will shut the state level actors down and award exclusive contracts to existing fortune 500 companies who currently work in big pharma or other industries (I see the plastics/oil industry moving in on industrial hemp too). So activism may be a critical part of us expanding our industry in the years between now and federal legalization.


So far we run the following:

Micro (mold/bacteria)

This suite, mandated in Nevada and Massachusetts and soon to be in California, is a practical solution for safety testing of cannabis. A sample that passes all these tests is extremely unlikely to be dangerous unless intentionally sabotaged, and that would a criminal charge, not a industrial negligence charge. Additional tests I would like to run, largely for medical reteach purposes, are genetic analysis on the strain of plant and the human patient, to create a genome-to-genome database to help doctors figure out why some strains help some people with some people with certain medical disorders and others do not. I dream of a future when you sit down in the doctors office and complain about insomnia and headaches, the doctor can look up a chart and say “Girl Scout Cookies is what you need in the morning, and Brutal OG at night”, instead of having patients go and try whats available, sometimes for years, before finding relief.