Science & Technology



Marijuana cookies led to a valuable tool to measure THC

Elle Garrison, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Science & Technology News

One Hacker Lab member started out taking welding classes and now sells custom-built furniture. Another created an app that is essentially a nanny-cam for your horse and now employs several student members from Sierra College, which has a partnership with the Rocklin Hacker Lab.

Engineered Medical's device uses the same basic concept as any other spectrometer – it uses wave lengths of light to determine the chemical composition of a material. Laboratory-grade spectrometers are used for everything from detecting steroids in athletes to the acidity of rainwater. Those spectrometers are about the size of a dorm fridge and cost thousands of dollars, Chang said.

Cowger and Babb realized Engineered Medical's device only needed to measure the specific wavelengths of light that interact with cannabinoids.

"You just need to know how much of the cannabinoids are in your butter," Chang said.

There are at least 113 active cannabinoids in marijuana. THC is one of them, causing the stereotypical marijuana high, and CBD is another, commonly isolated for medical infusions and does not cause a high.

Chang said the founders took their prototype to dispensaries, edible bakers and cultivators throughout California, wondering how useful it would be in a wider market.

"We asked them, 'Do you need something like this?' " he said. "And they're like 'Here's my money, give it to me now.' "


"We've had some very passionate letters and feedback from our customers," Cowger said. "They do seem to be really relieved and excited that a product like this was brought to market."

Eventually, Engineered Medical hopes to make a device that will test for pesticides as well, but for now its device can only be used with cannabis products, which has been an obstacle. If Chang and his partners advertise themselves as a cannabis company, they are subject to the same banking restrictions as dispensaries and cultivators. In April, their credit card company cut them off because of their cannabis affiliation.

It's fine for others to talk about using tCheck with marijuana – Engineered Medical partners with cannabis cookbook authors and bloggers to market tCheck – but there's no mention of the drug on the company's website.

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