What You Need to Know About Cannabis Lab Testing

Article image

The best argument in support of legalized cannabis is quality lab testing. Your neighborhood dealer promises the best product, but he cannot back up the claim. One problem with the position taken by the DOJ, DEA, and FDA is that any claim to medical or health benefit for cannabis requires treatment as a drug.

So, the only claims producers and packagers can make refer to its content, THC/CBD ratio, and use of synthetic nutrients and pesticides. In fact, labels must include this info. While labels should acknowledge testing to determine these factors, it can make no claim to benefits.

Cannabis lab testing problems

Robert Martin, Ph.D. speaks for the Association of Commercial Cannabis Laboratories (ACCL) when he says, “We are a group of independent lab operators that have come together to address the lack of standards and practices in the medical and recreational marijuana industry evolving in North America today.”

He lists the challenges facing cannabis testing laboratories:

  • Investment has been personal and private.
  • Delicate analytical testing equipment is pricey.
  • Salaries run high for professionally-qualified researchers in microbiology and biochemistry.
  • Laboratories require licensing, insurance, ISO protocols, and more.

Given the labor burden and operating expenses, laboratory testing does not promise windfall profits. Nonetheless, HighTimes reports, “With rising demand for medical marijuana throughout the world, and legalized recreational cannabis available throughout more and more of North America, testing labs will be worth $1.4 billion by 2021—a year-over-year growth rate of more than 10 percent. Which is to say: pretty huge.”

Forbes calls cannabis lab testing “the dirty little secret” of the cannabis industry. “Cannabis companies depend on these labs to determine the level of THC in their products or give them a pass with regards to mold, pests or pesticides. The problem is that not all labs are created equal.”

What you need to know about cannabis lab testing —

You need to realize that without standardization, even well-intentioned labs can miss the mark.

  • Consistent professional behavior on the part of lab personnel demonstrates the firm’s credibility.
  • Dry-labbing falsifies reports under pressure for completion or to defraud customers.
  • Integrity refers to the collection of testing samples. They must be identified, gathered, stored, and processed in the same way without contamination or interference.
  • Labs must regularly test their own reliability by randomly analyzing test result samples.
  • Neutrality demands that quality assessment and quality control testing shows no interest in advocacy or prevention.
  • Proficiency standards expect cannabis testing labs to use trained professional who have published in respected scientific journals.

You see, if cannabis producers and dispensaries are going to promote cannabis effects in recreational-use or in medical care, some testing must affirm the claims. Steep Hill labs says, “’Cannabis should be subject to rigorous quality control oversight, like any other medicine,’ says Michael Backes, Board Member of Cornerstone Research Collective.”

Patients want tested medicine.

Patients should have the same quality assurance that they find on pharmaceutical products. They should have confidence that the labeling covers the tests, ingredient percentages, nutritional content, and anything that affects their treatment and outcome. The ratio of THC: CBD is particularly important to patients and prescribers.

Patients should know what pesticides or toxins might be present in the farming, product, and packaging. The presence of such elements can counter or exacerbate treatments causing damaging interactions.

Dispensaries must care for their patients and customers.

Cannabis dispensaries cannot advertise benefits of cannabis use. And, even though cannabis has been “marketed” on the black market for years without regulation or control. It sells on the black market on the word of the dealer for quality assessment and control.

Illegal sale and distribution cannabis only contributes to concerns about the integrity of claims on product quality in dispensaries. The increasing demand for quality cannabis promises a substantial market for labs. But, the various state regulations on labeling makes compliance difficult.

So, dispensaries find themselves stuck between consumer demands for quality assurance, and prohibitions on advertising. Without standardized protocols for testing, customers are at the mercy of the dispensaries. Fortunately, the real concerns about scrutiny should keep dispensaries honest.

Growers must brand their quality.

The ultimate test in any market is whether the product sells with any consistency. It’s difficult to even give away a product that lacks quality. So, if producers want to claim a slice of the market pie, they must produce and provide some level of quality.

People will not pay the going price if the product does not payoff. Recreational cannabis customers want taste, aroma, and buzz. Medical cannabis customers want reliable health benefits.

And, if American continues to want organically grown products, quality assurance demands will drive preference for quality lab testing.

Cannabis supply chain will suffer.

Law suits are inevitable. Frivolous suits or not, any grower, producer, or dispensary is open to litigation. Once you have a public profile, your business is at risk. Now that grow, sales, and possession are legal, risk management must minimize that risk.

On the dispensary premises, that means sanitary conditions, well-trained employees, and clear honest representation of products. But, dispensaries, in turn, must depend on what has been presented them as quality.

Customers will claim they have been sickened by contaminants or misrepresented products. And, they will seek compensation arguing that there was little or no quality assurance.

What you need to know about cannabis lab testing

You need to understand that the market will drive providers to value quality testing as a branding and risk management tool. But, currently, there are no universal standards for testing procedures or metrics. The cannabis industry needs its version of “UL,” “Good Housekeeping Seal,” or “J.D. Power Award” for quality testing.