Budtenders and other front-facing workers in the cannabis industry know all too well that consumers ask questions about lab testing around the plant. This critical function helps protect public safety and promote responsible consumption. So, what are we really testing for and how valid are the results? Let’s take a deeper look.
All facilities that grow and sell legal cannabis must undergo a series of lab tests before they are allowed to release a strain to the public. Testing is not just for the essential chemicals found within the plant, like THC and CBD. We are also testing for residual pesticides, the presence of mycotoxins (like powdery mildew), and any other unwanted contaminants that could be harmful if ingested (Bennett 2018). At this point, additional components to the plant like terpenes are not tested regularly, which may explain why the industry consumer relies so heavily on THC percentages as a measure of quality.
How Valid Are Results?
Cannabis lab testing may have multiple methods for determining if a cannabis plant meets compliance standards for approved distribution and sales. The Cannabis Industry Journal interviewed a senior accreditation manager for the American National Standards Institute National Accreditation Board to learn how reliable test results really are. There are two main challenges to the reliability and validity of testing that the cannabis industry faces.
The first challenge to cannabis testing is that there is a wide variety of testing methods, some more effective than others. Luckily, there are programs that outline predefined criteria for testing comparisons and uniformity within a lab (Cannabis Industry Journal 2022). These include using additional cited references and comparing results using different methods, equipment, and technology.
The second challenge to cannabis testing is that every state has different protocols with no universal standards in place (Bennett 2018). This means each state defines potency, contamination, and cannabis profiling using different criteria. Without a central regulatory body in place to oversee industry standards, we are all still left to contend with misinformation and potential biases when determining appropriate benchmarks to what is safe and effective for cannabis cultivation and distribution.
To ensure that your team is the most up to date on new laws around compliance, including updates like this one about testing, attend one of our Responsible Vendor Training programs.
Bennett, Patrick. Cannabis Testing Explained: What’s in Your Cannabis? Dec 31, 2018. https://www.leafly.com/news/science-tech/why-test-cannabis.
Cannabis Industry Journal. Ask the Experts: Ensuring the Validity of Cannabis Lab Testing . September 30, 2022. https://cannabisindustryjournal.com/feature_article/ask-the-experts-ensuring-the-validity-of-cannabis-lab-testing/.