Cannabis, we have a problem. With the legalization of adult cannabis use in California, the demand for highly potent cannabis has increased dramatically in recent years. Today, many pharmacy buyers enforce minimum THC requirements on the products they sell. If smokable flower products don’t have COAs showing that THC levels are above 20% or more, there’s a good chance many pharmacies don’t have them on their shelves. Unfortunately, such demands put undue pressure on the industry and mislead the consumer.
Lab shopping: where the problems lie
Shopping in the lab for potency tests is not new, but it has increased in recent years with the increasing demand for highly potent flowers. Unfortunately, many manufacturers submit valid, certified COAs to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) that show two to three times the actual potency value.
At InfiniteCAL, we bought products off pharmacy shelves and found significant discrepancies between the analysis we performed and the report submitted by the manufacturer to the BCC. How can this happen? Several factors make for the perfect storm in cannabis testing.
Problems with potency
Many consumers still do not understand that THC potency is not the only factor in determining the quality of cannabis, and they unknowingly add to the demand for testing and analysis fraud. For cultivation pioneers and ethical laboratories, it is alarming to see producers and for-profit testing facilities falsifying data to make it more attractive to the unsuspecting consumer.
Basically, the growers turn to the labs and ask, “I get 30% THC in this lab. what can you do? “If they see our COA reporting that their flower was tested lower than expected, they move to a different lab for higher test results. Unfortunately, there are too many labs willing to comply .
I recently saw a compliant Certificate of Authenticity claiming that this particular flower was tested at 54% THC. When we understand cannabis genetics, we know that it is impossible. Another product I reviewed claimed that after diluting an 88% THC distillate with 10-15% terpenes, the final efficacy test was 92% THC. You can’t cut a product and expect its effectiveness to increase. Finally, a third product we reviewed claimed 98% of the total cannabinoids (while only looking at seven cannabinoids) with 10% terpenes for a total of 108% of the product.
These laboratories only make themselves dumb for professionals, mislead laypeople and go under the BCC’s radar with basic math errors.
The pesticide predicament
Terrifyingly, potency inflation isn’t the most nefarious testing scam in the cannabis industry. If a manufacturer doesn’t use 1,000 gallons of cannabis oil in pesticide testing, they can lose millions of dollars – or have it retested by a less scrupulous laboratory.
Photo: Michelle Tribe, Flickr
As the industry continues to grow and new laboratories appear to the left and right, cultivators and manufacturers have learned which laboratories are “easy graders” and which are not. Certain laboratories can be 10 times less effective than a pesticide and still report it as undetectable. When the manufacturer fails a pesticide in a laboratory, they know four others fail to see it.
In fact, laboratories have been sending promotional materials to my clients to ensure laboratory results are compliant without ever receiving a sample for testing. Now these companies aren’t just cheating on the consumer. You can potentially harm them.
One simple solution
There is only one critical factor missing from cannabis testing that could quickly fix these issues – checks and balances. The BCC only needs to do one of two things:
Check the laboratory accuracy
InfiniteCAL also operates in Michigan, where the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) has already implemented a system to ensure laboratories adhere to the highest testing standards. The MRA automatically flags all COAs that are tested above a certain percentage and requires the product to be retested by multiple laboratories.
The laboratories must keep a supply of material. So if the test results from Laboratory A are abnormally high, Laboratories B, C, and D are tasked with retesting the material to compare the data. If Labor A reports 40% THC, but the other laboratories report all 18%, it is easy to see that Labor A has gone wrong.
By simply buying products off the shelves and blindly testing them from other laboratories, the BCC can easily determine if the existing Certificate of Authenticity is correct. You already have all the data in Metrc so this would be a quick and easy fix that could potentially solve the problem overnight.
For example, at InfiniteCAL we once bought 30 samples of Blue Dream flowers from various cultivators with certified COA potencies between 16% and 38%. Genetically, we know that the Blue Dream strain does not produce high levels of THC. When we tested the samples we purchased, almost every mid-teen sample came back to a low range of 20%.
Laboratories are not supposed to be profit centers
At InfiniteCAL, we contacted laboratories in California where we uncovered inconsistencies in order to find and fix the errors in testing. Too often we hear the excuses:
- “If I fix my problem, I’ll lose my customers.”
- “I’m just a businessman who owns a laboratory. I don’t know any chemistry. “
- “My chemist screwed it up; it’s your fault! “
If you own a laboratory, you are responsible for quality control. We’re not here to get rich; We’re here to act as public safety agents, making sure these products are safe for the consumer and providing detailed information on what they put into their bodies. Be professional and remember that you are testing for the consumer, not the manufacturer.