Lab testing is an integral part of the legal landscape surrounding cannabis. Today, any cannabis product that you purchase from a licensed facility is required to undergo a series of tests by a state-accredited lab. These tests help ensure that products are safe to consume and easy to dose. Lab tests primarily screen for potency and levels of THC and CBD, residual pesticides, unwanted contaminants, and the presence of mycotoxins like mold and mildew. Additional tests can also be performed to measure terpene content, but aren’t required. Each test requires special equipment and procedures and must be conducted by carefully trained and licensed technicians.
The cannabis lab testing industry is mainly concerned with compliance data—these are all of the testing protocols mandated by a state’s regulatory body that must be performed on a cannabis product in order for it to be approved for distribution and sale. When a cannabis product “meets compliance” that means it meets the state’s standards pertaining to pesticides, contaminants, mold, mildew, etc.
Most labs adhere to a core group of tests, but there is no universal standard and each state has its own protocols. (Check out this link for further information surrounding testing protocols https://www.leafly.com/…/leaflys-state-by-state-guide… )
Labs usually are third-party companies that have to undergo an accreditation program, and they provide compliance data to their state’s regulatory body. Cannabis producers need this compliance data so their products can legally be approved for sale and distribution.
TYPES OF CANNABIS TESTING
Cannabis potency testing
While the exact tests required by each legal cannabis jurisdiction can vary greatly, the bread and butter of the cannabis testing sector is the potency test to determine how much CBD and THC is in a given product.
Heavy metals testing
Cannabis plants have a tendency to “pull” heavy metals out of their surrounding soil and absorb them into the plant as they grow. It is a fantastic trait if you are working with hemp to clean up an area of contaminated land, but not so great for those growing cannabis for human consumption.
Cannabis pesticide testing
The exact target lists of which pesticides must be screened for vary largely between states and between countries. And with no unified set of testing standards or standard analytes, it is unsurprising that the techniques used by testing laboratories also vary significantly from lab to lab. As a general rule, the testing workflow includes some type of extraction step, designed to capture any pesticides present on the material, and a cleanup step to remove any pigments or interferences that may affect the testing results. The resulting sample is then analyzed using either liquid or gas chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry.
With medical cannabis making up a huge part of the global cannabis sector, it is especially crucial that cannabis material is free from any harmful microbes that could detrimentally affect immunocompromised medical cannabis patients.
Generally, labs carrying out microbial analysis tend to use traditional culture methods, or quantitative polymerase-chain-reaction analysis.
In many ways, TCM is considered the go-to analysis method as it is a relatively straightforward technique – it is even possible to buy sample-ready culture medium systems that are specially designed for different microbial tests.
Molds and fungi can be dangerous contaminants themselves. But when left to proliferate, many can also go on to release additional harmful mycotoxins. Aflatoxins, a type of mycotoxin produced by Aspergillus species, are a particular risk as they can be potent carcinogens.
There is so much more to cannabis testing than just the basic information I’ve provided here for you. If you are interested in learning more about cannabis testing and testing procedures/protocols, check out the links I have provided below and read up on everything cannabis testing!