Deciphering marijuana lab testing procedures

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Why testing is an important part of the marijuana distribution process

In the wake of several high-profile incidents of labs fudging marijuana testing results, it’s more important than ever to understand why testing is needed. The tests are designed to help ensure consumers receive clean marijuana that isn’t tainted by chemicals such as pesticides and that they meet the criteria that states have designated for providing the most benefits. Marijuana is known to offer relief for an ever-growing list of ailments, but any evidence of foul play can not only harm the individual, but the industry as a whole.

Most tests analyze samples in order to determine potency and levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). They also check for unwanted contaminants, pesticides, mold and mildew, all of which can cause illnesses. Some tests can also measure terpene levels, but these typically aren’t required.

In general, labs test to cultivators comply with guidelines established by the requisite jurisdictions. If a cannabis product meets compliance, it adheres to the state’s guidelines on what levels of different compounds are acceptable. Since each state sets its own standards, labs must ensure that they understand the laws and guidelines in order to properly test products.

Measuring the CBD and THC levels in cannabis provides results in a few ways. The amount of cannabinoid per weight is displayed as “20% THC,” for example. The total amount of cannabinoids found in a sample would read 150mg THC and there could also be a ratio of THC:CBD provided.

Contaminants can be the human body’s worst enemies. Labs will test for microbial contaminants, such as mold or mildew, as well as physical contaminants, heavy metals and chemical contaminants. The most common chemical contaminants are pesticides and artificial growth hormones.

Testing isn’t cheap. There are a number of different ways to analyze samples and they all require expensive machines. However, the result is a product that consumers can trust to do its job and which will not be harmful to the body.

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