Cannabis users turn to the substance for a variety of health and wellness applications, ranging from medicinal purposes prescribed by a doctor to recreational users looking to destress at the end of the workweek. No matter the application, cannabis must meet state regulations and standards. Therefore, it needs to be tested for purity, potency, and safety before it can be sold. That’s where cannabis research labs come in. These labs are run by a third party outside of the company that produces the cannabis products and tests for terpenes, chemicals such as heavy metals and pesticides, and potency. They’re an essential part of the cannabis industry. Without them, companies wouldn’t be able to ensure that their products meet regulations, and users wouldn’t be sure they’re getting pure and consistent doses.
What Do Cannabis Labs Test For?
The first major area cannabis labs test for is potency. Not only do users want to know how much CBD or THC the products they’re taking contain, but companies must also test for potency to meet both federal and state regulations. For example, in order for a CBD product to be salable in all fifty states, it must be made from hemp plants with less than 0.3% THC by volume. A third party cannabis research lab must test the product and the hemp plant it was extracted from to ensure it meets federal regulations. Many states that allow legal and medical cannabis also require that all cannabis must be tested to ensure it meets certain quality and safety control standards, which includes potency.
Additionally, cannabis research labs test cannabis for purity. Purity tests are designed to ensure that the cannabis doesn’t contain any microbial bacteria and fungi, residual solvents, metals, pesticides, and mycotoxins that exceeds acceptable guidelines.
To ensure that cannabis research labs are performing the analyses correctly, states have set up certain certifications that the labs must pass. This additional step helps regulate the accuracy of cannabis lab testing.
Why Does Cannabis Need to be Lab Tested?
Cannabis plants tend to absorb everything they’re exposed to during cultivation. The nutrients, heavy metals, and other chemicals present in the soil can leech into the plant, as well as any pesticides that are used near or on the plant. Likewise, if mold or bacteria is present in the soil, they too can contaminate the cannabis plant. As a result, cannabis products must be tested for all these materials and any other chemical that could remain in the final product. State and federal regulations have been established that places maximum limits on toxins, such as heavy metals, pesticides, microbes, and mycotoxins that can be present in the cannabis plant. For instance, the Washington State Legislature places a 5,000 ppm limit on residual solvents, such as acetone and butanes.
Fungicides, pesticides, and other chemicals used to ensure the growth of the plant can create a dangerous health problem for patients if they consume cannabis with these toxins present. Additionally, mold and fungus present in cannabis products can cause serious injury to patients who have asthma or allergies, as well as those who have a compromised immune system.
Testing is also the only way to determine the cannabinoid and terpene content of the cannabis. These variables directly influence the experience consumers have after using the product. For instance, CBD is non-psychoactive, and many users find it soothing, while THC may have psychoactive effects, particularly at higher doses, and can be a little more stimulating. Without proper testing, there’s no other method to determine the exact chemical makeup of a cannabis product and the effects it’s likely to produce for consumers.
Due to the fact that cannabis retains so much from the environment where it is grown, a specific strain of cannabis from one region may look identical to a similar strain grown elsewhere. However, it might contain such vastly different cannabinoid and terpene profiles that it could practically pass for a completely different strain. For example, 9 Pound Hammer is a popular strain of cannabis that contains a wide terpene profile, including myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene, with THC levels ranging between 17 and 21 percent. However, another cultivator’s 9 Pound Hammer could contain a vastly different chemical makeup. It might have higher levels of pinene than myrcene and lean more towards 25 percent THC. Testing labs are equipped with fine-tuned testing equipment that can pinpoint the complex chemical makeup of each cannabis product so consumers and companies know exactly what’s in their products.
Cannabis research labs are an essential part of the cannabis industry. Without them, consumers and companies would be in the dark about the contents of their cannabis products. With a cannabis research lab on board, however, companies can correctly label their products and ensure that they pass all state and federal regulations.