Cannabis testing is not required in every state because not every state has legalized medical or recreational cannabis use. Those that do require testing though, don’t have very strong regulations in place. There are a few different methods and a plethora of reasons for the tests. One problem is that there are no standardized tests. Different methods can create discrepancies in the results. As the industry evolves it’s very possible that standard measures will be put into practice.
If you’re not sure what the laws are in your state but would like to know, check here.
Most states only require the levels of THC and CBD to be tested. This information is vital, as these will directly impact the effects the products have on the consumer. Each of these tests are important for the safety of the consumer. The educational information gained from testing can enable one to make informed choices before purchasing any marijuana products.
One regulation that has been put in place is that independent labs must be used to test a sample of each strain before dispensaries can put it on the shelves to sell it. They can test for pesticides, potency, different chemicals, the amounts of those chemicals, cannabinoids and terpenes, among other things.
The methods of testing:
High Performance Liquid Chromatography – “HPLC” is the most commonly used technique. It uses a liquid to quantify and separate a mixture of chemicals. A solvent such as ethanol is mixed with a cannabis flower and a sample is taken. The sample is then pumped at high pressure through a tube. There is a material in the tube that attracts different molecules of the sample based on their chemical properties and each one travels down the tube at a different speed. There is a detector at the end of the tube to measure the amount of UV light absorbance, and the different speeds at which the molecules travel. In turn, this characterizes each sample. The information collected in this test is put directly on the label of each product purchased through a dispensary in the form of a THC:CBD ratio.
Due to Terpenes (fragrant oils) being much more volatile, they use an entirely different method of chromatography. Gas Chromatography. Terpenes are separated from each other and dissolved with a solvent, then vaporized and put through two phases; stationary and mobile. A column filled with small silica particles is the stationary phase. The mobile phase begins when your analytes (a substance whose chemical constituents are being identified and measured) move over those particles with a fluid.
Solvents such as ethanol, carbon, butane and water are used in Residual Solvent Analysis tests. This determines the amounts of solvent remaining in processed cannabis. A higher volume of solvents is used to gain higher purity levels.
Physical contamination tests ensure that processed plants are handled and packaged properly. The use of gloves and sterilized, clean surfaces for packaging products is a set standard for the industry.
Microbial tests can make sure products are free of hazardous levels of mold, E.coli and other harmful and dangerous toxins.
As I stated earlier, THC & CBD testing is vital. These two cannabinoids determine how your body is affected by cannabis, regardless of how you choose to ingest it. THC (Tertahydrocannabinol) is the chemical compound in cannabis that creates the euphoric head-high. It can benefit the mind as well as the body. CBD (Cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis. Not only does it not give you the head-high euphoric feeling, but it can also counteract that. This compound has so many medicinal benefits. Testing the two compounds gives the consumer the ability to know how each strain will work for them, what percentage of each compound is in their chosen product and a general idea of what to expect.
Pharmaceutical companies have stringent regulations for testing when it comes to over the counter medications and prescription drugs. Why doesn’t the cannabis industry have the same practices and laws? Possibly because in the grand scheme of life, cannabis as an industry is just starting to develop. As the science of cannabis is studied and learned, practices, tests and measures will most likely be put into place to ensure proper data is collected. That data can then be used to pinpoint the most reliable test procedures.
Standard testing will work for the protection and benefit of the consumers, dispensaries, growers and packaging plants. The knowledge gained helps consumers choose their products and businesses will be able to keep a higher stock of the products in high demand (no pun intended).
As a consumer one wouldn’t typically have reports of data gathered and testing results at their fingertips. Or do they? Go to your local dispensaries and just ask them to show you a copy of their safety reports. You may not see or even understand the analysis report, but you can see how their safety procedures measure up.
Cannabis testing combined with the results is only one step in being educated. Learn as much as you can about the different strains; their health targets, potencies, the effects. Ask questions at your local dispensaries. When you go to a dispensary, have in mind exactly what health issues, if any, you want the products to address. Have an idea of how you want your body to react and know exactly what you don’t want.
I hope this article has given you all the information you need to not only make informed decisions on your cannabis usage, but that it also helps you understand some of the science behind the measures the cannabis industry needs to take, to make sure we have safe products readily available.
By: Loretta Rizzo
Loretta Rizzo is a wife, mother and author who is an outspoken advocate for the legalization of marijuana