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22 Jun 2022

Protecting Consumer Safety Through Cannabis Compliance Testing

While cannabis marketing often  focuses more on “potency”—particularly the levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (∆9-THC) in cannabis products—there’s much more to cannabis, and the associated compliance testing, than quantifying THC content. Ensuring that consumers can enter a dispensary with confidence that the medical or recreational product they purchase is safe to consume is paramount. Because of this, cannabis consumers relyon the state to keep unsafe products off the shelves.

Cannabis compliance testing is a critical component of any state-level medical or adult-use (recreational) cannabis program. State regulatory agencies ensure safety for consumers in both medical and recreational markets and assure consumers that the products on licensed shelves are safer than those on the illicit or unlicensed market. As an example—products from the black market tested in Canada and the U.S. have shown lower ∆9-THC than advertised as well as elevated levels of dangerous pesticides, microbials and heavy metals. 

How well those agencies operate and ensure public health best practices in the industry varies greatly across the country due to different state statutes that determine the effectiveness of any regulatory model. Cannabis testing labs adhere to state-specific regulations, but these regulations can be lax—and even seen as a barrier to releasing products for sale instead of as a shared commitment to public health and an investment in the accuracy of label information.

Cannabis Testing Basics

Cannabis compliance testing requirements for Michigan provide the testing guidelines with which PSI Labs-Michigan operates. We test for the presence of potentially dangerous pesticides like fungicides and insecticides in each sample and also provide a complete foreign matter inspection, along with chemical residue analysis, a metals screening, vitamin E acetate screening and a microbial panel revealing content of yeast and mold and coliforms and the presence of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), salmonella, and aspergillus (testing depends on the product category or matrix). 

These tests are performed according to ISO 17025 standards for testing laboratories. This ISO certification requires a minimum quality assurance program requirement, proficiency testing program to ensure proficiency with test-types and equipment maintenance and log requirements among other things. This standard is internationally recognized and is also used in many laboratory industries outside of cannabis.

While ISO 17025 accreditation offers the assurance that a laboratory is following good laboratory practices and protocols for testing, method validation, corrective action resolution and other areas - such as those listed above - compliance laboratories also follow more detailed state licensing guidelines that prescribe the specific analytes that must be tested for and in what quantities they must be detected. These more detailed state-guidelines cover areas such as chemical residue analysis, methods for determining levels of various cannabinoids such as ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (∆9-THC), tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidiol acid (CBDA), and specific allowable levels of microbial contaminants.

Cannabis Potency Testing is Consumer Safety Testing

High levels of pesticides or heavy metal in cannabis will certainly sound the alarm, but inconsistent and incorrect results and/or labeling of ∆9-THC is also cause for concern when it comes to  consumer safety. And from a medicinal standpoint, getting the right dose of cannabinoids is essential. Knowing and disclosing the level of ∆9-THC will help consumers understand how intoxicating the sample might be, and what other benefits they can expect to experience. At PSI Labs, our complete cannabis potency analysis covers the following:

  • delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (∆9-THC) level

  • delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) level

  • delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (∆8-THC) level

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidiol acid (CBDA) levels

  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

  • Cannabidivarin acid (CBDVa)*

  • Cannabinol (CBN)

  • Cannabigerol (CBG) and Cannabigerol acid (CBGa)

  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and Tetrahydrocannabivarin acid (THCVa)

  • Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)*

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-O)*

  • exo-Tetrahydrocannabinol (EXO-THC)*

  • Delta-10 THC-R, R*

  • Delta-10 THC-R, S*Terpene analysis

*Exclusively available at PSI Labs - CA

(“acid cannabinoids” such as THCA and CBDA become activated ∆9-THC and CBD when subjected to certain temperatures—a process known as decarboxylation.)

Protect Consumer Safety With PSI Labs

PSI Labs was the first Safety Compliance Facility licensed for recreational testing in the state of Michigan, and is proud to be one of the founding members of Leafly's Certified Labs Program, with a commitment to providing accurate data and creating a data-driven view of cannabis. We also participate in The Emerald Test™ twice each year to help validate our measurement processes and our ability to meet regulatory requirements with the state, and protect consumer safety at the highest possible level.

Keep on top of all matters related to cannabis testing with PSI Labs.


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