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19 May 2022

The Importance of Transparent and Trustworthy Cannabis Testing Labs

Testing laboratories play a critical role in the rapidly growing cannabis sector. They comprise the line of defense that protects consumer safety and ensures a level of quality in cannabis and cannabis-infused products that are now legally sold for medicinal and / or recreational adult use in a majority of states.


Scientists and lab technicians face a complex job that varies greatly due to the lack of federal legality and the abundance of differing and changing state regulations related to cannabis testing compliance. And unfortunately, without standards and accountability for testing methods and lab proficiency, it’s a situation where bad actors are eroding consumer trust.


Looking at the growing pains the cannabis industry has experienced in Michigan and elsewhere, the evidence is apparent: Cannabis testing transparency is necessary to avoid potentially catastrophic outcomes for both cannabis operators and cannabis testing labs. Here’s an inside look at what cannabis testing entails:


Gathering the Data


Labs routinely accept a variety of samples for testing. The initial goal is to obtain information about the sample and determine which type of testing is required or has been requested. Levels of major cannabinoids like THC and CBD, more complete cannabinoid profiles, and terpene profiles are some of the more common requested or necessary tests, depending on state regulations.


Others include microbial testing for yeast, molds and bacteria. PSI Labs only tests on cannabis, which allows us to provide a wide-ranging testing platform and focus on improving technological options and work to increase efficiency.


Once the data are collected, results are examined and confirmed, and a Certificate of Analysis (COA) is produced.


Cannabis Certificate of Analysis


The COA is a detailed document that contains summaries of tests conducted and the test results themselves. It shows everything that was done with and learned about the sample.


Any lab operating with integrity and honesty should present all of the information in a clear and easy to understand manner that the customer can use effectively and with confidence. The PSI Labs COA is transparent and comprehensive, including everything needed to reproduce the analysis, with full method and data disclosures.


Making Cannabis Testing Data Transparent


Once testing is complete and a COA is issued, transparent access to the data is crucial. Without cannabis test results that can be analyzed by the public or the press, consumer trust cannot be assured, and the result is an industry without any solid foundation built on dedicated and uniform practices.


Testing failures and discrepancies can be hidden, research opportunities based on the data are not an option, trends cannot be analyzed and a closed culture exists that does not promote advancement and growth.


Without fully transparent—and uniform—cannabis testing parameters the industry cannot mature and provide consumers with the best possible products in the safest and most effective manner. The consumer is left to assume that what is written on the product label is correct. Often, it is not.


Potency Inflation in Cannabis


A major problem with lack of transparency and trustworthiness in cannabis lab testing is potency inflation. Growers and consumers are attracted to flower, concentrates and infused products with high THC concentrations to such a degree that unscrupulous labs—with no obligation to make test results public—have been known to alter test results to indicate a higher THC level than actually exists. Products with higher THC levels sell better than those with lower potency and can be sold at a higher price, but that’s not the main issue for consumers: If potency data are manipulated or falsified there is no way to tell with certainty what products contain or how they will affect the consumer.


This article from the Journal of Cannabis Research discusses a study of Washington state’s cannabis industry and Nevada’s cannabis sector. There’s a key difference: In Washington, cannabis testing data is available to the public; in Nevada, cannabis testing data is only available to the state regulatory division, the labs and the labs’ clients. The study concluded that in Washington there is far less potency inflation.


It is imperative that some form of oversight of cannabis labs is in place to ensure data reliability and transparency in states where it is lacking—and that this oversight be implemented as soon as possible. Otherwise, testing manipulation and falsification will continue, with consumer trust and safety sacrificed.


Learn more about why PSI Labs is focused on transparency in cannabis testing.

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