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26 Oct 2022

What Are the Cannabis Lab Testing Regulations in California?

State agencies tasked with overseeing and regulating legal cannabis have mandates to ensure cannabis product safety and provide consumers with a safer option than the unregulated legacy networks still prevalent across many states with legal markets. But because cannabis is still federally illegal and categorized as a Schedule I narcotic, it has been up to these individual states with legal markets to handle the complex task of regulating their own cannabis industries without federal guidance. As a result, regulations often change rapidly, they tend to vary between legal markets, and they can contain ambiguous and inconsistent language.


One of our roles as a trusted cannabis testing lab is to stay highly informed on the latest regulatory standings across all legal markets. Here’s what consumers and operators in California should know about cannabis lab testing regulations in the Golden State.


Cannabis Legality in California


California was the first state in the nation to legalize cannabis for medical use in 1996. The landmark passage of Proposition 215 (Compassionate Use Act) was followed by Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis use for adults 21 and older in 2016. The first adult-use dispensaries opened in 2018. California’s rules for the regulated market include cannabis product testing for consumer safety. The Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) is the state’s agency that licenses and regulates cannabis businesses. It also regulates the growing of cannabis plants, manufacturing of cannabis products, transportation and tracking of cannabis goods throughout the state, sale of cannabis goods, events where cannabis is sold or used, and the labeling of goods sold at retail.


Cannabis Testing in California


The DCC requires labs to test regulated cannabis products to make sure they are free of contaminants and the amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes are labeled accurately. The testing scope includes:


Cannabinoid profile (potency)

Terpene content

Foreign material

Moisture content and water activity

Microbiological contamination

Mycotoxins

Chemical residue analysis (pesticides, insecticides, fungicides)

Heavy metals

Residual solvents and processing chemicals


Should a product batch fail testing, cultivators and manufacturers have the opportunity to remediate the product batch in question, but only if the DCC approves a presented remediation plan in advance. The batch must be retested after remediation to ensure that the contaminant was removed. The products can be sold legally if they pass the subsequent retest.


Testing labs in California must report results on a Certificate of Analysis (COA). The COA says whether the batch passes or fails for each substance tested. Labs can only issue COAs and results after all tests are complete. Within one day of finishing a batch’s testing, the testing lab must upload the COA to the state’s track-and-trace system and email a copy of the COA to DCC.


In order for a lab to be licensed to test cannabis in California, it must be ISO/IEC 17025 accredited, use internal standard operating procedures (SOPs), develop a laboratory quality assurance program, and participate in a proficiency testing program.


PSI Labs has safety compliance facilities in Michigan and California. To learn more about cannabis lab testing regulations in California, preserving safe consumer access to cannabis or to get your own cannabis sample tested, contact PSI Labs today.

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