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2 Jun 2022

What Are the Main Components of Cannabis Test Results?

Learning the potency of intoxicating delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (∆9-THC) in a cannabis product might be the holy grail for cultivators (and some consumers) in the burgeoning cannabis sector, but that information is only a small component of what cannabis testing labs are tasked with assessing.

Consumer safety has always been the driving force in the cannabis compliance arena—but as our understanding of this complex plant has increased, there is growing recognition that ∆9-THC is only one (albeit important) aspect of the plant and the end consumer experience. Other cannabis test results such as terpene profiles are increasingly being viewed with added scrutiny to determine how they might affect the way the tested product will perform.

Testing for potency doesn’t provide any additional information on what potential contaminants are in the product and whether it is safe to consume. A more comprehensive view into safety, and testing methodologies that ensure that the flower or infused product is free from potentially harmful materials, are actually a major part of what a cannabis laboratory is testing for and reporting back to licensees and the state.

At PSI Labs, we take a holistic view of cannabis product safety, and that starts with providing accurate and transparent information. Here’s what you should keep in mind the next time you look at cannabis product labels.

Cannabis Potency Testing

A full potency profile (not just ∆9-THC) will always be included in the results of a product. Licensed cannabis testing labs in Michigan are required to test for 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

  • Cannabinol (CBN) level

Many labs, including PSI, go beyond state regulatory requirements and provide tests for a large number of additional cannabinoids that constitute a statistically significant makeup of the plant’s fascinating chemistry.

Our full potency profile includes:

  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

  • Cannabigerol (CBG) and Cannabigerol acid (CBGa)

  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and Tetrahydrocannabivarin acid (THCVa)

  • Cannabidivarin acid (CBDVa)*

  • Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)*

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-O)*

  • exo-Tetrahydrocannabinol (EXO-THC)*

  • Delta-10 THC-R, R*

  • Delta-10 THC-R, S*

*Exclusively available at PSI Labs - CA

A result indicating the level of ∆9-THC will help determine how potentially intoxicating the product might be. Levels of accompanying cannabinoids like THCA, CBD, CBDA and CBN will provide additional information for consumers seeking to explore the potential entourage effect of various cannabinoids and terpenes interacting in concert. For example, THCA has shown a proclivity for reducing appetite in preliminary research on animal models, while CBN is becoming increasingly marketed as having sedative abilities.

Terpene Analysis

Terpenes are often mentioned in the same breath as cannabinoids. These aromatic, naturally occurring chemical compounds are found in many plants and believed to play a role in the entourage effect when working in tandem with cannabinoids. As such, terpene profiles should be part of any properly designed and implemented cannabis testing program.

Some of the most common terpenes in cannabis are α-Pinene (found mainly in coniferous trees and plants like rosemary and eucalyptus), δ-Limonene (found in citrus fruits), β-Myrcene (also found in hops and used as a flavoring and aroma agent in food and beverages) and β-Caryophyllene (found in spices and other edible plants).

The medicinal and therapeutic properties exhibited by terpenes and their ability to enhance cannabis effects, efficacy and quality make them key components of cannabis testing. PSI Labs also tests for the following terpenes:

  • 3-Carene

  • α-Bisabolol

  • α-Humulene

  • α-Terpinene

  • β-Ocimene

  • β-Pinene

  • Camphene

  • Caryophyllene Oxide

  • cis-Nerolidol

  • Eucalyptol

  • γ-Terpinene

  • Geraniol

  • Guaiol

  • Isopulegol

  • Linalool

  • Ocimene

  • p-Cymene

  • Terpinolene

  • trans-Nerolidol

Testing for Cannabis Product Safety

The inputs and environmental setup of a cultivation facility can expose plants to a number of harmful materials- just as inputs and processes can inadvertently leave harmful chemicals in processed products. Test results are intended to provide industry operators and consumers with a complete breakdown of any chemical residues (i.e, pesticides, fungicides and insecticides) and ensure that the product they are selling or consuming meets the action limits set by the state and regulatory bodies. While we know there is a great deal of work left to do in studying toxicity and health and safety concerns associated with inhalation, vaping and other consumption methods, the intention of any cannabis testing program is to ensure products are as safe as possible based on a given state’s guidelines.

Safety components of cannabis testing should also include a complete foreign matter inspection, chemical residue analysis, a heavy metals screening, a microbial panel revealing the total content of yeast and mold and coliforms, as well as the presence of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and salmonella.

Test results are intended to provide consumers with the information necessary to confidently make choices when engaging with cannabis knowing that the product has been tested to the levels required by the particular state’s safety net of guidelines.

Stay in the know about cannabis testing matters. PSI Labs is here to help you.


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