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10 Aug 2022

What To Look For in a Cannabis Compliance Testing Lab

Cannabis compliance testing labs are an integral component of the burgeoning cannabis industry. The testing conducted by these laboratories is critical to the protection of consumer safety and maintaining quality for cannabis flower and infused products available in the legal markets in a growing number of states. While it’s not yet a universal practice, products in most legal markets must be evaluated by a state-licensed and accredited laboratory to confirm those products meet safety mandates.


But like most businesses, not all cannabis testing labs are equal, and not all operate with a level of transparency that ensures you get as much information as possible about a sample, whether you are a cultivator, manufacturer, patient or caregiver. Asking questions of a lab and receiving answers to those questions might seem like an obvious process, but it is not uncommon to get pushback or ambiguous answers. 


Laboratories should always be willing to engage in thoughtful discussion with clients to ensure results are correct, accurate and reflect the products in question. If your lab is unwilling to help you better understand your results, they may not be the right partner moving forward.


What else should you look for in a cannabis compliance testing lab? How can you best determine which lab will be the best fit for testing the products you want to get into the marketplace? And if you’re a patient or caregiver, are you getting all of the product details you need? Here are some things to consider.


Cannabis Testing Accreditation


The first thing to look for in a cannabis compliance testing lab is ISO 17025 accreditation. This internationally recognized certification is also used in a variety of laboratory and non-laboratory industries outside of cannabis, such as food manufacturing, occupational health and information technology security. 


The rigorous demands of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provide “independent confirmation of competence” and quality-assurance proficiency. In other words, ISO 17025 accreditation means that a laboratory is following good laboratory practices and protocols for its testing practices and method validation.


Beyond that, it is critical to check that the lab is licensed by the state in which it is located for every test it is performing. Look on a lab’s website, the state’s website or make a phone call to confirm that it is licensed by the appropriate authorities to perform compliance testing. It is important to note that some labs may only be licensed for certain testing categories or matrices, such as potency in concentrates. 


The lab should also adhere to the requirements set by the state regulatory authority in which it operates. For example, since PSI Labs provides cannabis testing in Michigan, we operate in accordance with the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) under regulation by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA). We also provide cannabis testing in California, which means that we are licensed and regulated by the state’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC).


Your Cannabis Certificate of Analysis


When the testing process is complete, the cannabis compliance lab should provide a detailed Certificate of Analysis. This document summarizes the tests and the data from the analyses of the submitted sample. It should be comprehensive and disclose important information about the laboratory and the equipment used during testing.


The COA should also reference the lab’s state-approved standard operating procedure relevant to the test performed. The COA is a record for cultivators and manufacturers of their products’ quality and safety measures, and can be used as part of the company’s internal quality management system, for state required safety validation, and for promoting access to information for end consumers.


Beyond Cannabis Testing Services


Standard cannabis product testing is typically conducted to quantify a product’s cannabinoid potency, along with screening for residual pesticides, heavy metals, unwanted contaminants and the presence of mycotoxins like mold and mildew.


But top cannabis testing laboratories should offer a larger suite of services that indicate a more complete and professionally run enterprise. A lab that is transparent regarding its engagement in research, quality control testing and advocacy within the industry indicates a high level of accountability. 


On-site sampling and specialty consultation services for medical cannabis provisioning centers and recreational-market dispensaries, breeders, caregivers, and manufacturers are other aspects to look for in a cannabis compliance testing lab. Locating a lab that can coach you through any unexpected failures should also be high on the list of requirements before making your choice.


Learn more about what to look for in a cannabis compliance testing lab at psilabs.org.

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