Wed Jul 28 2021 18:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Yes, ‘cannabis sampler’ is a job. It’s not what you think
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When Kacie Yinger tells people she works as a Field Sampler for a cannabis lab, they respond with a knowing smile, amused by the thought of her spending the day “testing” cannabis products before they come to market.
She always gets a kick out of their grins because, in fact, it’s actually quite a highly scientific task that Yinger does each day. And as she goes into detail about her duties, the look on people’s faces turns from a sly smirk to wide-eyed surprise.
“Most people, whether they consume cannabis or not, are unaware that such things like pesticides, harmful metals and even mold can be riddled throughout their flower, concentrates and edibles, or that sampling is the first step in the process toward providing safe and healthy cannabis products,” Yinger said.
Yinger is one of several field samplers at PSI Labs, a top Safety Compliance Facility (a.k.a. cannabis testing lab) in the state. When you shop for cannabis in one of Michigan’s growing number of retail dispensaries, you might not think of everything that goes into making those products – and making sure they’re safe. That’s where PSI Labs comes in. The independent, third-party lab in Ann Arbor works with cannabis growers and processors to test products before they arrive on the shelves at the store.
“We get it, ‘sampling cannabis’ sounds funny!” said Ben Rosman, CEO of PSI Labs. “But sampling is the often overlooked, but critical first step in the data collection process that ultimately ensures consumers can rely on the regulatory framework in their state and the validity of test results on their products."
Here’s a rundown of Yinger’s work as a cannabis field sampler:
Accurate and reliable testing in cannabis all begins with field (on-site) sampling, where a trained member of the Sampling team collects samples of cannabis following procedures and processes defined by the State of Michigan’s MRA.
A primary goal in on-site sampling is to select a representative sample of the batch so that test results accurately represent the quality and safety of a much larger quantity of product. “The most important role of a Field Sampler is to obtain a representative sample so the test results reflect the entire batch, and not just the best of the best or the worst or the worst,” Yinger said. “If samples are only taken from the best-looking product and do not depict the entire batch, it is at the expense of safety or quality for the end consumer.”
Proper sampling is also critical to PSI’s clients, to make sure they can communicate the most accurate results to the end consumer, and to help identify issues as early as possible. “Helping clients with their new product lines through method development and R&D testing or sending our scientists out for on-site consultations to help root out problems can be some of the most exciting and rewarding work we do as a cannabis testing lab,” Rosman said.
Cannabis growers and processors rely on PSI Labs for research, development and compliance testing. So, it’s important that Yinger and her colleagues know what they’re doing. That’s why all the Field Samplers at PSI Labs have four-year Bachelor of Science degrees from accredited universities. By majoring in Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, Yinger learned to value the necessity of following standard operating procedures, upholding integrity and using critical thinking.
As a pioneer in medical marijuana testing and the first lab in Michigan licensed to test cannabis for recreational use, PSI Labs is setting the gold standard. The lab tracks every step of the testing process from the moment Field Samplers enter a cultivation site to the moment the pass/fail results come through, maintaining a secure chain of custody the entire way.
When you buy a gallon of milk, you might take for granted that what you plan to pour on your cereal came from a licensed dairy that follows all the health and safety regulations in place so that the finished product is safe to consume. Now that cannabis is a legally regulated industry in Michigan, you should be able to expect the same level of quality in the products you find in dispensaries.
Unfortunately, cannabis is still a fledgling business in Michigan and not all labs are as capable of handling the ever-changing landscape and complexity of testing a new type of product. That’s where PSI Labs stands apart. From sampling to lab testing to data analysis, PSI Labs is pushing the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry to new heights of safety and product integrity.
“The unfortunate truth is that our testing integrity is a differentiating factor for us. The regulatory scrutiny isn’t quite there yet because this is a fairly new industry, and not all labs hold themselves to the same high level,” Rosman said. “This is why we spend so much time focused on elevating the entire industry, and creating a level playing field when it comes to testing. In an ideal world, accuracy would be the baseline and labs could compete on other factors such as client services and not their willingness to turn a blind eye to failing results or to inflate potency figures.
“Sampling is the first step in data collection and it’s so important. You either do it right or wrong, and if you mess it up or kind of look the other way and pick only the choice nugs, you’re not getting that representative sample and you’re doing the consumers a disservice.”
As a medical marijuana card holder for the past several years, Yinger knows first-hand the importance of consuming high-quality, safe cannabis and this is why she takes her role as a Sampler so seriously.
Sure, Yinger enjoys being one of the first to see new cannabis products coming onto the market, even if she doesn’t get to “sample” them the way people first think. But she gets the most satisfaction from carrying out the procedures that she and her PSI Labs colleagues follow so cannabis consumers, including herself, can be confident in the products they buy.
“The goal of PSI Labs is to help our clients provide transparency of products to consumers and patients to ensure quality and safety,” Yinger said. “And it all starts with sampling.”
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