When PSI Labs started testing cannabis for THC levels and pesticides in 2015, it entered into an unregulated industry that would soon grapple with the effects of legalization and—perhaps more troubling—was prone to sloppy testing practices that gave varying results on potency and toxicity levels.
“A client comes to you. They don’t like the numbers that they see,” said Ben Rosman, co-founder of the Michigan-based PSI Labs, which expanded into California earlier this year. “And they’re like, ‘I can find another lab who’s going to give me the numbers I like,’ or ‘I don’t like that you failed me. And I know there’s another lab that’s going to give me a pass.’”
What Rosman is referring to is the potency rating on marijuana. The higher the rating, the more powerful the drug.
“A lot of folks sort of test as marketing, not just quality control, and they want to see the highest potency possible,” Rosman added. “Or they just test purely to drive their product to market alone.”
But times are finally changing. Five years after California legalized marijuana in 2018, both the state and industry players are wrestling with standardization and varying regulations that have cost cannabis producers tens of thousands of dollars while endangering consumers and the environment.
A law signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered the state to develop clear and specific guidelines to test cannabis products.
The bill will require California’s Department of Cannabis Control to create a strict set of standards for testing cannabis products, including pesticides, contaminants, cannabis potency and heavy metals. The standards will be established by 2023 and all cannabis labs in California will have to follow them.
“Testing standards provide consumers with confidence about cannabis product safety and accuracy of cannabinoid content,” the DCC said in an email. “These standards are what distinguish legal, regulated cannabis from illicit cannabis. Cannabis sold through unlicensed sources is not tested, may contain unsafe contaminants or undisclosed ingredients, and is often labeled with higher cannabinoid content than the product actually contains.”
What labs test for, and how they test samples, is often at the discretion of the lab itself. The cannabis buds at the top of the plant are often more potent than the bottom-most buds, and some portions of the plant may contain more microbiological contamination than others. Labs claim to strive to collect a representative sample of the entire batch of cannabis (though how they determine what a representative sample is is also up for grabs).
The process has led to “lab shopping”, by which cannabis processors and growers go to labs that will produce more favorable results, even if they’re less accurate.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Keerthi Vedantam on Dot.LA
Published: January 04, 2022
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News