Enormous pressure to maximize THC levels falls upon cultivators, manufacturers, and labs. And when THC levels are inflated, it creates unrealistic expectations for higher numbers, and it erodes trust in the integrity of the industry.
One California lawmaker has a solution. On March 15, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 1610, which he calls the “weed-out-the-weed” bill to create greater transparency in cannabis testing and help eliminate fraud in the legal markets.
SC Labs is sponsoring AB 1610 because it would improve transparency in the market by allowing or requiring in-person lab audits, randomized product shelf testing to ensure cannabis labels are accurate, and blind proficiency testing of labs.
“SC Labs is supporting this bill because without greater engagement from the state, there is no way to hold bad actors accountable,” says SL Labs Chief Compliance Officer Josh Wurzer. “Under the current system, bad actor labs and brands profit over companies that are working hard to follow the rules.”
Wurzer continues, “We want the legalized market to thrive, as it’s come under a lot of pressure recently from reduced prices and the persistence of illicit markets. Greater trust and transparency in legalized products will boost consumer confidence, ensure public safety, and strengthen the legal markets.”
The proposed reforms in the bill are common sense measures, Wurzer says, that will strengthen existing laws and give regulators the tools they need to stamp out fraud. That includes:
- Requiring blind proficiency testing so that labs are tested on their accuracy within their normal course of business
- Requiring all past recalls to be publicly shared online for consumers to access easily
- Requiring in-person annual audits of laboratories (many of the labs operating in California have been operating on provisional licenses and have yet to be inspected in person. This is something other states regularly do to ensure accountability)
- Allowing for the randomized testing of products available for retail sale to identify inconsistencies in testing
Wholesale prices for distillate are determined by THC content, and consumers favor flower for the same reasons. Companies lab shop to get the highest THC levels possible. What’s really happening is consumers are getting gouged for prices when they think they’re getting a higher amount of THC than what is really in their product.
Just how rampant is it? A few labs that were fed up with rampant potency inflation and recently set out to determine how bad the issue was. Their sampling of over 150 randomly chosen flower products by several lab leaders found that 87% of products illegally overstated their THC content, and several also contained harmful levels of pesticides. Furthermore, over half of the samples were over 20% deviant of their labeled THC values, which is over twice the legal permitted variance.
California does allow some room for error. The state’s threshold is +/- 10% for THC, but companies often illegally surpass that margin of error. “Any one cannabinoid, total THC, and/or total CBD claimed to be present on a label shall not be considered inaccurate if the difference in percentage on the certificate of analysis is plus or minus 10.0%” the California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) states.
At least five class action lawsuits have been filed in recent months by consumers claiming damages for paying for artificially high THC levels. Some major and recognizable cannabis brands were called out.
“As consumers, we all want to know that what we purchase is safe, legal, and tested. This is why I introduced AB 1610,” said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer. “As the cannabis industry continues to grow in California my bill will help protect consumers and maintain high quality cannabis products.”
When people are essentially getting less THC than what’s on the label, trust in the system will fall apart.
AB 1610 would build on existing law and create greater transparency and trust by requiring audits, shelf product testing, and blind proficiency lab testing. It would also mandate any product recall to be publicly reported to consumers online and require that all licensed labs be annually audited by the DCC.
“When Californians voted to approve the cannabis use, we did so with a trust in the marketplace. Unfortunately, bad actors have violated that trust with improperly labeled products and artificially inflated prices,” said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer. “This bill, with the ability to conduct testing and product review, improves accountability and gives regulators the tools to restore consumer trust.”
Products have been recalled in California and other legalized states for unsafe levels of everything, including mold, yeast, E. coli, and salmonella.
SC Labs has cannabis facilities in California, Oregon, Colorado, and Michigan, and the company is also a registered hemp lab in other states that require it, including Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and Texas.