How Accurate Is Cannabis Testing?

This article was originally published on The Cannigma, and appears here with permission.

Across legal cannabis states, countless growers and manufacturers are in a mad dash to produce the highest THC flower they can to meet customer demand for heavy-hitting herb. But with a seemingly direct correlation between the level of THC and the popularity of strains, could there be some funny business happening behind the scenes? Are lab tests and certificates of analysis as accurate as we assume they are?

What we do know is that several labs have been accused of artificially inflating THC levels, and that results can be worryingly inconsistent.

“No one has ever slipped a Benjamin across the table so they can get a high number on their THC test. I’ve never seen that happen,” Ben Armstrong, Phd told the Cannigma when describing the inner workings of cannabis lab testing.

The Lab Director for Juniper Analytics in Bend, Oregon, Armstrong said that while he’d heard of labs in Oregon, Washington, and California that have been caught fabricating results “they’ve been shut down and that business is gone.” Most people in cannabis testing are trying to run a legitimate business, he added, and “kicking somebody’s potency up a couple degrees is not going to do you any favors in the long run.”

The only way to know what’s in your cannabis product

Most states that have legalized cannabis require some form of testing in an accredited lab, though the specific requirements and standards vary.

In addition to letting consumers know how much THC or CBD is in a cannabis product, testing can also detect the presence of pesticides, heavy metals, mold and mildew, and other contaminants. All of that information is put into a certificate of analysis, which some states and cannabis producers make available to consumers. 

With a lack of naming and consistency standards in the cannabis industry, certificates of analysis are all consumers have if they want to know what’s in their cannabis product. 

One nug can be 17% and another 22% THC

Weighing cannabis in a lab

Cannabis being weighed in a processing lab (Anthony Travagliante/The Cannigma)

Testing is more complicated than a lot of people may think, Armstrong said, adding that his company uses many of the same analytical instruments used by pharmaceutical companies. 

But if the …

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