Utah Cultivator Touts Flower With 45% THC; Retest Reveals 22% Potency

Utah cultivator Sugar House Selects turned some heads when its Ice Cream Cake cultivar tested at 45.13% THC in June, knocking on the world-record potency door. Sugar House promoted the results on social media.

But the flower sample that was tested by Aromatic Plant Research Center (APRC)—a cannabis testing facility in Utah—didn’t live up to its hype. When long-time medical cannabis patient advocate Christine Stenquist twisted the lab’s arm to retest a new sample, APRC’s follow-up analysis revealed that the actual potency was 21.71% THC, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

“I knew the lab results were wrong,” Stenquist told the Tribune. “They were wrong, and it goes against everything we’re trying to educate the public and community about. We’re not chasing highs; we’re trying to get good medicine.”

As many medical cannabis advocates and stakeholders are relaying to consumers, THC is just one element of the plant. Terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids like CBD also are key compounds that contribute to the ensemble effect—also referred to as the entourage effect—which is the synergistic phenomenon produced when all the plant’s compounds work together.

Some plant-touching experts relate cannabis’ ensemble effect to wine, explaining that beverage connoisseurs don’t actively select wine based on the highest alcohol content but rather for its aroma, taste and effect.

With third-party testing and some state- cannabis programs lacking a state-run lab, potency discrepancies present an obstacle for the industry: how can consumers be confident the labels on their purchases are accurate?

According to the Tribune, all of Utah’s medical cannabis plants and products originally were going to be tested at a state-run lab overseen by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF). But, as backlogs developed, the state licensed APRC to increase testing capacity. The APRC team typically runs 15 tests a day but can run north of 40 tests a day when demand is high, according to the Tribune.

As part of the state licensing process, UDAF sends samples it already tested to see if potential lab licensees find the same results, according to Will Deutschman, who spent 20 years as a biochemistry professor at Westminster College before he took over running APRC’s lab in June.

Deutschman told the Tribune that he has been focused on establishing protocols to retest samples that produce outlier results. “We certainly are trying to make sure that really strange things do not go out the door ever again,” he said.

In addition to cannabinoid profiles, cannabis labs test for pesticides, microbials, mycotoxins, heavy metals, foreign matter and residual solvents used in the extraction process, as well as moisture levels that might lead to mold.

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