We talk a lot about the importance of hemp and cannabis testing and how to read certificates of analysis (COAs) to determine the results. True, those are critical components of creating high-quality products. But accurate testing and analysis rely on the preceding step that we often fail to discuss—sampling of the finished goods. Proper hemp and cannabis sampling is essential to ensure a consistent and homogenous end product that consumers expect and patients rely on.
Let’s dive in.
The Importance of Random Sampling and Minimum Quantities
Medical cannabis, unlike commercial hemp products, is highly regulated for patient protection. That means most states require licensed third-party laboratories, like ACS Laboratory, to conduct the sampling on behalf of the manufacturers. Moreover, in states like Florida, it means labs can only test finished goods or shelf-ready products that are fully packaged and ready for sale.Roger Brown
Most importantly, stringent regulations in the state require laboratories to select random samples per batch, and multiple selections at minimum quantities to ensure they’re getting an accurate picture of the product’s quality, potency and components across the entire batch.
Random sampling of multiple products at minimum quantities is critical to accurately determine consistency and homogeneity. Consistency ensures that every gram of flower or oil contains just as much THC or CBD as the gram before it. Homogeneity, or uniformity, ensures that every piece of a consumable, such as an infused chocolate bar, has an even amount of THC and CBD throughout.
Homogeneity and potency testing are essential because the manufacturing process is inevitably imperfect and can cause issues with irregularity. This kind of analysis ensures that every smokable flower product, extract, beverage and edible contains an even amount of THC and CBD throughout each piece and each batch. As a result, patients and consumers can feel confident that they’re taking the correct dosage and getting the same experience every time.
But unlike medical cannabis, most U.S. states require limited homogeneity testing for adult-use cannabis and hemp in mature markets.
The Issue with Hemp Sampling
The issue in the hemp space is that clients often conduct the sampling themselves, unlike medical cannabis, where a third-party laboratory is accountable. The hemp manufacturer is entirely responsible for preparing samples and sending them to a laboratory via FedEx or UPS. The company could be sending multiple random samples, or they could be hand-picking ideal pieces that don’t reflect the entire batch.
If manufacturers hand-select samples or simply don’t send enough pieces or milligrams for testing, it’s challenging to determine consistency and homogeneity. That means end users may suffer the consequences of unreliable products.
If someone slices a 40-mg brownie in half, they should expect to receive 20 mg in each piece. But if the product is not homogenous, that person may consume 35 mg in one half of the product and only 5 mg in the other half. Uneven cannabinoid distribution can cause adverse effects, especially for psychoactive THC-based products. Conversely, it can also cause consumers to experience a lack of effects.
When it comes