Choosing a cannabis testing lab to get the most accurate results for the best price
In regulated states, before cannabis hits dispensary shelves, it has to meet certain testing requirements, like food and supplements. The difference is that food and supplements are federally regulated, but because cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug according to federal law, states set the rules. Among the contaminants for which cannabis must be tested are pesticides, solvents, heavy metals, and mold. Testing also reveals cannabinoid levels, terpenoids, and moisture content. Edibles are tested for homogeneity, to ensure that each portion has an equivalent dose. Testing, when done correctly, ensures that the cannabis you purchase in a licensed dispensary or shop is safe to consume.
Regulated states require third-party state-licensed labs to conduct the testing
In states like California, distributors are responsible for hiring state-licensed, third-party labs to test their products; in other states, dispensaries are required to test the products. Labs can send field testers to collect samples and test them on-site, reducing the risk of contamination in transport. Because it’s not difficult for an unqualified person to buy field testing equipment and perform inaccurate testing, distributors must be vigilant when choosing a lab.
Ask key questions about the cannabis lab and its staff
The first step is to find out who actually does the testing, and a reputable lab will gladly provide this information. Ask for the background of the scientists who work there, and ask to see documentation of their qualifications. Keep yourself informed about the most current testing practices, and the most up-to-date, accurate equipment. A good lab will allow you to visit and watch their testing procedures, and will be transparent about their rate of false results.
Steer clear of unreputable labs
When a lab isn’t transparent with you, it may be because they’re inflating the THC numbers on the strains they’re testing. An erroneous-but-prevalent belief among consumers is that you should buy the most affordable product with the highest THC, in order to get the best value for your dollar. Distributors know this, and some labs are willing to inflate their THC numbers for a price. The lab you choose must offer both accuracy and consistency, no matter who’s running the machines or interpreting the results.
Cannabis labs have no federal oversight
Because there’s no federal oversight of testing labs, each lab designs its own methods and chooses its own equipment. Until cannabis is federally legal, there can be no standardization of equipment or training. Learn your state’s requirements inside and out, and make sure the lab can meet them. Ask other distributors and dispensaries for lab recommendations, and if possible, choose one recommended by a trusted professional.
Different testing methods have different costs and turnaround times
If turnaround time is an important factor, ask the lab what methods they use to test for microbes. The traditional way is to grow a culture in a petri dish, which can take up to five days. However, modern DNA testing can provide results in a few hours. Because faster testing may come at a higher price, you’ll have to make the most cost-effective choice for your business. Beware of cutting corners, though -- when it comes to choosing a cannabis-testing lab, it doesn’t pay to go with the cheapest option.