There are many factors that contribute to a safe and reliable legalized cannabis, CBD, and hemp industry. One of the most important ones is lab testing.
Cannabis lab testing protocols lay the foundation for safe products and safe commerce. Unfortunately, there are players in the industry who don’t always adhere to the rules. Whether accidentally or intentionally done, actions like altered Certificates of Analysis (COAs), outdated lab reports, or misused information leads to a merited distrust of the industry among businesses, consumers, investors, financial institutions, and governments.
When lab reports and COAs are trustworthy and transparent, everyone in the supply chain benefits. But what exactly is a trustworthy lab report? And how can businesses begin to feel more confident in COAs and other laboratory information?
In this article, we will cover the basics of cannabis lab reports and COAs, including requirements, repercussions, and solutions for finding a trustworthy cannabis testing lab near you.
Is Lab Testing Required For Cannabis?
The laws regarding testing regulations vary state by state. Essentially, every state with some level of legal recreational or medical marijuana requires licensed cannabis products to be tested before sale.
Other regulating and certifying bodies also require COAs and lab reports in order to certify or approve a product. For example, any products grown under the USDA must submit to regular testing as per the organization’s testing standards.
Financial institutions also require cannabis businesses to demonstrate compliance with COAs and lab reports. Due to the nature of their operations, they are required to be stringent and meticulous in their assessment of a company’s compliance with federal and state regulations. For this reason, manufacturers, distributors, and other cannabis businesses will need to obtain reliable reports to access financial support.
It’s also important to note that consumers value reporting transparency with regard to their cannabis testing. This is because some of the leading purchase influences include potency, accurate labeling, quality, and safety. While the average consumer may not read a lab report, the trustworthiness of the information that informs product labeling and messaging is essential to their purchase decision.
Repercussions for Missing, Fraudulent, or Misleading Lab Reports
Businesses that fail to comply with testing regulations will face legal repercussions, risk losing their license, and face damage to their reputation. The same can be said for businesses that use misleading labeling informed by fraudulent or altered lab reports and COAs.
Regardless of whether or not a lab, retailer, manufacturer, distributor, or other business is at fault for the modification of the COA, all companies involved in the dispute may be held liable and face legal action. Some of the ways in which COAs are often misused include:
- Connecting an outdated COA to an irrelevant batch number or product
- Altered information and data
- Misrepresenting the testing laboratory or altering the source of the test
In the event a company is caught in any of the above illegal actions, the burden of proof will fall to them to demonstrate their innocence. Unfortunately, this is incredibly difficult—and sometimes impossible—to do.
What Do Cannabis Labs Test For?
There are two main purposes for cannabis testing. They are as follows:
- Compliance data: Ensuring the product meets all standards as set out by the state’s regulatory authority. This can include safety and potency testing.
- Quality data: Information for labeling, marketing, and safety. This can include potency, strain, and contaminant information.
Because there is no universal standard for cannabis testing, each lab must adhere to the guidelines set out by the state in which it operates. In most cases, labs are certified third-party testing companies that report on compliance to the regulatory authority in their state. Companies doing business with these labs use this data to obtain licenses to sell and distribute their products.
Specifically, cannabis labs perform the following tests:
One of the leading reasons consumers cite for their preference for regulated cannabis over illicit markets is the availability of accurate potency and dosage labeling.
This is achieved through a potency analysis, in which labs measure the THC and CBD levels in a batch. Labs can analyze cannabis potency by measuring the presence of cannabinoids per weight, the total amount, or the ratio of THC to CBD.
This information is then used on product labeling to tell consumers exactly what they are purchasing.
There are strict requirements for this in various states. In fact, the Florida Health Department recently levied fines and penalties against multiple labs for compliance violations relative to misreporting of potency levels, particularly how flower THC potency was labeled on certificates of analysis (COA).
This is just one example of increasing levels of enforcement action taken by states to ensure safety and transparency for consumers.
Cannabis products can be contaminated by many different sources during the growing and manufacturing processes.
The plant itself has an inherent ability to absorb heavy metals from the soil. it essentially acts like a sponge soaking up the good, the bad, and the ugly from the soil. In fact, cannabis plants have been used for the remediation of contaminated sites.
But this ability to soak up toxic metals may also make cannabis dangerous for people who ingest it. The purpose of contamination screening is to determine the safety of the product before it goes to market while also informing the growers and manufacturers of any safety risks in their operations.
Some of the most common contaminants that labs test for include:
- Pesticides: Chemicals, growth hormones, and pesticides are not safe for human consumption.
- Solvents: Concentrates and extracts commonly contain solvents such as xylene, ethanol, and butane.
- Foreign matter: Dust, dirt, insects, and fecal matter are some of the common contaminants found in cannabis products.
- Microbial matter: Contaminants such as E.Coli, Salmonella, mold, and mildew are dangerous when present in products intended for human consumption.
- Heavy Metals: Lead, mercury, and other metals are sometimes absorbed through soils and substrates.
Contamination poses a serious health risk to consumers and, as such, it is one of the most important factors that regulators and labs are required to screen for.
Terpenes testing helps companies better understand their product. These tests offer information about the strain and potency of their product and help them provide more accurate data to their buyers and consumers.
What are the Different Types of Cannabis Testing?
There are three main types of cannabis tests. The data the lab is trying to obtain will dictate which type of test is conducted.
The different tests are as follows:
- Analytical Chromatography: This process is used to determine the presence and potency of compounds in the sample.
- Mass Spectrometry: This process is used to measure the chemical composition of a sample.
- Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy: This process is used to measure the structure of molecules and chemical compounds in a sample.
How to Find a Reliable Cannabis Testing Lab
Finding a reliable lab report is necessary to ensure the safety and security of your business. Without one, you could face legal consequences, reputational harm, and catastrophic loss in revenue.
Until recently, it has been impossible to ensure the utmost integrity when it comes to COAs and lab reports. This is because anyone can alter, misuse, or delete a file to suit their needs.
The only way to ensure a lab report has not been modified is to work with a Q-verified lab. Verified labs in Qredible® submit all lab reports directly from the test equipment. Once submitted, each report is immediately blockchain-protected.
- No human has the ability to modify the information at any time
- All lab reports from Q-verified labs will be completely immutable
- The information on the report will be identical to what the testing equipment uncovered
In a situation where the burden of proof falls on your company to demonstrate that you did not alter the lab report, Qredible’s documentation will make the process seamless.
The burden of proof will be on the lab that the data they provided was not altered or misreported. Some labs have used blockchain themselves to store their lab reports; however, Qredible is a third party. This is important when ensuring trust in parties within the legalized cannabis supply chain.
When all parties throughout the supply chain utilize Qredible’s secure Q-Vault, security and authenticity are ensured. This allows us to be the single source of truth and transparency for lab reports.
Not only does this level of trust and transparency protect business owners, but it also protects consumers and encourages safer commerce for all.
Qredible is the only digital registry of verified and validated legalized cannabis, hemp, and CBD brands. Want to be in Qredible? Get started today.