Cannabis Lab Testing and Integration: Present and Future Challenges and Opportunities
The laboratory standardization of cannabis products is the cornerstone of the development of this important therapeutic endeavor. It is critical to prevent unsafe or in-accurately labeled marijuana products from reaching consumers. However, the testing industry is facing considerable challenges that compromise its important role. Because cannabis is still considered illegal at the federal level, the responsibility of regulating cannabis and cannabis-derived products falls to states, creating a patchwork of different testing requirements across the country. In addition, state governments issue little to no guidance about protocols for testing products for either potency or safety. Instead, labs have had to trailblaze the development of their own methods. Reports on the potency and formulation can vary from lab to lab, and we are still working out proficiency and certification standards. Consistent and accurate testing is important for industry transparency and consumer safety. Unfortunately, there has been controversy surrounding potency testing methods, with suspected inflation of THC concentration in some cases. Implementing standards for cannabis testing procedures has been challenging, as the requirements vary significantly from state-to-state. Consequently, the industry needs to push for a general, national standard for cannabis testing to ensure accurate potency reporting.
Puerto Rico medical cannabis program started in the fall of 2016 and since day 1 has had laboratory testing of its products with the aforementioned standards challenge. There are 4 laboratories in Puerto Rico, two with ISO 17025 stringed validation approval. Many achievements in quality control have been achieved but testing must be linked to similar recurrent essential formulations that are recommended by a multidisciplinary state and national advisory board. The only action item coveted by manufacturer is obtaining the highest percentage of THC for their product. The laboratory must promote the desirability of other variables based on the full entourage effect of most popular strains and legislate for priority and obligation by the industry in always making available a core catalog of standardized products. Clear labelling should be promoted with names that must comply with a range of composition that validates its authenticity and naming convention. If we call a strain Blue Dream, then it must have a range of cannabinoids and terpenes, for example Myrcene as main terpene with Limone and Pinene in second and third concentrations. CBD rich strains like ACDC, Cannatonic, Cherry Wine or Ringo’s Gift should be ubiquitously available. All tinctures should be clearly labelled as to the cannabinoid content of a drop, ¼, ½ or full cc amount of the dropper. Correct labelling must start at the cannabis testing labs, and we should avoid unreadable or confusing branding, many time with double labels on top of each other. Finally, we must advocate for the obligatory observational register of use and benefits, no effect, versus side effects of such standardized products. We share two addendums with working formularies to that effect. The complete Certificate of Analysis should be use to promote a clean, precise, safe product with the entourage potential that include total terpenes by % weight, specific terpene content, and secondary cannabinoids beyond CBD like CBN, CBC, CBG, and deltaTHC. The quality of a flower or a product should not be based solely on high THC content. And finally, batch size for testing should not exceed 20 pounds to avoid hidden or undetected variations or contaminants.
Variation in Cannabis Testing Challenges a Young Industry
2 Why marijuana infused businesses have experienced testing and labeling challenges in California
3 Cannabis Potency: How Does Lab Testing for THC and CBD Work?