CANNABIS QUESTIONS: HOW TO READ A CANNABIS LAB TEST
Last year in 2019, Gallup.com reported that 66% of Americans favored the full legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical applications for adults (21 years or older). The tides have turned strongly against marijuana prohibition and it is just a matter of time before federal legalization of marijuana and cannabis products will be voted on in congress.
With state laws already passed decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis, cannabis testing labs have been popping up all around the country to provide essential safety testing and cannabis lab reports or Certificates of Analysis (COA) for consumers of legal and regulated cannabis products. What exactly is a cannabis lab report and what can they tell us about our favorite buds, concentrates, and edibles? Keep reading to learn all about what is included in these lab reports and how to read a cannabis lab test.
WHY ARE CANNABIS LAB REPORTS IMPORTANT?
The individual reasons for smoking, vaping, eating, or otherwise consuming cannabis are as various as the varieties of strains and concentrates to choose from. Not every cannabis product is created equal. A lab test on your favorite cannabis product can help you achieve your desired high and weed out the products that you won't enjoy as much as others.
The chemical makeup of each and every cannabis product is different. The compounds present and in what quantities drastically change the effects on the user. Cannabis lab testing tells us everything we need to know to verify the product is safe and free of contaminants as well as to find the right product for our needs.
Origins™ Cannabis works with independent professional labs to test and document every product we sell so that you can be confident you are purchasing the highest quality product for the effects you want and need depending on your cannabis lifestyle. Along with finding your cannabis lifestyle based on your desired effects, our recommendation engine runs a proprietary algorithm that is constantly crunching the numbers of various ingredients to recommend the best cannabis products for your individual lifestyle.
INFORMATION INCLUDED IN CANNABIS LAB TESTS
Cannabis lab testing equipment is highly sophisticated. Every piece of equipment and every test that the lab technicians run paints a complete picture of the cannabis product's chemical makeup. In this section, we will take a look at the various chemical compounds commonly included in cannabis lab tests.
The Strain, Lot and Batch Numbers
Generally speaking, there are three main types of cannabis. cannabis Sativa, cannabis Indica, and hybrid strains that are crossbreeds of the two. This strain, along with the lot and batch numbers are included in the label for the cannabis product being tested. This ensures the test came from your exact product and not just a test taken previously.
As we mentioned earlier, the strain of cannabis in the product will likely affect people in varying ways but generally speaking, the strain helps determine the type of experience the person will have. Sativa strains tend to promote mind-altering states referred to as "the head high" where Indica dominant strains are famous for their "body high," relaxing and sedative effects. However, the mental and physical effects more accurately can be attributed to what cannabinoids, and in what ratio along with terpenes they are present in the product.
Cannabinoid Content AKA Potency
“How much” and “of what” is the question these lab reports seek to answer. The potency of various cannabinoids translates into a different experience for the user. Here we break down the significance of these elements of cannabis products and what these levels and ratios typically mean for the type of cannabis effects you are likely to enjoy.
By far the most famous, most abundant, and most sought after of the cannabinoids is the beloved crystalline compound - THC. Delta 9 THC is the most potent of the psychoactive compounds found in the cannabis plant. Despite the danger of sounding cliché, you could say the higher the THC content the "higher" you get from consuming it.
CBD is the most commonly referred to of the non-psychoactive cannabinoids known for its potential holistic benefits. If you are partaking in cannabis for medical reasons you may want to see higher concentrations of CBD. (At Origins, we refer to this as the “Holistic Lifestyle.”)
Minor Cannabinoid Levels
In addition to THC and CBD, the report will include the most prominent of other cannabinoids found in the product. Minor cannabinoids tend to be very helpful as well, though they are less common and not always as easy to find, depending on your state and how far along they are in cannabis legalization. With Origins being located in the Seattle, WA area, we have a leg up on the competition as far as minor cannabinoids are concerned because Washington has enjoyed full cannabis legalization since 2012. The minor cannabinoids listed may include but are not limited to:
- Delta 8 THC
Screening For Contaminants
One of the greatest risks of being forced to buy black-market cannabis products is you never know if the product is actually safe because it hasn’t been tested. During the growing, harvesting, drying, preparing, packaging, and shipping of cannabis products any number of contaminants could have potentially found their way inside. These unwanted hijackers could include:
- Heavy Metals
- bacterial microbes
- fungi and fungi produced toxins
The Terpene Profile Section
Terpenes are the oils responsible for the smell and taste of your cannabis. In this section, and depending on the test you can also find which naturally occurring terpenes and in what quantity they are present. If you have had the pleasure of sampling many strains of cannabis you are aware of the surprising effects the smell and taste have on your high.
HOW TO READ A CANNABIS CoA LAB TEST
Much like other scientific lab reports, one needs to be familiar with certain terms to fully understand a cannabis lab test. First of all, CoA stands for "Certificate of Analysis." The CoA lab test is the standard for the cannabis lab testing industry.
Here, we’ll share with you what you should look for on a cannabis lab test, but know that all lab tests will vary from brand to brand, dispensary to dispensary and especially state to state.
At the top of the report, you will find the name of the product which usually includes the strain and lot number of the sample and the date and location of the lab testing.
The first category in the report is potency. The potency is normally measured in a percentage per milligram. There is a threshold for measuring potency around .05% per milligram. If the report indicates BLQ (Below level of quantification) or ND f(Not Detected) for an entry this means the product contains only trace amounts of the substance. THC dominant strains and concentrates might be BLQ for CBD and other cannabinoids while CBD dominant strains and concentrates might report BLQ for THC.
Terpene Analysis Section
Labs will test for and quantify dozens of terpenes. The report will list the top terpenes found in the product usually with the highest concentration at the top. The most prominent few combine to give you the product's signature fragrance and taste. Some of the more common terpenes you are likely to see on this list are:
Contaminant Analysis Section
One of the greatest advantages of legal cannabis regulation and testing is the safety factor. Cannabis labs rigorously test for undesirable and dangerous chemicals and compounds that find their way into cannabis products. Depending on the lab tests ordered you may find entries here for:
- microbe contamination (bacteria and mold)
- aflatoxins (toxins created by common fungi)
- heavy metals (lead, mercury, etc.)
If the lab finds contaminants in the product, of course, the product would be red-flagged and never sold to our customers. The report will show that the sample passed these contaminant screenings with a "pass" grade indicated next to each entry tested for. Consumers can rest assured that the cannabis products they are purchasing from us are safe from these harmful contaminants.
Details of the Testing Process
The last part, usually located on the next page(s) of the report breaks down the process and methods used to test the cannabis product. This section is not expected for the average consumer to understand and is heavy on the scientific terminology. Some of the lab testing processes explained here may include:
- Gas Chromatography
- Mass Spectrometry
- Liquid Chromatography
- Intuvo 9000 GC
Many states require by law a QR code on the product's packaging. Consumers can access the CoA lab test results by scanning the QR code with their smartphones. While browsing buds and concentrates at the dispensary you can always ask the budtender to show you the CoA test results of any strain of cannabis used in the product.
NO MORE GUESSWORK
These days, with regulated legal cannabis markets, people no longer have to take cannabis products blindly. Always ask to see a cannabis lab test before trying new cannabis products and use this guide to know exactly what you are getting for your money. All of the products from our dispensaries are CoA lab tested and these reports are available for your reference.
Our cannabis professionals and budtenders working in each of our locations go through a rigorous testing process before they are able to work directly with Origins customers. They are always happy to help you understand what is on a specific cannabis lab test or even help to further educate you on how to read a cannabis lab test. Stop by one of our stores today and talk with them!
Creativity is a must for artists looking to bring their projects to life. Sativa dominant strains are associated with the introspective mind high that artists crave. Products with high THC levels of the Sativa strains are sure to take you to that mind space or zone where anything is possible.
Those of you that have active lifestyles will prefer the energetic high of the Indica strain. Products in this lifestyle group have been specifically crafted to get you off your couch and out there exploring the world. These Indica dominants and Sativa hybrid cannabis products are the perfect choices for your next outdoor adventure.
In the age of social media, we are discovering ourselves through relating with each other. These Sativa and Indica hybrids get the user in the mood for connecting with others. Find common interests and enjoy these highs with friends and family.
With more than a hundred different non-psychoactive cannabinoids found in marijuana, science is finding more medical uses for using cannabis every day. Products in this lifestyle category seek to balance the psychoactive elements of THC and the therapeutic benefits of CBD for balanced mental and physical well-being.
The chaotic busy lifestyle finds peace late in the day. Sometimes we just want to wind down from the stress of life's daily pressures. These products are Indica dominant high in the compounds known to relax and rejuvenate.
It is time to party and you want your high to match the vibe. Products in this category are Indica dominant to energize you and are sure to do the trick of giving you a heavy body high while keeping your mind open and ready for what the night brings.
Every mind and body is different and it is impossible to know for sure what levels of what cannabis strains and cannabinoids are going to be right for you. That's why referring to the cannabis lab tests while experimenting with the effects of various strains, THC, and CBD levels are essential to finding the right cannabis product for every situation.