Posted on December 27 2018
Cannabis products often come with a “third-party tested” stamp on the label, which is intended to give consumers some peace of mind when purchasing all their favorite cannabis and CBD products. However, there’s a bit of confusion as to what that label really means, which is mostly to blame on the lack of federal regulation in our cannabis industry.
Because cannabis is not legal according to the United States government, there are no national regulations on what can and cannot be included in a cannabis product. Hemp regulations may soon change, thanks to the passing of the 2018 farm bill. However, many cannabis producers strive to offer high-quality cannabis products despite the lack of regulations. This is where third-party testing comes in, offering even small producers the ability to regulate the potency and cannabis safety standards for their products. Third-party testing may also help reduce the producer’s liability by providing them with the ability to accurately label cannabis products, which is incredibly important for consumers.
Overall, this testing procedure in incredibly beneficial to the consumer. Cannabis and CBD users can use the product labels to choose the best product for them, which offers a serious advantage when compared to blindly choosing any product at a dispensary. Plus, labels allow budtenders and physicians (where medical marijuana is legal)to more accurately recommend products to patients. All in all, the third-party testing process is crucial to maintaining product safety and quality over time.
What Do Labs Look for When Testing Cannabis?
The lack of federal regulation really makes the water murky when looking into the safety regulations placed on cannabis. As of now, the regulations are left entirely under state control. This means that cannabis safety regulations may vary greatly from state to state, with different products allowed everywhere that cannabis is legal. Of course, producers are working to ensure that what goes into the cannabis products comes straight from the cannabis plant, so regulations are assumably similar across the board.
Most third-party testing is similar and looks into the potency of the product, it’s terpene profile, as well as its purity. The tests hope to identify and toxins due to mold or moisture as well as any impurities that were left behind during the extraction process for concentrates. More so, the tests hope to accurately label each product for potency, which is helpful for people who are looking for specific concentrations of THC or CBD. Testing standards vary, but most cannabis testing labs will test cannabis products for the following:
- Potency: The potency is one of the most important factors featured on cannabis labels since some people respond well to a lower of higher potency of cannabinoids. Cannabinoid testing will help identify the strength of the product, as well as the THC:CBD ratio.
- Terpene profile: Terpene testing will identify the concentration of each terpene in the cannabis batch. Some tests will even identify any terpenes that may be missing. This is important since some terpenes have been linked to targeted health effects, which may make them more useful for some users.
- Leftover solvents: Solvents are used in the extraction process when removing cannabinoids from the cannabis plant or when making concentrated products. The solvents are generally completely processed, but if any are left behind, it can cause a serious danger to the user. Cannabis testing aims to identify any leftover solvents and mark any bad batches before they reach the consumer.
- Pesticides: Some cannabis is grown organically. For the cannabis that isn't, the presence of pesticides can be dangerous for consumers. Cannabis testing helps identify any pesticide level that is deemed too high or dangerous to prevent the batch from making it to the market.
- Mold or toxins: When cannabis is processed or packaged improperly or exposed to moisture, it runs the risk of developing toxins or mold. These tests identify any risky additives that could be harmful to consumer health.
Why Do Producers Choose Third-Party Labs?
Many brands pass the cannabis testing along to a third-party laboratory. You may be wondering why they don't test the products themselves, but there are many reasons that make the third-party option much more convenient, and sometimes more accurate, for producers.
One obstacle lies in the price of the equipment required to accurately test cannabis samples for potency or additives. For smaller companies, these machines are at an astronomical price point, which makes it more financially sound to pass the job along to a lab that already has the necessary equipment.
Perhaps the most significant reason that most brands outsource testing to a third party lab is because of the expertise needed to accurately perform cannabis testing each time. Third-party testing facilities have qualified specialist on hand, while the salary for this position alone could significantly offset a small cannabis producers budget. For most producers, outsourcing cannabis testing to a third party facility is often the easiest, safest, and most financially sound option. Many of these laboratories have some specialty in cannabis testing, and their staff has the necessary knowledge to produce accurate batch tests, and therefore accurate cannabis labels for the consumer.
What Does Cannabis Testing Mean for Consumers?
Third party testing and cannabis labeling standards have a few significant impacts on the consumer. The first is obvious, the consumers increased ability to make informed choices regarding their cannabis product potency and terpenes profile. It's not easy to overlook the significance of quality assurance, either, since many toxins and pesticides could sneak into cannabis products if left untested.
However, the testing procedures trickle down to the consumer in other ways. One example of this is its impact on product price. Third party testing is not cheap, but producers are willing to pay the fee to test every batch of products. The price increase does eventually trickle down to raise the price of products for the consumer. This means that cheaper cannabis products may not be batch tested by a reliable source.
Does that mean that expensive products are always good quality? Not necessarily. There are many things that can affect the cost of cannabis, so the price is not always a great way to determine the quality of cannabis products.
How To Choose Quality Cannabis Products
If you're ever at a loss for how to determine what's really in the cannabis products you purchase, or if you're looking to buy cannabis products online, there are several steps you can take to ensure that you're only getting high-quality products. First, look for the third party testing label on every product. If there is no assurance that the product has been tested, that's a good sign that the product is of low quality. Once you find the testing label, you should be able to identify the facility where the batch was tested and the batch number.
Most cannabis testing facilities will offer information online regarding what types of tests are run for each batch. Some facilities will also offer information for each batch by request, which will give you a more in-depth look at the product's potency, terpene profile, and purity.
If you're looking for further reassurance, try looking at existing reviews before purchasing a cannabis product. Generally, the third-party testing label from a qualified laboratory combined with plenty of positive reviews will help you choose a top quality product so that you can feel assured with every purchase.