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Why is it important to test cannabis products?

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Testing of cannabis products is essential to consumer safety – it ensures that cannabis consumers can purchase products that have been approved by a licensed laboratory and are safe to consume. One of the main benefits of legalizing cannabis is that the state or nation will create an agency to regulate the quality of cannabis products sold in that new market. All products are tracked on the legal market, and if a problem arises with a batch, a product can be recalled and consumers notified.

When you buy weed from the illegal market, you never know what you are going to get. You may catch weeds that are rotting, soaked in pesticides, or more, which can make you sick. In 2019, . was released EVALI/VAPI outbreak It originated from illegal cannabis sellers who added thickeners to vape cartridges that were not approved for consumption. Sixty-eight people died More than 2,800 have been hospitalized as a result of consuming unregulated and untested cannabis products.

Substance regulation is nothing new—it happens with alcohol, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and other substances. In the United States, alcohol is regulated at the federal and state levels, and drugs and medications are approved and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect public health.

We at Leafly fully support a regulated and legal market for cannabis as it ensures that consumers can purchase products that have been tested and are safe to consume.

How regulation and testing of cannabis works

When a state votes on legal cannabis, it usually takes a year or so before dispensaries open to the public and adults can go and buy weed. Part of what happens during that time is the creation of a regulatory agency to track and test cannabis products.

In most states, an existing medical marijuana agency, state health agency, or liquor agency will take over and expand the regulation of adult cannabis use, while in other cases, an entirely new regulatory body may be created.

Once the regulatory agency is established, licenses are issued to various groups in the state’s cannabis industry. The types of licenses vary by state but usually include:

  • Producers (farmers and breeders)
  • Processors / Manufacturers (Extractors)
  • Examiners (Testers)
  • Retailers (dispensaries)
  • Distributors, wholesalers, researchers and others

Cannabis is tracked through a computer system from seed to sale, or from creation to consumption.

Products are tested for safety after growers and extractors produce them, and they must pass testing before they can be legally sold. The growers produce the flowers, and the extractors produce the concentrates and nutrients.

What is a cannabis test?

Cannabis testing regulations vary from state to state, but in general, products are tested to measure potency, so consumers are aware of their strength and contaminants or harmful substances.

Here’s what most states test for cannabis:

  • Potency (THC and CBD levels and often also THCA and CBDA)
  • chemical pollutants
    • Insecticides
    • Residual solvents used in extraction
    • Heavy metals, which can be largely absorbed by the soil by plants
  • microbial contaminants
    • musty
    • Mycotoxins, or harmful substances produced by mold
    • Bacteria, usually from soil or feces
  • Physical contaminants (human hair, insect parts, and more)

Differences occur between countries, and some require a test for water activity rather than mold, which is a measure of how much water is available in a product for mold to grow.

Growers and extractors can also choose the most comprehensive profiling of terpenes and hemp for their products. This is usually not required by state agencies to be sold—currently, only California and Michigan require a terpene test—but many producers pay for this testing to give their product a boost in the competitive market. More and more consumers want to know the details of what hemp is made of.

Potency tests measure the level of THC in a product, as a percentage. They also measure CBD, THCA, and CBDA. That’s part of the “fun stuff”, or what you want to be in a product, like Nick Mosley, CEO of Trust Analytics in Washington State. This valuable information tells the consumer how strong a cannabis product is so that they can take it properly.

The cannabis flower is typically in the 15-25% THC range, and concentrations are typically 50-80% THC or higher.

“Strength is often amplified,” Mosley said. “Cannabinoids are hard to measure accurately, and if you’re going to do negligent work, you’re likely to end up with a bias on the high side.”

Insecticides

Chemical pesticides can be used on cannabis plants during the growth process, so testing must be done to determine if the product is at a safe level for consumption. If a lot of pesticides are used, the cannabis product is rejected and cannot be sold on the legal market.

“[Pesticides] The biggest concern should be because it’s not known what the consequences of pesticide smoking are, and we see pesticides in cannabis products regularly,” Moseley said.

Not all cannabis is grown with pesticides. Some use organic pesticides such as neem oil, beneficial bugs – the good bugs that eat pests that harm the plant – or don’t use pesticides at all.

Residual solvent

When making certain cannabis concentrates, chemical solvents such as butane, propane, etc. are used during the extraction process and then purified before the product is refined and packaged. Testing should be done on these products to ensure they contain a level of residual solvent that is safe for consumption.

In addition, these solvents can contain contaminants. Moseley explained how extractors can use nearly pure butane in the extraction process, but the filling tank may contain traces of a chemical called benzene, which they see often, that can end up in the final product.

heavy metals

The hemp plant can absorb chemicals from the soil in which it grows. “It’s a great soil treatment plant,” Moseley said. “Unfortunately, if the soil contains minerals, you are now introducing the minerals into the plant.”

Metals can also make their way into the factory via the manufacturing process or when the cannabis flower is dried on metal racks that are not food grade.

Microbial contaminants

Mycotoxins

Nobody wants to smoke moldy weed, but the real concern about mold is inhalation MycotoxinsThey are harmful substances produced by mold. They look like remnants on a cannabis flower. All states test for mycotoxins.

Moseley explained how Washington and other states have gotten rid of mold and yeast testing and focused on mycotoxins instead. “[Those] They are the things that will really make you sick. Mycotoxins can cause severe liver damage, and long-term exposure can lead to cancer.

Mold and water activity

Many states still test for mold, but some have switched to testing for water activity, which is a measure of how much water is available for microbial growth, according to Moseley. If the water activity is below a certain threshold, this means that mold cannot grow, which gives the cannabis flower a long shelf life.

Bacteria

The examiners also look for a variety of bacteria, including Escherichia coli, salmonella, and others, which usually come from soil or feces. These can often find their way into cannabis plants in an outdoor environment, if the plants are placed on the ground after harvest, or if dirt is somehow sprinkled on the plants.

Physical pollutants

It may seem like a no-brainer, but hemp products come to testers with foreign substances in them. Examiners perform a visual examination, looking primarily for insect parts, rodent feces, human hair, and more, according to Moseley. Finding any will cause the test to fail.

Terpene and cannabinoid profiling

Some growers and extractors pay extra to obtain an analysis of the terpene and cannabis composition of their flowers or concentrates. Although not usually required by law, many consumers would like these analyzes to fully see the chemical profiles of their cannabis products.

For example, Confidence Analytics can test up to 17 cannabis alums and 48 terpenes, which is a fraction of what a plant can produce. Any hemp or terpene you want to name on your packaging, Mosely said, you have to test it. You can’t just claim to have it.

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