“If growers are not careful during their production, problems can arise after concentrating the product. Cannabis concentrates are popular, but companies have to be careful as you might also be concentrating down the bad stuff,” says Dr. Kristofer Marsh, Chief Scientific Officer at Green Scientific Labs. The company tests a wide variety of cannabis and hemp products in the United States. Just last month, the U.S. was observing 7/10, showing support for the concentrates segment of the cannabis industry. As a multi-state testing laboratory, Green Scientific Labs is very familiar with the different challenges surrounding cannabis concentrate testing. From changing regulations to the pressure testing laboratories face and the consequences of lab shopping, Dr. Marsh explains that there is a lot to consider.
Dr. Kristofer Marsh
The risks of concentrating
One of the challenges companies run into when testing their concentrates is that the concentrate may include some unwanted ingredients. “If you have used pesticides on your flower at a passing level, the pesticides may still be concentrated in the oil. This often leads to producers having to remediate their concentrate to remove that pesticide, as they didn’t expect to see it at such a high level after concentrating it. Moreover, if producers have not set up their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) correctly or are not using high-quality water or soil, those contaminants will also be concentrated down into the oil. Producers that use ethanol or hydrocarbon extraction will also have to be careful with how they post-process their material to remove that solvent. Because while ethanol is not always harmful at the levels that are in the concentrates, it can still be too high for the regulations that are set, which would mean that they are not allowed to be sold,” Dr. Marsh explains.
Adapting to ever-changing regulations
Another challenge for producers of concentrates, as well as the testing laboratories, is to make sure that they adhere to each state’s special set of rules and regulations. Especially for multi-state operators, it can be difficult to keep track of each state’s specific rules for cultivators, manufacturers, and testing laboratories that continue to change. “Regulations are in constant flux, so producers need to adapt to an ever-changing ecosystem of regulations from state to state. The most important regulations require producers to test all their products for the level of potency, how much THC and CBD it contains, safety testing, and keeping track of their product from seed to sale.” For those things to go as successfully as possible, Dr. Marsh emphasizes the importance of having a robust quality management system in place. “This will not only enable you to track your product from seed to sale but also ensure there is a high level of quality and control for all your products. We have heard some stories in the news of companies mixing up products and accidentally selling one as another. Sometimes products are released too soon before they are finished with the testing process due to not being organized enough. Such problems present risks to patients and customers and are obviously important to avoid.”
Inaccurate testing results
We have heard the stories of inconsistent testing results when comparing different laboratories in the industry. Dr. Marsh explains the inconsistency comes from the fact that there are not yet standard testing methods available for cannabis. “If you are testing drinking water for pesticides, heavy metals, or microbials, there is a list of test methods to use. You can pick one that suits your application, and it will tell you exactly how to do the testing. The issue is that those standard methods are not yet available for cannabis. Therefore, laboratories are required to develop the method and validate it on their own. This is a lengthy and expensive process that is challenging unless you have a very experienced team. Unless a laboratory really takes the time, energy, and resources to develop these testing methods correctly, they are potentially going to fall short. This may lead to companies obtaining different results than at other testing laboratories. The laboratories that have done more work on their method will have more accurate results, but it’s a challenge to navigate through the inconsistency.”
As a result of the inconsistency among testing laboratories’ results, lab shopping occurs. “Some cannabis laboratories are under the pressure of the intensive competition that exists. Therefore, some struggling laboratories may feel like they have no choice but to comply to whatever numbers their client is looking for, as they don’t want to risk losing them, which unfortunately leads to fraud.” Green Scientific Labs has been very vocal against these circumstances. “It is not an ethical business practice, and patients may be thinking they are getting a higher potency medicine than it actually is.”
Continuing to improve
Green Scientific Labs have spent a lot of time and energy making sure that their testing methods are validated according to the standards set by different states. “We have a very experienced team, and we understand the science at a very high level. Part of being a cannabis testing laboratory is staying current with the most cutting-edge science and studies. It is important for us to constantly improve our processes and to be aware that nobody out there has completely figured it out yet. As it is difficult to analyze cannabis, the quality of the instruments used is important as well. Therefore, we are using the same top-of-the-line instrumentation that is often used to research cancer or to develop drugs in pharmaceutical labs. We always prioritize understanding our clients’ needs and concerns.”
For more information:
Green Scientific Labs