Cannabis testing is a rapidly expanding business in the country today. With 23 states having some type of medical program for marijuana, testing is not only becoming important, but necessary. As with most medications, many patients are not preparing their own and therefore do not know exactly what is going into their plant. Growers could be using potentially dangerous substances on the plants to keep bugs away without thinking of the consequences it could have on their patient. Many patients want to know the type of cannabis they are using (high/low CBD, high/low THC) so they can administer their medication and receive relief for their individual ailments appropriately.
For the many that have been smoking for years the idea of testing is new and seems unnecessary, after all they have been smoking for years without needing to know what was in the pot. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with the manager of a recently established laboratory here in Michigan. ACT Labs is a medicinal marijuana testing facility, one of the few in the country that is ISO/IEC 17025:2005 certified. They were able to give me more information about the importance of testing and how it is done.
MMMR: It is not currently required in Michigan to test the medicine before it is sold in dispensaries, why do you choose to test? What is the importance?
ACT Labs: The benefits of testing are twofold. First, testing provides confidence to the consumer that the product they purchase has been determined to be safe for consumption. It provides assurance that patients are getting the medicine that they need without the addition of unwanted substances which may hinder its efficacy or produce unwanted effects. Second, testing provides physicians and consumers with knowledge of the specific cannabinoid profile of tested products allowing for targeted therapies. For example, CBD (cannabidiol) is a compound which has been receiving much attention lately due to its effectiveness in treating multiple debilitating conditions. Those who wish to treat such a condition while reducing the psychoactive effects of THC and other cannabinoids may wish to acquire medication which has been verified through testing to have a high CBD ratio.
MMMR: Who benefits from it being tested?
ACT Labs: Quite simply, everyone. Patients and physicians benefit from the availability of targeted therapies. Producers and provisioners benefit from the ability to demonstrate scientifically that they are providing a safe and effective product. The general public benefits from reduced medical costs which would otherwise be associated with patient exposure to undesired contaminants (e.g. pesticides, residual solvents).
MMMR: What do you test for?
ACT Labs: We provide a wide range of testing services from cannabinoid profiling to product safety screening. We test for cannabinoids, pesticides, terpenes, residual solvents, and microbial impurities.
MMMR: How do you do the testing? What are the controls?
ACT Labs: ACT laboratories have an internal quality control policy requiring the evaluation of specific control samples - matrix-matched to the tested product (i.e. flowers, concentrates, edibles). This allows us to evaluate method bias and assure that our results will stand up under rigorous scrutiny.
MMMR: What errors can occur while testing? The margin of error?
ACT Labs: Measurement uncertainty is a characteristic inherent to any analytical process. As an ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accredited laboratory ACT has taken thorough account of all factors which influence our uncertainties of measurement. ACT’s quality management system is based upon the principal of continuous quality improvement, focusing on consistently and systematically seeking ways to reduce measurement uncertainty in all of our procedures in order to provide the most reliable data available today.
MMMR: What types of machines are used?
ACT Labs: We utilize multiple platforms common in the analytical chemistry lab, including High Performance Liquid Chromatography, Gas Chromatography, Mass Spectroscopy, and Microscopy. We have various detectors and sample inlet systems selected to optimize each system to a specific purpose.
MMMR: Do you also test edibles and concentrates? Are those tests different than the ones used for the flower?
ACT Labs: Yes. The tests for edibles and concentrates are similar and often equivalent to those used for flower. There are some important differences however, for example, in how the samples are prepared for analysis.
MMMR: Why should customers use Act Labs as opposed to another testing facility?
ACT Labs: First, we exist solely to serve our customers. This means we will go above and beyond to not only provide the best results available today, but to provide fast sample turn around and a thorough explanation of your results. We are here to help customers identify which tests are most valuable to suit their specific needs as well as to explain what the numbers mean and how they were generated.
Additionally, ACT is one of only a handful of cannabis laboratories in the entire country to acquire international recognition through accreditation to the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standard. This accreditation certifies that ACT policies and procedures have undergone rigorous third-party evaluation and been deemed credible by a registered scientific body. Further, accreditation requires that ACT participate in multiple, ongoing proficiency and internal quality control programs intended to highlight any areas of improvement.
MMMR: How can growers submit a sample?
ACT Labs: Customers may submit samples either in person or via courier. We will work with you to meet your specific needs. Just call!
MMMR: What are the guidelines for the type of sample that should be submitted? From the top of the plant? Bottom? Both?
ACT Labs: We recommend that customers submit a representative sample from a given plant which is likely to resemble the majority of the flowers as a whole. Clients may also choose to select multiple samples from differing locations in the same plant in order to determine what concentration differences, if any, may exist throughout.
MMMR: What is the turn-around time for growers to receive their test results?
ACT Labs: We strive to achieve the lowest turn-around times possible. Often results can be made available in as little as three business days. Process times do vary however, based upon complexity and the number of tests requested, so a week or more may be necessary in certain cases.
MMMR: How can growers know which facilities are trustworthy and know what they are doing as opposed to the facilities not doing actual science and trying to make a quick buck?
ACT Labs: ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation is a great place to start. Accreditation takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation for consumers when deciding which laboratory to use. But at ACT we are about more than just the science. We strive to get it right, every time, but just as important to us is that we provide a satisfying customer experience. We have a passion for testing and for building lasting relationships with our clients. We hope that it shows!