The Weed Show

The Complex World of Cannabis Lab Testing: Ethics, Regulations, and Lack Thereof

Cannabis News, Technology

The conflict surrounding lab testing in California remains largely unknown to the public, who tend not to question results listed by labs and dispensaries. Ideally, the system would work as follows: cultivators send samples of their product to an independent lab, who test them honestly, letting the grower and consumer know exactly what’s in the product, from cannabinoid and terpene profiles to microbiological impurities and pesticides. Currently, this process is unregulated by international accreditation standards for labs provided by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) — and as marijuana is federally illegal, it’s also exempt from monitoring by the FDA, leaving results prone to manipulation by growers providing deceptive samples and unsupervised labs testing for profit. However, the coming regulations of California’s Prop 64 could change that come January 1, in a rapture-esque purge where only the most ethical labs will survive.

To understand the complexity of this issue, Pete Pietrangeli, owner of Melrose Ave dispensary LA Confidential, linked me with some particularly insightful sources. Dr. Jeff Raber, “the most informed professional I know revolutionizing the cannabis industry,” according to Pete, is CEO of The Werc Shop, an independent testing facility out of Washington. Alec Dixon is the co-founder of the independent testing facility SC Labs in Santa Ana, one of the most reputable in California, and Steve DeAngelo, author, activist, and founder of Harborside Health Center, was just named one of the most the most powerful people in cannabis by Fortune Magazine.

“There’s a huge need for lab testing, but no real regulation dictating what a lab is, or what type of minimum instrumentation a lab might need to do certain types of testing,” says Alec Dixon. “Right now, labs only stand up to their own level of integrity, experience, and ability to do the different tests. A grower making wax might send in a sample and get one result, then send in the same sample to a different lab, and get an entirely different result. That’s made the past five years difficult for the testing industry; people just stop trusting it.”

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