As Arkansas patients eagerly await the day that they can legally purchase their medication, cultivators and dispensaries are working on plans to produce the safest and most therapeutic cannabis possible. Analytical testing of market-ready products by an independent laboratory will both satisfy Arkansas Board of Health standards and confirm that cultivators and dispensaries have accomplished this goal. Cannabis testing is essential to the protection of public health and safety, as well as the success of Arkansas’s medical cannabis industry.
Here are five things to know about cannabis testing:
There Are No Federal Standards
When it comes to testing cannabis, there are no federal guidelines and each legal state must create their own standards. States with new medicinal programs often lean on states with established protocols for guidance. Arkansas’s testing rules are very similar to a 2017 draft of Oregon’s cannabis regulations.
Name that Strain
Different cannabis strains, cultivars, or varietals produce different medicinal or therapeutic effects. Consumers need an authenticated lab report and guidance from budtenders or doctors on appropriate strains for their conditions, expected side effects, and dosage. Arkansas requires testing for four cannabinoids; THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA. While these four cannabinoids are a good place to start, they paint an incomplete picture. What about the analgesic effects of CBC or the sedative effects of CBN? For some qualifying conditions, more information is needed to determine therapeutic effect.
Some labs will sacrifice ethics to drive business and increase profits. One unethical practice is to fraudulently inflate THC or THCA numbers in states that lack regulatory oversight or testing of laboratory proficiency. Once a patient determines the dose that works for them, it is important that the potency information is accurate to ensure dosing is consistent. What if they receive 18% THC product that is incorrectly tested or fraudulently labeled as a 25% THC product? At best, they are a victim of fraud. At worst, they are at risk of a serious adverse event when using a medication that is accurately labeled as 25% THC, as it will be much stronger than what they are accustomed to. Patients and cannabis businesses are put at risk by using a lab that alters the numbers.
Cannabis cultivation is a highly-regulated industry where mistakes can be catastrophic. Tainted product reaching the market could result in fines, product recall, irreparable brand damage, or consumer harm. Working with an established cannabis lab can lower your risk of adverse events. Ask questions before selecting a testing partner. How many years have they worked with cannabis? What is the age and condition of the machinery? How have they established sampling methods? Do they understand regulatory testing for batch acceptance and what criteria are required? Does the lab have experience with every type of cannabis product? It is most advantageous to use an established lab, with historical data, reputable methods, and a true understanding of the cannabis plant and its medicine. You probably do not want to partner with a lab that is learning to test cannabis with your product, financed by your testing fees.
Some Labs Go Beyond Testing
As the needs of cultivators grow, some labs are evolving to offer new products and services to provide additional value. These might include genetic tests to determine plant sex and phenotype and environmental tests to ensure your facility is free from harmful pathogens or banned pesticide residues. Some may offer consulting services, ranging from remediation of failed product plans to troubleshooting an underperforming crop. You can improve deficiencies in your business and avoid regulatory failure by partnering with an experienced lab which can assist in properly navigating the state’s rules. It may even be critical to your success.