Imagine loading up a shopping cart full of fruits and vegetables at the local grocery store only to learn that the produce, all of which is supposed to have health benefits, might contain toxic chemicals. Most smart consumers would walk out and shop where their safety was guaranteed. Cannabis purchases should be no different, which is the reason that laboratory testing is paramount to consumer safety. The process ensures that all pot products sold in dispensaries have been tested by a third-party lab, like Kaycha Labs, and deemed safe for the consumer. This way, they can feel confident that what they see on the label is what they are getting. It’s all about transparency. We don’t eat or drink products without knowing the precise details of their contents, yet the cannabis consumer is often prepared to jettison their health the save a few bucks.
One of the biggest reasons that some cannabis consumers are quick to discount lab testing is because it’s a fairly new concept. Back in the day, long before weed was ever legal in parts of the nation, all of the cannabis sold on the black market was never tested for safety or potency. Many of those who subscribe to the old school are of the opinion that if they survived the pesticides, bacteria, and mold of the black market decades ago, it can’t be that bad. They’ll live. In fact, High Times, arguably the leading cannabis publication in the world, discounted the lab testing process in a recent article about how the illicit cannabis trade was here to stay. “There are going to be a bunch of newjack corporate types who pop out of the ether to warn us about all the pesticides and ‘poisons’ that are seemingly rampant on the traditional market,” the author, Jon Cappetta, wrote, “but here’s the truth: I’ve been smoking that weed since the early 2000s, and it’s still better than what you’ve got in your shop 90% of the time, despite your best efforts.”
This attitude is largely to blame for the emergence of shady labs and testing fraud. However, cannabis testing is part of legal commerce, the same as it is for food and drugs. Blowing it off as an unnecessary component of the cannabis trade is part antiquated thinking and a refusal to embrace honest change. The cannabis industry has entered the realm of legitimacy in the past decade, signifying the coming of a vast market that rivals the alcohol trade. It is now part of the equation. Disregarding testing as a cannabis business may bring short-term profits, but it is a pathway to failure. Testing is critical now but will become even more necessary in the coming years as legalization spreads to more jurisdictions and perhaps even nationwide. Once the federal government finally steps in and provides guidance, the rules will become more rigid and absolute.
Although many customers will continue to risk their health on the black market, most will only spend their hard-earned money on products that won’t land them in the hospital. Just look at the alcohol trade: Very few buy booze from backwoods distillers: most frequent liquor stores, brew pubs, and even convenience stores. Nobody wants to go blind or die from drinking tainted alcohol – something that happened quite a bit during the days of alcohol prohibition – even if it means they can save money. Legalization is intended to bring civility to an industry that’s been operating in the shadows for years. So, for the many cannabis companies still on the fence about whether lab testing is important, the answer is an unequivocal yes. It’s not going anywhere either, so I might as well climb on board and learn to play the game the right way.
Cannabis is tested for a wealth of contaminants. Most states require producers to test for pesticides, residual solvents from the extraction process, heavy metals, mold, mycotoxins, bacteria, and other physical contaminants, such as animal hair, human hair, and whatever else isn’t supposed to exist. The consumers, whether they know it or not, want these tests done and with accuracy. Smoking pesticides and solvents could have a wealth of health consequences, some of the worst being coma and death. Heavy metals could also have adverse effects, attacking the immune system and kidneys. And the last thing the consumer wants is to learn that in addition to smoking moldy weed – known for causing lung infections – they also inhaled rat hair.
Even if the consumer doesn’t put much emphasis right now on the importance of testing, the cannabis industry should. It is our responsibility to lead the directive for safe products from here on out. You don’t have to be a newjack corporate type to understand that safety is common sense.
According to High Times, the customer doesn’t care whether they are poisoned or not. “There are consumers who have no problem risking life and limb to get high,” Cappetta wrote. However, this lingering affinity for the underground, not to mention blatant disregard for overall safety, is likely just growing pains. Legal marijuana is still in its infancy. It could take many years yet before the majority of consumers realize the benefits of buying legal cannabis, the same as they do with any other product. If for no other reason than they’ll want potency on point.
Cannabis testing measures THC percentages, not to mention other cannabinoids such as CBD, THCA, and CBDA. Without sending off samples to a lab, the mechanics of the plant is all a guessing game. This could be especially concerning for those using the herb for its therapeutic qualities. Cancer patients may require higher THC levels for pain and appetite, while people with anxiety may require the calming effects of a strain with higher CBD. The consumer isn’t going to get those details on the black market. In this day and age of health consciousness, there’s value in knowing that our cannabis is free of dangerous toxins and that it will provide the reported effects.
In the end, cannabis testing is all about trust. Producers need to trust that their lab is providing results that are both consistent and accurate. Meanwhile, the customers need to be able to trust the precision of the certificate of analysis (COA). They need to trust that the product isn’t going to poison them, make them sick or contribute to some unruly health condition on down the line. They also need to know that the potency printed on the label wasn’t inflated for the sake of a price gouge. Without trust, the legal market remains volatile, and the outlaws continue to win. Transparency is the conduit to faith, helping to ensure brands have longevity in the space.