Potency and safety analysis of hemp-derived delta-9 products: The hemp vs. cannabis demarcation problem

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Cannabis product testing is a form of product testing analyzes the quality of cannabis extracts, edibles, and THC and CBD levels in an emergent consumer market eager to sell adult use products.[1] Analytical chemistry and microbiology laboratories are important entities in consumer protection. These labs not only determine the condition and viability of cannabinoids, water content, heavy metals, pesticides,[2] terpenes, yeast, but also the presence of mold, mycotoxins, and solvents.[3][4] These laboratories emerged when advocates of cannabis testing raised concerns about potential contaminants.[5][6][7]

The popularity of cannabis and cannabinoid products continues to escalate following the legalization of cannabinoid products in the United States since 2012.

Since 2012, ten states (Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and, in November 2018, by popular referendum, Michigan) and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis consumption and, except for the District of Columbia and Vermont, acted to implement legislation that also legalizes commercial production. By 2016, 23 states had legalized medical cannabis. Additionally, a number of states, as far back as the 1960s, have decriminalized the possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use.[8]

By 2020, the majority of the U.S. population can purchase cannabis and cannabinoid products as easily as alcohol.[1] But exposure to contaminants is often overlooked. Limited regulation threatens product safety in the "gold rush" era of a fast-growing cannabis industry. Analytical chemistry and microbiology testing that protects consumer safety and prevents unfair practices becomes an added cost that most startups avoid due to the lack of oversight of recreational and medicinal cannabis in the United States.[9] Advanced analytical testing is critical given trade-offs between safety and quality in cannabinoid therapeutics and nutraceuticals. Product or compliance testing determines the chemical makeup and overall quality of the formulation before the sale of products.[1][10]



In 2015, the first government standards for testing were proposed in Colorado's legislature, when potency and microbial testing became mandatory in the state.[11][12][13] Colorado cannabis testing laboratories, such as AgriScience Labs, are regulated by the Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.[14] Over the next several years, other tests became mandatory, such as residual solvent analysis and pesticides.[14][15]

Other states

Cannabis testing is also required in other states, such as California,[16] Oregon,[17] Massachusetts,[18] and Nevada.[19] Washington State added routine pesticide testing and random or investigation-driven heavy metal testing, formerly required only for medical cannabis, to its testing suite for all cannabis on March 2, 2022.[20]


Calls have been made to unify cannabis industry standards with existing testing organizations such as ASTM International (ASTM D37)[21] or International Standards Organization (ISO/IEC 17025).[22]


  1. ^ a b c Clarke, Vanessa; Lin, Melody (2020-12-01). "Cannabis Compliance Testing: Safety vs. Quality". Cannabis Industry Journal. Retrieved 2022-12-16.
  2. ^ CEM, C. (2018). "Extraction of Pesticides from Cannabis" (PDF). AP0168: 1–5.
  3. ^ Small 2016.
  4. ^ St. Louis 2018, p. 384.
  5. ^ Matt Ferner (December 4, 2013), "Marijuana Can Be Covered In Mold, E.Coli, Insect Parts And Pollutants", Huffington Post
  6. ^ Joel Grover; Matthew Glasser (February 22, 2017), Pesticides and Pot: What's California Smoking? An NBC4 I-Team investigation found evidence suggesting that pesticides could be present in a lot of marijuana legally sold in California, Los Angeles: KNBC-TV News
  7. ^ Ben Parker Karris (June 22, 2016), "Unknown Unknowns: Why Cannabis Needs Standardized Lab Testing Now – From fentanyl-laced weed to pesticide-polluted flower, the importance of accuracy in lab test results cannot be overstated", Kindland, Kind, archived from the original on June 24, 2017, retrieved June 26, 2017
  8. ^ Prestemon, Jeffrey P., Frank H. Koch, Geoffrey H. Donovan, and Mary T. Lihou. "Cannabis legalization by states reduces illegal growing on US national forests." Public Law 91 (2016): 513. https://forestthreats.org/products/publications/Prestemon%20et%20al%202019%20Ecological%20Economics.pdf
  9. ^ Goldman, Stephen; Bramante, Julia; Vrdoljak, Gordon; Guo, Weihong; Wang, Yun; Marjanovic, Olivera; Orlowicz, Sean; Di Lorenzo, Robert; Noestheden, Matthew (2021-06-15). "The analytical landscape of cannabis compliance testing". Journal of Liquid Chromatography & Related Technologies. 44 (9–10): 403–420. doi:10.1080/10826076.2021.1996390. ISSN 1082-6076. S2CID 245157194.
  10. ^ Pusiak, Ryan JP; Cox, Chelsea; Harris, Cory S. (2021-07-01). "Growing pains: An overview of cannabis quality control and quality assurance in Canada". International Journal of Drug Policy. 93: 103111. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103111. ISSN 0955-3959. PMID 33478804. S2CID 231677596.
  11. ^ Kristen Wyatt (March 26, 2015), "Colorado bill seeks to standardize marijuana lab testing", The Cannabist, The Denver Post
  12. ^ Jennifer Kovalesk (15 June 2017). "Medical marijuana testing: 5 things you need to know". The Denver Channel. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  13. ^ Lisa Rough (May 10, 2017), Leafly's State-by-State Guide to Cannabis Testing Regulations, Leafly, retrieved 2017-06-26
  14. ^ a b Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (14 October 2014). "Inspection of marijuana testing facilities". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  15. ^ Melissa Schiller. "Pesticide Testing is Mandatory in Colorado Starting Aug. 1: Are You Ready?". Cannabis Business Times. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  16. ^ Michael R. Blood. "California testing of cannabis products off to rough start with high failure rate". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  17. ^ Oregon Health Authority. "Marijuana Testing Requirements". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  18. ^ "Medical Use of Marijuana Program product testing". Mass.gov. Retrieved 2019-07-07.
  19. ^ Colton Lochhead (24 January 2018). "Nevada officials cracking down on marijuana testing labs". Lad Vegas Review. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  20. ^ Board Adopts Pesticide Testing Rules (press release), Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, March 2, 2022
  21. ^ "Standards development", Patient Focused Certification (website), Americans for Safe Access, retrieved 2017-04-27
  22. ^ "Washington Could Have the Safest Pot in the World If It Just Made This Simple Change", The Stranger, May 31, 2017


See also