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California Regulator Updates Its Proposed Cannabinoid Test Requirements

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Oct 13, 2022   

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California’s cannabis regulator has updated its proposed cannabinoid test that will become a standard for all certified labs in the state.

In a notice published on October 4, the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) announced that the test will be limited to dried flower and pre-rolls.

Anyone wishing to comment on this change can do so via email (publiccomment@cannabis.ca.gov) until October 20.

Updating the test

To help rid California of unscrupulous cannabis labs that inflate the THC levels of products, the DCC has begun the process of mandating a lab testing method across the state.

The process of standardization began last October, when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that, among other things, required the DCC to choose at least one cannabinoid test as the standard for state-certified labs by January 1, 2023.

According to the DCC, this mandated cannabinoid test “will ensure consumers receive accurate and consistent information regarding the cannabinoid content of the cannabis and cannabis product they use or consume.”

On June 17, the state regulator revealed what this test would involve. These requirements included that the cannabis samples be ground down to less than one millimeter, that the test be carried out by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and that there should be at least two spike concentration levels and at least three spike replicates recorded.

Now, in its update published on October 4, the DCC has further clarified that the test will only pertain to dried flower, including pre-rolls.

“The Department received multiple comments suggesting the proposed test method be limited to regulatory compliance testing and reporting results for dried flower and plant material,” the DCC’s notice reads.

Anyone wishing to comment on this change can do so via email (publiccomment@cannabis.ca.gov) until October 20.

The problem of lab shopping

California has a cannabis testing problem for a while. Over the years, many licensed labs have said they have lost clients because they were unwilling to alter the test results of a cannabis product to inflate its THC levels and improve its customer appeal. Unabashed, the cannabis companies that ask for these “potency pushes” simply find other, more unscrupulous labs that accommodate their requests.

The practice is known as lab shopping, and it’s become a blight of the west coast state’s cannabis industry.

CannaSafe Labs, one of the most prominent cannabis testing labs in the state, announced its closure earlier this year. Speaking to Analytical Cannabis at the time, the lab’s chief science officer, Ini Afia, said that lab shopping was the final blow to the business.

“The issue of lab shopping and ownership decision not to play in that arena ultimately led to the closure.”

“There hasn’t been substantive action from the DCC [California’s Department of Cannabis Control] even when direct evidence of unscrupulous lab practices were [sic] submitted as complaints to the agency,” Afia continued.

“When people are able to test compliance samples at multiple labs and pick the most favorable result for sale, then it makes it very difficult for labs with integrity to get on the playing field,” he added.

In response to the lab shopping crisis, the DCC has responded with its proposed, mandatory cannabinoid test. But many in the state’s testing sector aren’t convinced the requirement will put a stop to the poor practices.

Speaking to Analytical Cannabis in July, Jeff Wurzer, co-founder of SC Labs, remarked that the new rule is “bringing a whole host of problems.”

“It’s not ready for primetime; all the labs have sort of come out against it, and it doesn’t really stop the inflation problem. There’s [sic] things that people are trying that may not work.”

 

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