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New York’s Cannabis Regulator Tightens Its Potency Testing Rules

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Mar 24, 2023   
Cannabis bud held between tweezers.

Image credit: iStock

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New York’s cannabis regulator has tightened the state’s cannabis testing rules, following a recent exposé by NY Cannabis Insider.

From now on, flower products will have to be tested for potency by cannabis labs – something that wasn’t required before.

Testing transforms

In a bid to expediate products to dispensary shelves ahead of the state’s recreational cannabis market launch last December, New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) relaxed its potency testing guidelines to allow for “line testing”.

With this allowance, cannabis labs could pool samples from “lines” of products and test them all at once. The change also allowed cultivators and cannabis producers to label their products with an “anticipated potency” rather than an actual potency determined by a testing lab.

And it seems some cannabis producers took liberties with this line testing, at least according to NY Cannabis Insider.

The publication recently undertook its own investigation, acquiring eight high-potency cannabis products from legal dispensaries and having them tested at a state-certified lab. The publication found “the majority of the best-selling weed available in the nascent marketplace contained drastically lower THC than advertised.”

In response to NY Cannabis Insider’s report, the OCM updated its line testing rules on March 17, exempting flower and pre-rolls and adding a potency test requirement.

“When they stopped allowing line testing for flower products, they also added a requirement for potency testing to be done,” Leah Digiacobbe, lab manager at Talon Analytical, a Long Island-based cannabis lab, told Analytical Cannabis.  

“On flower products, up until recently, they weren’t requiring any sort of potency testing. They were just letting the producers label the product based on either R&D testing they did during the growing process or based on whatever the seed genetics of that particularly strain should be, potency wise.”

“I think now that they’re going to enforce potency testing on all flower products that should really help a lot with the inflation issue.”

New York and cannabis

New York launched its recreational cannabis market on December 29, 2022, and now has five licensed dispensaries – a small figure that has been blamed for the slow start of the market.

“It’s been pretty unpredictable so far,” Digiacobbe added. “When the market first opened up, we saw a big rush of samples. But that seems to have tapered off since the amount of dispensaries opening hasn’t increased too much.”

“So it seems like the producers and growers have slowed down their testing volumes a little bit until they have a bigger market to get into.”

In the absence of a widespread network of legal dispensaries, illegal dispensaries have taken hold in New York, dispensaries that are known to sell contaminated products. According to one recent report, 40% of the products acquired from these illicit retailers failed at least one of the contaminant tests that are standard for legal cannabis products.

State Governor Kathy Hochul recently proposed new legislation to tackle these illegal operators. The legislation would provide additional enforcement powers to the OCM to enforce the new regulatory requirements and close stores engaged in the illegal sale of cannabis.

"The continued existence of illegal dispensaries is unacceptable, and we need additional enforcement tools to protect New Yorkers from dangerous products and support our equity initiatives,” Hochul said in a statement.

“I am proud of our continued progress creating the entirely new legal cannabis industry and helping legal dispensaries open their doors to offer safer cannabis products to New Yorkers.”


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