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What Should California Do About Cannabis Lab Shopping? The State’s Regulator Wants Your Help to Decide

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jul 11, 2022   
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California has a cannabis testing problem. 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. But now California’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) wants to do something about it, and it’s asking for help.

Stopping lab shopping

To help rid California of unscrupulous labs, the DCC is proposing to mandate certain lab testing methods across the state. This could mean that every lab will have to meet a strict set of standards to keep its license.

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. The full details of the proposed testing method can be found here.

Now, the DCC is welcoming feedback on these proposals from anyone with relative expertise. Comments can be submitted via mail or email (publiccomment@cannabis.ca.gov) before the deadline of August 2. Further information can be found here.

The problem of lab shopping

A fix to California’s lab shopping problem can’t come fast enough. But for some cannabis labs, it’s already too late.

CannaSafe Labs, one of the most prominent cannabis testing labs in the state, recently announced its closure. Speaking to Analytical Cannabis this month, 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.


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