What Kind of Marijuana Quality Control Should Be in Place?

The rise of the cannabis industry is bringing up a lot of questions as to regulation and quality control. Every year, more and more states continue to legalize marijuana. It’s even thought that federal legalization is in the near future. That said, it’s crucial that as legalization spreads, there are set regulations established to maintain a compliant and quality marijuana product.

Sure, the industry is one massive business opportunity, but it is vital to ensure the quality of the marijuana continues to exceed expectations rather than diminish with legalization. As commercial grows enhance their production capabilities and drive the price of marijuana down, it is essential they are held to strict marijuana quality control laws. In the market today, most states do their best to regulate the quality of marijuana, but it is tough unless the state has set compliance laws and a regulation department to uphold these laws.

The Importance of Marijuana Quality Control

hands on a wooden table rolling a joint with lots of marijuana on the table

 

It may be evident that marijuana quality control is extremely important for the industry, but it’s shocking how many poor quality marijuana products reach the shelves of dispensaries. Yes, crappy batches or harvests are going to happen, but why is it even getting close to reaching the consumer? The quality of marijuana is essential for a variety of reasons:

  • Consumer Trust
  • Consumer Health
  • Meeting Consumption Purposes
  • Brand Recognition

Cannabis companies owe it to the consumers and medical cardholders to produce the highest-quality marijuana products possible. Allowing for bud rot, powdered mildew, or any ill buds to reach the consumer is simply unacceptable. Aside from ailments, marijuana is often grown with certain pesticides and herbicides which could be harmful in high amounts. For these various reasons, marijuana quality control should be a focus of every legal market. Not only does it establish a professional marketplace, but it upholds the whole purpose of legalizing marijuana; medicinal value!

What Type of Marijuana Control Do Legal Markets Need?

marijuana in test tubes for marijuana quality control testing

Every legalized state has their own set of compliance and regulation laws. Within those laws, there are usually regulations pertaining to marijuana quality control. Without federal legalization, there is no across-the-board regulation. Some states take quality control a bit more seriously than others. Nevertheless, it is likely every legal state needs a bit more marijuana quality control in their markets. Here are a few of the primary areas regarding marijuana quality control that every state should focus on.

Cannabinoid Profiles

marijuana flower close up next to oil being dripped out of a container

Every marijuana plant and final marijuana product should undergo stringent testing regarding the cannabinoid profiles within every batch/harvest. This test is also known as the potency test. Every strain of cannabis is unique to itself and produces a different cannabinoid profile from the rest. Each cannabinoid profile is going to cause a unique effect on every individual.

Some marijuana is more prone to having higher THC percentages, while others produce a higher CBD content. It’s also common to see some CBG, CBC, and CBN is a few different marijuana strains and products. Either way, it’s essential for marijuana vendors to be testing their products’ cannabinoid profiles to ensure consumers know what they’re getting.

Microbial Testing

cannabis hash sauce wax
Canna Obscura/shutterstock
One of the most critical marijuana quality control tests are the microbial tests. Thousands of medical marijuana consumers depend on their cannabis to be contaminant-free, safe to consume, and of the highest quality. For many consumers, it’s vital to their overall health that their marijuana does not hold any bacteria, fungus, or foreign matter on the final product. By testing for microbes, it gives both everyone peace of mind when puffing on their marijuana products.

  • Bacteria Testing: Clostridium / Salmonella / botulinum
  • Fungi Testing: Yeast / Mold / Fungi
  • Foreign Matter Testing: Fecal Matter / Insects / Animal Matter

Pesticides and Herbicides

pesticides being sprayed over crops

The use of pesticides and herbicides is common in marijuana and many other crops. Federally, there is quite a bit of regulation surrounding the use of pesticides and herbicides in our food. Unfortunately, marijuana is still illegal on the federal level which means it is up to the individual states to establish quality control for pesticides and herbicides.

It is important to assure consumers that the weed they smoke is clean, safe to consume, and of the highest quality.  By testing for pesticides and herbicides, consumers can put their minds to ease and trust the products hitting the shelves. Puffing on pesticides and herbicides can be extremely dangerous to medical and recreational consumers alike. Plus, marijuana with a high pesticide content probably doesn’t taste good!

Heavy Metals

Cannabis is a resilient plant and has many different roles on this earth. The marijuana plant is renowned for pulling heavy metals from the ground and soil. It is vital for cannabis to go through testing for these heavy metals before reaching the consumer. Consuming high amounts of heavy metals is not good for any consumer. It also drastically pulls from the taste of the marijuana.

  • Mercury
  • Arsen
  • Cadmium
  • Lead

Terpene Profiles

live macro shot of cannabis plant

Testing for terpene profiles is a somewhat new report. Terpenes are the flavor and aroma compounds found in marijuana, and many other plants and fruit. As we begin to understand the effects of terpenes, we see that the terpene profiles of a strain are directly connected to its effects. While some strains are racy, others cause a massive body high.

  • Linalool
  • Limonene
  • Pinene
  • Myrcene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Humulene

Rather than looking at sativa vs. indica, people are starting to classify strains by their terpene profiles. Knowing the terpenes within a particular strain can drastically help medical cardholders and recreational consumers find the effects they desire from marijuana. The ability to terpene testing is still getting worked out with more research, but it is likely terpene testing will become a significant part of quality control down the road.

Residual Solvents

BHO Wax on Dabber
Photo by: Canna Obscura/Shutterstock
Testing for residual solvents is something every legal market should oversee. While it is not nearly as crucial for whole plant testing, it is a must for cannabis concentrates. To extract a cannabis concentrate from the marijuana plant, the cannabis is soaked with a solvent like Butane, Propane, CO2, or even water. Before a cannabis concentrate is ready for sale, the solvent must be removed from the product by either whipping or baking the extract. The less solvent left over, the purer the concentrate.

While it’s said small amounts of residual solvents are okay to consume, large doses become harmful. Every cannabis concentrate produced should have a residual solvent count measured in PPM (parts per millions). Nevertheless, many legal markets do not require this testing on the packaging. If there is any cannabis product that has the potential of coming back and being harmful, it’s definitely marijuana concentrates. The worry is minimalized with accurate residual testing.

Conclusion

As the marijuana market continues to grow and regulation works itself out, it is likely there will be more and more quality control coming down on the industry. States like Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and California have some of the more stringent marijuana quality control laws than other legal states; however, their markets are far more established than the others. As a consumer, make sure to be aware of the above quality checks. If a particular brand leaves out any of the above testing, maybe it’s not the best product for your needs. Shop smart and hold the cannabis industry to a high standard as legalization spreads!

Stay tuned on all marijuana regulations and quality control, here!


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Justice Council
Justice Council is a freelance writer, CBD specialist, and cannabis enthusiast located in Denver, Colorado. His wide range of experience as a budtender, delivery driver, and CBD sales rep has given him a unique look into this new world of cannabis. Throughout his career in the industry, Justice has written many pieces on culture, economics, product knowledge, and career opportunities within the cannabis space. He takes pride in being part of a truly pioneering industry.