Reading and Understanding an Analytical Report for Cannabis Products

Reading and Understanding an Analytical Report for Cannabis Products
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Reading and Understanding an Analytical Report for Cannabis Products

Professor DeBacco

What Is a Certificate of Analysis (COA)?
COA’s are a document generated by a licensed lab that shows the analytical test results on a cannabis sample.
These are used to confirming potency and purity while also ensuring safety for consumption.
Be aware that some states may have different testing requirements.

Why Testing is Important
Provides a consumer with a report that is…
Transparent
Unbiased
Ensuing a safe product

Verifying an Analytical Lab Report
Calling the lab that the product was tested by and provide them a “Certificate ID” that is shown on the Certificate of Analysis, which they can use to verify if the lab report is authentic.
Avoid an “In-House Test” as this has the high potential for bias.
Third-party lab reports usually have special markings on it, which does not allow others to duplicate.

Third Party Lab Testing Explained
Third-party lab testing means that their products are tested by labs that are not affiliated to them, hence the term “third-party”.
Just because a company mentions that it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for the lab reports to analyze before purchasing because any product can be just tested.
The whole purpose of getting products tested by third-party labs is to show the consistency that the product contains the actual advertised information and, most of all, for transparency. Since growing hemp and extracting CBD is a complex process, it’s crucial to make sure that the product a customer is purchasing is safe for them to ingest.

Common Terminology
ND: Non-Detectable
This does not mean it is not present, but it is not able to be detected with the equipment used.
PPM = Parts Per Million
BLQ: Below Level of Quantification
Denote concentrations so small they do not meet the qualifying threshold for cannabinoid content.
LOQ: Limit of Quantification
The smallest concentration that can be accurately quantified.
LOD: Limit of Detection
The smallest amount of cannabinoid(s) that can be detected by the instrument.
Loss on Drying: Tests for the percentage of water content in the final product.

Find the Full Analytical Report
Many cannabis companies post COAs of their products on their website for all to see.
If a product does not have a COA available, it is advisable for consumers to not buy that product, as it is effectively untested.
Usually the full COA will not be on a product’s label, but the potency testing will.
To view the full COA, customers should be able to find a QR code on the label, which should take them to the company’s website with the full COA.

Cannabinoid Analysis
The active ingredients in cannabis should be clearly labeled as this ensures that growers can verify the quality of their products.

Microbial Contaminants
This is the bacteria, mold, and/or yeast present in the sample.
Predetermined contaminant limits are established for each that is expressed in CFU/g which stands for Colony Forming Units per gram
Example: Limit: less than 500,000 CFU/g
Most test results simply list “pass” or “fail” as results.

Aflatoxins
Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by certain types of molds or fungi.
Aflatoxins are very dangerous and may be potent carcinogens, which is why you definitely want to ensure your cannabis has no aflatoxins in it.

Terpene Profile Analysis
Terpenes are a set of simple organic molecules present in all living organisms.
Most of the flavors and aromas of plants derive from their terpenes.
You can find myrcene in thyme and hops, limonene in citrus fruits, and linalool in cinnamon and mint, for example.
Plants produce terpenes naturally to attract pollinators and repel predators.

Heavy Metal Test Analysis
Cannabis can be a bio-accumulator of heavy metals.
These can include mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and lead.
Any amounts of heavy metals present will be listed here.
Most test results simply list “pass” or “fail” as results.

Pesticide Test Analysis
The challenge with pesticide residue analysis in cannabis is the concentration difference between the pesticide residues and those of the coextracted cannabinoids and terpenes.

There needs to be sufficient sensitivity to allow for detection to the ppb (parts per billion) level.

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