5 Things I’ve Learned Working in a Cannabis Testing Lab

Cannabis testing is serious business, and no, we do not get to 'test' the product ourselves.

The worst step, by far, is the last one: destroying the product with methanol.

1 – Testing is a series of methodical and calculated steps.

Someone once asked me if our cannabinoid tests consisted of me taking some cannabis, throwing it into a microwave-like machine, pressing some buttons, and out pop the results. It is a bit more complicated than that. Every detail is taken into account, from the precise measurement of weights and volumes, to the constant cleaning of equipment to prevent cross-contamination across samples. Our chemists have worked with chromatography and spectrometry in the pharmaceutical industry and bring the same level of precision and procedural accountability to our lab.

2 – Standards come in very small amounts and are extremely expensive.

A standard is a compound of a known purity and concentration. For every compound we test for, such as THCa or CBD, we have the pure standard. And some of these standards do not come cheap. Some are high priced, not easy to acquire, and come in very limited amounts. For example the standard we use for CBDa is 97% pure, and can cost over $370 per miligram.

3 – Heavy metals are real, and they are dangerous.

I knew about the dangers of pesticides, mold/mildew, bacteria, bud rot, residual solvent levels, and pests, such as spider mites. But these pale in comparison to the risk posed by heavy metals leaching into your cannabis. Cannabis is a fantastic bioremediator and will soak up a lot of what roots come in contact with, like the soil or water. Metals such as arsenic, mercury, and lead can be hazardous at very low limits, in the parts per billion.

4 – There are many people who have benefited from cannabis.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that cannabis can help with a number of ailments and sicknesses, yet meeting someone who has directly benefited from the use of cannabis reaffirms why I love working in this industry. It is extremely gratifying to hear that you have helped someone improve their health. I hope to see a day where strains with proven chemotypes are carefully grown for targeted ailments and families no longer have to uproot themselves in search of a better quality of life.

5 – I have to destroy cannabis with Methanol, and I hate it.

For anyone who thinks we just take home what we don’t test and get baked beyond belief, think again. Because of state regulations, any excess samples leftover after testing – be it a nice juicy bud of Sour Diesel or some tasty looking shatter of Master Kush – all go into a giant tub of methanol, which renders them useless. Methanol, unlike ethanol, is dangerous to your health… it could actually blind you if consumed. This is by far the worst part of my job, but those are the rules.

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