Everyone knows MA dispensaries are required to test with a third-party testing facility, but few know the actual system. We wanted to offer you a peek inside the process when a marijuana establishment initiates a contract with us to when they receive those results.
All Marijuana Establishments (ME) in the state of MA must have a contract set up with an independent testing lab prior to receiving their final licensing. Before they can begin submitting samples though, they need to conduct their own batch sampling. According to the CCC, “Because it is not possible to test all Marijuana, Licensees must collect representative samples to provide to one of the Commission’s licensed ITLs.” To do this products are broken into batches.
There are two main types of batches: cultivation & production. Cultivation batches are a collection of cannabis plants from the same seed or stock that are harvested together and receive identical treatments. Production batches refer to batches of finished plant materials, concentrates, resin, or infused products that are made using the same methods, equipment, and ingredients.
Each ME is responsible for implementing a tracking method for sampling each batch. Sampling frequency is dependent on the ME and how often they produce batches.There are several methods of sampling to get an accurate representation and ensure the homogeneity of the entire batch. Depending on the product type samples can be grinded together or use a method called quartering. Quartering involves mixing material together to form a square, cutting that into four quarters, and then hand selecting samples from two opposite quarters until required quantity is achieved.
When samples are ready to be sent to the lab they must be in a ready-to-use condition, meaning labs get the samples in the exact packaging they will be sold in. Once a ME has established procedures for tracking and sampling, they are ready to find an independent testing lab.
At MCR Labs, the first part of the process is onboarding the marijunana establishment. Our Business Development team works with the ME to help them understand the process and determine what testing needs to be done. This usually involves a site visit to the company where our team can check out operations and get an idea of the volume of samples needed to submit. Additionally, we have offered tours of our lab so those companies can understand our process as well! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we have had to halt these lab tours, but will switch to virtual tours in the new year. Once this process is completed, our client services & transport teams take over to finish the onboarding process.
All samples tested from a ME need to be documented with the correct forms for our testing procedure and with Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance (METRC), the tracking and reporting system used in Massachusetts. To make this process as easy as possible our client service team sends over a template that each client fills out with appropriate sample information.
This information includes things like the sample name, batch information, weight, tests required, etc. It’s important to ensure all of this information is included because each sample needs to be tracked all the way from seed to when it is finally put on the shelf. It’s equally important to ensure all the information is accurate as it goes through the stages.
Once all documents have been completed by the client and sent over to us, the samples are ready to be brought to the lab. This can happen one of two ways: Either our transport agents go get them, or the ME drops it off at the lab. We offer one courtesy pickup per week, but companies can schedule more if they’d like or not use our agents at all. After the samples arrive at the lab they need to be checked in by our sample management team.
Sample Acceptance & Inspection
Each sample that a client provides is inspected once it arrives to make sure it matches exactly what it says on the documentation sent earlier. Our sample management team checks each name, METRC number, and also weighs each sample in its packaging to ensure nothing was tampered with and to ensure proper tracking once it gets to our lab techs. After each sample is verified and officially accepted into our system, they are organized based on the product type and storage requirements. They are then brought to the lab to be added to the queue.
Once a sample is ready to be tested our lab techs take over. Each sample is opened and weighed out according to the test it needs and transferred to the proper container for the test. We have several different machines for each of the profiles and screens we test for. Each test requires a different container and measurement.
All cannabis products sold in Massachuessts are required to be tested for potency and safety screens. We offer two potency profiles – cannabinoids and terpene profiles, but only a cannabinoid profile is required. We also offer 6 safety screens. Heavy metal, pesticide, microbiological, and mycotoxins screens are all required by the state for every product type. There are also some additional safety screens only required for certain products, like residual solvents which are only required when using a solvent based extraction method such as butane.
After a sample is officially in queue to be tested they are tracked by our reporting team from start to finish. Once the tests are complete, our reporting team shares the data with the client. They get access to their new results as well as all of their historical testing data. For first-time clients, we will review test by test with them to make sure they understand their results
From the beginning, each client is set up with a designated representative from our business development team. Our team ensures that each client always has someone to contact throughout this whole process if there are any questions that arise. If necessary, they loop in any and all teams that can help tackle the question or concern, including our Data and Scientific Operations teams. Our data analysts can help analyze and interpret trends while our scientists are there to help with research & development for new products or methods.
This is the process for dispensaries at our lab, but each independent testing lab may have different steps. Regardless of the lab, before a product reaches the shelf it is batch tested, documented from seed to sale, and reported to clients. Consumers can request these test results from each dispensary if interested, and certain information like potency can also be found on the labels of each product.