California asks testing labs not to inflate THC levels

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California cannabis regulators have issued several warnings requiring state-licensed testing labs to accurately report test results or face severe penalties, including potential license revocation.

The Department of Cannabis Control’s (DCC) Laboratory Division has undertaken inspections to confirm (or not) test results on flower and other cannabis products that have already been tested, according to an email notification sent to laboratories Thursday accredited and obtained by MJBizDaily.

“Random testing of over-the-counter products will continue to give consumers confidence that the cannabis products they purchase have been tested and that the results of those tests are accurate,” said Nicole Elliott, Director of the DCC, to MJBizDaily via email Friday.

The letter warns testing labs that inflating THC content and falsifying scientific data is a violation of state law.

“Reporting inaccurate results and falsifying data will result in action against your license, up to and including revocation,” the notice warns.

If the results confirmed by the DCC do not coincide with the results of laboratory tests, companies may be forced to relabel their products, the DCC said.

“This may also result in the recall and/or embargo of cannabis or cannabis products,” according to the warning.

Why inflate THC levels?

Studies show that the price of a product, the percentage of THC and the recommendations of the budtender are the main elements taken into account by consumers when choosing their cannabis. However, there has been a disproportionate emphasis on THC percentage, partly because of the misconception that potency is directly related to product quality, and partly because of a lack of understanding of the important role of terpenes and other cannabinoids.

This focus on THC content has incentivized cannabis companies (brands, growers, distributors) to game the system, especially when economic conditions are difficult for legal operators. If consumers remain fixated on THC content, some companies are willing to deceive customers because they can charge them more.

High-THC cannabis products sell for more, which has encouraged some cannabis companies and testing labs willing to commit fraud to manipulate results. The industry calls this practice “lab shopping.”

Regulations generally require that the THC content listed on the label be within a relative percentage range of actual test results. In California, this threshold is 10%, which allows certain laboratories to fudge results or brands to be creative in their claims.

These questionable practices have led to a systemic problem of power inflation, detrimental to all parties involved. THE lab shopping has often allowed the worst brands and labs to achieve better results, while high-efficiency brands and science-first labs have suffered.

In recent years, state agencies in Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Nevada have stepped up crackdowns on noncompliant testing labs, issuing hefty fines and suspending licenses in some cases.

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