Delays, Shortfalls Plague California State Cannabis Testing Lab

California’s brand new $11 million cannabis testing lab run out of the University of California has been off to a slightly rocky start, including falsifying safety tests and inflating THC test results.

Cannabis Testing Labs

In California, the state’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) requires private labs to test each cannabis product for safety and potency. Once testing is complete, these labs provide a percentage label of several different components of the product, including THC percentage.

While on paper, these labels are designed to give the user accurate information about the product, the reality has seen these cannabis labels become increasingly controversial.

Cannabis testing labs have been around for quite a while in California. And while these facilities are licensed with the DCC, many industry insiders and skeptics have accused these labs of fraudulently inflating THC levels in order to attract more customers.

Recently, rumors have gone from talk into court action, with lawsuits being filed against some of the state’s biggest cannabis companies due to claims that they’ve been lying to customers about the levels of THC their products contain.

Since the first cannabis lab opened back in 2007, there have been more and more popping up all over the state. Recently cannabis recreational rules have dictated that lab testing on recreational cannabis products is a legal requirement. Since this law was issued, more than 60 for-profit cannabis labs have opened up in the State of California.

While the state makes the rules regarding which contaminants will render the products unusable, it’s the labs themselves that are responsible for enforcing these rules. This means that the cannabis labs are responsible for both the accuracy of what goes into the labels and ensuring no contaminated products end up on the shelves of retail stores.

Independent investigations have been conducted by cannabis labs on the accuracy of THC labels on retail cannabis products. Staggeringly, over 87% of the 150 cannabis products that were tested in the investigation had inaccurate THC labels. This high level of discrepancy has seen other states double down on their testing efforts.

Cannabis Testing Labs

The New Californian Lab

The new lab at the University of California forms part of the DCC and the state’s efforts to clamp down on testing and THC inflation fraud. But already, the cracks are starting to show.

In February 2021, California signed a deal with the University of California, promising to deliver $11 million over five years for the operation and building of this new lab. This included $2.3 million in the first year for laboratory equipment and $1 million in yearly staff salaries and running costs per year.

However, since then, the lab has run into delays and management issues, despite having received the initial funding back in February of last year. The lab hasn’t met a single deadline for testing capabilities, including the 2022 July deadline for completing the International Organization for Standardization certification that would prove the lab’s staff and equipment capabilities.

While the lab expects to complete its remaining milestones in 2023, things like the pandemic and supply chain issues have been put to blame for the delays in the lab’s ability to meet simple deadlines.

Cheaters Cheaters Everywhere

When there are so many variables at play, being able to alter or fake lab test results isn’t the problem of a single lab but rather an industry-wide issue. Labs are encouraged by cannabis manufacturers to give their products higher scores. If a lab refuses, the manufacturer threatens to change labs, causing a loss in business with the lab.

The problem with the current situation is that it’s too easy for labs to doctor test results to fit the requests of the manufacturers. Inputting different numbers into a spreadsheet or rigging scales are just some of the ways a lab is able to alter the THC percentage of a product.

And while not every lab performs these THC cheats, there are enough labs doing this for it to be a concern.

Cheaters Cheaters Everywhere

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