CARP Growers Honorary Member Cannalysis does a lot of the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting that’s necessary to protect consumers and deliver clean, quality cannabis to the California legal market. All legal California cannabis has an extra stop before making it to the dispensary … that stop is the testing lab. Cannalysis is the lab serving many CARP Growers member farms, and is an expert in the procedures and protocols that make California cannabis a safe and trustworthy product. We caught up with Cannalysis and asked a couple of questions about the technical side of testing labs and the state system of ensuring all cannabis consumers, workers and the environment have strict protections as provided by law.

White coats abound inside the Cannalysis labs.

Cannalysis Overview: 

Cannalysis is a fully licensed and ISO/IEC 17025 accredited analytical cannabis laboratory servicing the entire state of California. We use validated scientific methods to analyze cannabis products for cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, and dispensaries to California state requirements by the Bureau of Cannabis Control 

Tell us about what cannabis is tested for at your lab?

Cannalysis tests a variety of cannabis and hemp matrixes, from flower and biomass to crude and distillate, in multiple forms (see image for a more comprehensive listing).  Cannalysis offers 10 analysis types including: potency (cannabinoids), chemical residues (pesticides), residual solvents, heavy metals, microbial, filth & foreign material, moisture content, water activity, terpenes, mycotoxins.  Cannalysis also recently added the analysis of Vitamin E Acetate, a chemical compound that may be linked to the vaping-related illness that has swept through the U.S. in the past month.

What are some instances when cannabis doesn’t pass the test?

A cannabis sample can fail for a variety of reasons. One of the first tests performed when a sample comes in the lab is filth & foreign material. Filth & foreign material is a visual inspection required by the state. The purpose is to check for contamination of product from rodent hair, fecal matter, soil and cinders, etc.  Furthermore, the presence of chemical residues, or pesticides, within a cannabis sample can lead to a failure if action limits set by the BCC are exceeded. A California compliance panel of the 66 most common and concerning pesticides, insecticides and fungicides is performed on both LC-MS/MS and GC-MS/MS machines to give accurate quantification of this panel.

In the supply-chain, at what point does cannabis stop off in a testing lab?

If the test is for California compliance, the sample is required to be tested at the distribution step in the supply-chain before it goes into a licensed retailer. However, as a lab, Cannalysis can service every portion of the supply-chain as it relates to R&D testing. We work with cultivators to ensure they have mitigated potential for pesticides or presence of various species of microbials such as bacteria and fungus.  We also provide ‘bag and tag’ services during biomass transactions to ensure clean growing practices have been adhered to and that material is clean before continuing to processing. By that same token, we work with manufacturers to provide insight into extraction and processing techniques, and confirm that there are no pesticides, heavy metals, or residual solvents in their end product.

Does Cannalysis provide services to help growers with quality control?

To expand more on what was mentioned above, Cannalysis works closely with cultivators to help refine their processes and continually find solutions to drive efficiencies.  Even though most cultivators have implemented tested SOPs and integrated technology, such as automation, there are instances where improvement is possible. Some examples of this include root cause analysis for such things as heavy metals or pesticides. We have tested soil, swabbed vents, and carried out potency comparison studies between the stages flower takes from plant to pre-roll.  Locally we have even worked to test surrounding plants and soil in an effort to work alongside local crops to help foster and create symbiotic relationships.

What role does the state play in the testing system?

The state sets the standards for everything from sampling to required testing and destruction or potential remediation of failed product. As a licensed third-party cannabis testing laboratory by the state of California we are required to undergo annual audits to ensure our SOPs adhere to guidelines and standards.  

If a consumer is buying product on the black market, what types of risks are they taking?

The toughest part about purchasing products as a consumer is that many may not even realize they are purchasing from a “black market” retailer.  Before diving into the variety of risks, it is imperative that consumers educate themselves on where to find licensed retailers and get in the habit of asking for a COA (certificate of analysis) for each product they are looking to purchase; also if they do have questions they should contact the lab that tested the product and have them walk through any terminology or testing. That said, some risks that are assumed if these actions are not taken and a potentially non-tested product is purchased, include contamination and ingestion of harmful pesticides, heavy metals, and other microorganisms or toxins.  Additionally, the potency may not be as indicated leading to either heightened or lessened effects.  

Have you ever had an opportunity to test black market cannabis? If so, what did you find?

We as a lab have not had the opportunity to test black market cannabis in any capacity, however, if individual consumers are curious about what is in the product(s) they purchase we are more than happy to help test, and subsequently walk through the results. We pride ourselves on transparency and want to help consumers better understand the products they use and purchase.  Furthermore, and finally, Cannalysis refuses to support the black market in any manner, including testing.  

What are a couple of neat, “sciency” things you’d like to share about your testing facility?

In an effort to create more efficiencies in the lab, the use of robotics has been introduced. This is due in large part to the hiring and work of our Director of Automation & Robotics, Chris Scholl.  His work has helped to improve the precision and accuracy of testing results, which can fall victim to mistakes as a result of human error. By injecting robotics into the lab workflow Cannalysis has completely eliminated human data entry while also developing a way to transmit data between devices (ie. instruments and scales).  Robotics has also allowed for the batching and prepping of samples, eliminating the human component for such tasks as solvent addition and weighing. The heavy use of automation also allows users to track the progress of their samples in real-time. It also allows users to access Cannalysis’ APIs to automate the flow of data between third-party platforms while integrating directly with internal ERP systems. This further reduces the chance that human error will lead to mistakes that could be costly for cannabis purveyors.