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Marijuana testing gives consumers the information necessary to make a buying decision based on the chemical composition and potency of a marijuana product. Yes, cannabis potency is important to many consumers and so accuracy in testing is crucial, especially since so many medical marijuana patients depend on consistent and pure doses.
Recreational users also depend on cannabis potency since it influences their experience.
Generally, cannabis testing is performed by independent laboratories to determine the potency and purity of cannabis products.
However, there are some user-friendly and affordable ways that users can perform their own testing at home. Our cannabis testing for potency guide will take you through the marijuana testing industry, how testing is done, and how you can do some of your own potency testing from the comfort of your home.
Cannabis Potency Testing Methods
There are a wide range of marijuana testing methods that are used in order to assess potency, quality and safety of cannabis products so that consumers can be adequately informed. Each state with cannabis access laws has its own testing requirements so you have to find out what that is.
State requirements can include cut-off levels of solvents used during the extraction process, pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants. In addition, states may require companies to list the THC and CBD content of products at the very least.
Some companies and testing labs may go above and beyond and provide information about the concentration of terpenes in the product.
There are a few testing procedures, though, that are common to the cannabis industry. Cannabis potency details are helpful in knowing the exact CBD and THC levels in each product or marijuana plant.
CBD and THC Levels
Data related to cannabinoid potency quantifies the cannabinoid levels (mainly THC and CBD) found in the cannabis products. The CBD and THC potency data is needed by producers. The levels of CBD and THC have to be known by the consumer so they are aware of how much to consume.
For instance, there are some cannabis patients that might desire a marijuana strain that has a higher ratio of CBD:THC while recreational users might want the opposite. Terpenes are also other compounds that could be tested, even though, it is not a legal state requirement.
Right now, we are only focusing on cannabis potency testing for CBD and THC.
THC and CBD Measurement
Let's now look at how CBD and THC levels are measured in the lab. There are several ways that analytical testing labs can measure the concentrations of CBD and THC. Licensed labs use a few select methods to determine potency and purity. However, there is no standard determining which testing method a lab has to use.
HPLC or High Performance Liquid Chromatography method is most commonly used. This method quantifies the chemical mixture into liquid once it is separated. A collected sample of the marijuana flower or extract is combined with ethanol or other solvents.
Using a tube and at a high pressure, the solution is pumped. In the tube, you will find material, which attracts some of the molecules found in the sample and this is based on the material's chemical properties.
There is a detector visible at the end of the column. The compounds that are attracted to the material found in the tube tend to move slower, reaching the detector at a later time.
The cannabinoids will continue through the column after the cannabis sample has been injected. The column and cannaboinoids will interact and this will determine the speed at which each cannabinoid will pass through through the tube.
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The presence of the each kind of cannabinoid will quantify the detector as soon as it is detected. The lab measurement is then listed clearly on the marijuana packaging. Accuracy in cannabis potency testing is of utmost importance to provide consumer information.
How to Test for Cannabis Potency Yourself
You can recreate the same principles that are used in chromatography testing at home, but you have to use a black marker construction paper and a glass of water. Draw a line with your black marker across the edge of the construction paper. Put the strip of paper upright in the glass of water.
However, be sure the marker line is positioned a little bit above the water. Let several minutes pass before you notice the water traveling up the paper, separating the marker's pigment.
If you're growing your own cannabis or obtain your cannabis from a source that doesn't test it, there are few potency testing methods you can use. If you live in a legal state, you may be able to have a commercial lab perform potency testing, but this method is very expensive if you plan on testing multiple samples.
Potency tests can run you about $50 per test. These techniques can provide potency testing in minutes with a sample of about 1.5 grams of flower.
If you don't want to pay a testing lab to perform potency testing, you can choose from an array of at-home testing kits available online.
While these methods aren't as precise as results from labs that use hi-tech testing equipment, they can provide a nearly accurate estimate of how much THC and CBD is in your sample. They are an affordable option if you require information about the cannabinoid concentration of your flower, extract, or edible.
Five At-Home Cannabis Potency Testing Kit Options
Home testing kits usually require a very small sample of cannabis (about 1 gram). A test fluid is applied to the cannabis sample. Afterward, the solution is shaked and you must wait for a few minutes to allow the solution to change color.
After a few minutes, you can compare the color with the included reference chart. The reference chart will give you a range of potency instead of an accurate calculation.
Some advanced home testing options use thin layer chromatography to obtain results. This process is a little bit more technical and may require some trial-and-error. A smaller sample (about 0.1 gram) is mixed with a test fluid. Then, the sample is applied to a glass plate, which is placed in a separate container with additional test fluid.
Fluid travels up the plate and separates cannabinoids based on their chemical properties. You can determine the cannabinoid potency based on the color and order of the cannabinoids. When the plate is dry, a dye is applied to show the colored spots. A reference chart allows you to compare the size of your spot and determine its potency.
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Here are five home testing kit options to look into:
- Alpha-Cat Regular Testing Kit uses 0.1 grams of a sample to provide a cannabinoid profile of plants, oils, tinctures, extracts, and edibles.
- MyDx CannaDx Sensor & Analyzer is one of the most robust at-home testing options. This cannabinoid sensor can detect THC, CBD, CBN, and over 20 terpenes. In addition, a compatible app allows you to learn about a strain’s effects based on crowdsourced consumer feedback and the company’s lab-tested chemical database.
- Cannalytics Supply offers a wide range of testing kit options to test THC and CBD content of concentrates, oils, flowers, and edibles. It's most affordable option, the 16/20 kit comes with 20 cannabis tests and uses the principles of thin layer chromatography (TLC) to determine the product's potency.
- CB Scientific’s Test 4 Detection Kits can detect THC or THC and CBD at the same time in cannabis buds, extracts and oils, and edibles.
- TLC Lab Supply’s CTK Test Kit uses thin layer chromatography to determine the potency of your product.
Testing kits can be an affordable way for growers and users to quickly determine potency within a range. However, some of the THC testing kits can only determine the cannabinoid content up to a certain percentage. If your product has a higher potency than the test can handle, you won't be able to get accurate results.
How to Test For Cannabis Potency Final Thoughts
States don't have any strict regulations about how chemicals in marijuana are measured. But it is still important to have measurements for the sake of the consumer, especially as it relates to safety and quality.
Knowing the potency of your cannabis products can help you accurately dose without “greening out.” Determining an accurate dose can also help medical patients maintain a predictable and effective treatment.
If you want to learn more about cannabis potency tests and the cannabis industry in general, enroll in the Cannabis Training University's marijuana growing classes today!