Should Patients Get their Cannabis Tested Independently?

Arizona’s mandatory cannabis testing regulations don’t take effect until November 2020. While some dispensaries voluntarily test now, not all of them do. So, what do you do if you want to know if your cannabis is clean and safe? You do have options. You can have your cannabis tested by independent labs in the state.

C4 Laboratories does allow medical cannabis patients to bring in samples for independent testing. Yes, you will have to pay for the tests.

For me personally, I prefer dispensaries that do have their products voluntarily tested. I have been sick from products at several dispensaries, and because of that, I am pickier about where I get my medicine these days.

Patient Diligence

Although it shouldn’t be the patients’ responsibility to have their medical cannabis tested – in Arizona, it’s one of the only ways to know that what you’re buying is clean and safe. While dispensaries that do voluntarily test might be a little more expensive, it’s really worth it in the end. Not all dispensaries that do voluntarily test, however, charge more.

Some dispensaries do not charge more. Some put patients over cost. Dispensaries in Arizona are supposed to be non-profit, but the cost of operation and overhead are steep.

If you have sensitivities or allergies to mold or chemicals, it’s a good idea to have your medical cannabis products tested on your own if the dispensary you visited does not.

Ask Dispensaries if they Voluntarily Test

Not all dispensaries grow their own cannabis and many do buy wholesale from others. Not all dispensaries voluntarily test their products for purity and potency, even though they should. Some only test for potency and don’t bother to test the products for contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, residual solvents, mold, other microbes and other chemicals.

If a dispensary is not voluntarily testing, it is your choice whether to make a purchase from them or not. If they do, however, carry trusted cannabis brands that do test, stick with those brands only.

Some growers and manufacturers do have their extractions and flower tested for purity and potency.

Ask Brands if They Voluntarily Test

There is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out to a brand to ask if their products are tested by a third-party, independent lab. If they do send their products and/or materials out for lab testing, ask for a copy of their most recent lab results. Also ask if those lab results are posted on their website if you don’t see them.

Not all brands have a website, but if they are being diligent and do have their products tested, they should have no problem providing you with a copy of those results.

You can also ask dispensaries to view the lab results for a specific product.

What do you Look for on Lab Results?

When you’re looking at third-party lab results, it’s important that you review every section of it.

These are the things you should be looking for:

  • The name, address and phone number of the lab
  • The certification/license number of that lab
  • Date the sample was received
  • Date the sample was tested
  • Type of sample tested
  • Size of the sample tested
  • Full cannabinoid and terpene profile with concentrations
  • Separate sections for microbes, contaminants, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and other chemicals
  • Heavy metals testing section
  • >LOQ if not an actual number representation of the results (we’ll explain LOQ below)
  • Passing of all sections
  • Certification of analysis results with a live ink signature
  • Date the results were certified
  • Name of person/s conducting the test when possible
  • Batch numbers

This seems like a lot of information, but it is very important to review every detail of a lab report. When it comes to the >LOQ, this means level or limit of quantification. This is the smallest amount of a compound, chemical or substance that a lab can or is required to test for. If it has the > (less than) symbol next to it, that means that the sample did not contain a detectable amount.

You will also see something called an action level on lab reports. An action level is the level of a chemical or substance that state regulators deem to be unsafe. So, you’ll want all of the sections showing an action level to test under those levels.

If you have any questions at all about what you’re reading on a lab result page, contact the lab directly. Do not ask the dispensary agent as they may not know what those numbers represent.

If you do have your medicine tested with C4 Labs, they will take the time to educate you about the results and what everything means. They are huge on patient education.

Should Patients Have their Meds Tested in Arizona?

Anytime you doubt whether your medicine is what it says it is or if it’s clean – yes, get it tested. Patients can take their own samples to C4 Laboratories to have them tested. All types of samples are accepted and the size of the sample you’ll need varies on the cannabis product and series of tests you want run.

I spoke with Ryan Treacy, the owner of C4 Laboratories, regarding lab testing in Arizona. He stressed that patients having their own medical cannabis products tested is vital to patients understanding what they’re putting in their bodies. It also helps them see the varying cannabinoid and terpene profiles of those products.

“Educating patients about what’s in their cannabis will help improve efficacy when it comes to treating an ailment with cannabis. Patients just aren’t educated enough,” he said.

He’s right about patients not being educated enough. When you get your cannabis card, you aren’t given a guide of the different cannabinoids and terpenes and what they do or what they help. Patients are left to fend for themselves. Some budtenders and dispensary agents do take the time to learn about the lineage of different strains, but it’s commonplace that there’s “standardized” effects associated with the different types of cannabis – sativa, hybrid and indica. This is why patients are so confused. Instead of focusing on sativa, hybrid and indica – focus on what the strain is comprised of – look at those cannabinoid and terpene profiles. If you can’t find information about a strain, how do you know if it’s going to work for you? How do you know it won’t produce negative effects? You don’t. This is why I, as a patient and industry writer, always stress how important it is to research strains and products – know what you’re putting in your bodies!

When it comes to patient cost for testing, here are some of the prices quoted by Ryan at C4 Labs:

  • Vitamin E Acetate – $50 – $60 (THC vape, CBD vape and nicotine vape)
  • Simple potency tests cost between $50 and $100
  • Tests for chemical contaminants, microbes and heavy metals range between $180 and $300

Testing is free for first responders, pediatric cannabis patients, veterans and the terminally ill at C4 Labs.

Always call C4 Laboratories prior to taking in a sample for testing as the size of the sample varies based upon they type of test/s you want conducted as well as they type of cannabis product you want to have tested. Broad analyses can requires as much as 4-5 grams while a basic analysis might only take 2 – 3 grams when it is flower. For concentrates, it can vary between ½ gram to a full gram. If you are wanting to have microbial testing done, an additional sample might be required as these must be separated before any tests can be completed to prevent contamination.

Closing Thoughts

Mandatory testing goes into effect on November 1, 2020 in Arizona. Not all dispensaries, growers and manufacturers are voluntarily testing right now. If the brand, cultivator or dispensary/ies you go to are not testing already, consider having samples tested yourself. Remember – knowledge is power, and the only way you can gain knowledge about what you’re putting in your body is through a thorough scientific analysis.

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