Potency Inflation In The Cannabis Industry
The integrity of cannabis lab testing data is at risk in the race for the highest THC potency.
Potency inflation is rampant throughout the cannabis industry despite efforts to combat it.
Incentives to inflate THC-potency numbers have made it difficult for consumers to trust cannabis product labels.
Some growers are choosing to go to labs that give out higher levels of THC–lab shopping–which is worsening the problem, Cannabis Business Times reports.
Many are now speaking out about the severity and extent of potency inflation, a problem that persists despite state-level efforts to stop it.
There have been many efforts to combat potency inflation, however, to no avail. Potency inflation continues to be a rampant issue in the cannabis industry.
Ben Rosman, CEO and co-founder of PSI Labs, has continuously called for standardized regulations to tackle the problem of potency inflation. THC inflation causes more compounding issues within the industry.
Rosman states, “It’s highly problematic,” and “It’s everywhere.”
Potency Inflation In The Cannabis Industry: Lab Shopping
PSI Labs has opened labs in Michigan and California to provide reliable, transparent, and accurate data for cannabis testing.
Rosman stated that companies are choosing labs based on which one will provide the highest number. It’s called “lab shopping.” Companies select the labs with the highest “grades.”
He continues, “You get these extraordinary strains that have 27% potency. And they think that’s subpar because they’re expecting to see 35% or 40%, which is, you know, almost Guinness Book of World Records. But that’s, that’s the data that they’re being delivered elsewhere. So it’s highly problematic.”
There is some flexibility in the states’ allowable THC and cannabinoid contents. Arizona has a margin of error of +/- 20%. The margin of error for cannabis products in Michigan is +/-15%. California has a margin of +/- 10%.
California-based SC Labs offers compliance and potency analysis. They also provide testing for 15 cannabinoids as well as 40 terpenoids.
Potency Inflation In Every Market
SC Labs President and co-founder Josh Wurzer states, “Potency inflation exists in every market SC Labs participates in to a different degree and, from my discussions with other lab operators and cannabis business operators, it is an issue in several other markets as well.”
Wurzer continues, “It is clearly the most pervasive in Oregon, followed by California and Colorado, and it has been that way for several years.”
“In these states you have an oversupply of lab testing coupled with a depressed cannabis market which means a lot of the labs are struggling financially which only incentivizes this type of activity.”
Wurzer adds, “Additionally, regulators in these states aren’t performing the types of monitoring and enforcement, like secret shopping, following up on complaints of suspicious activity, or auditing unusually high published cannabinoid results, that would catch labs who are giving artificially high numbers,”
It can affect the integrity of laboratory results if everyone gets a good grade. Companies often have unrealistic expectations. High expectations in the industry can cause concern for lab operators.
However, people are catching on.
Steep Hill, Arkansas, was one of the plaintiffs slapped last month with a RICO suit for allegedly inflating figures. Plaintiffs are accused of “intentionally refuse(ing) to implement reasonable production standards, instead preferring to do business with Steep Hill that regularly intentionally inflates the amount of THC in its customer’s flower.”
Legislators in California eventually addressed the issue. Senate Bill 54 required the establishment of a standard cannabinoid potency method.
Nicole Elliott, DCC Director, stated that SB 511 would give “greater integrity” to the process. However, critics pointed out that many labs already use the same methodology and know how to work around it. This won’t solve the problem of inaccurate lab results.
Rosman states there are still ways to “juke the stats” with that Bill.
Potency inflation is a pervasive issue. Lab shopping has been an issue before regarding yeast and mold. Some growers shop around for different labs that may not relay accurate information about mold and yeast levels in flower.
Potency Inflation In The Cannabis Industry: Are Consumers Too Concerned With THC levels?
There’s a myopic emphasis placed on THC by the industry. However, THC is not the only medicinal or recreational compound found in the plant.
THC is much more medicinal when it is in concert with other cannabinoids and terpenes. The cannabinoids and terpenes create a synergistic effect known as the entourage effect.
“We don’t buy alcohol based on the highest alcohol content,” Rosman adds. “That’s not how we’re shopping. And it’s similar for cannabis. Although, as consumers, we’re kind of not given the information yet so that we can be informed consumers.”
Mega potent strains out there reach THC levels as high as 30 percent. However, they are rare. When you go into a dispensary and see a shelf with THC levels over 30 percent, you should assume that the data is inaccurate.
THC Potency: Misconceptions
Genuine strains above 30 percent are rare and hard to come by. In addition, THC inflation poses a problem for the future of cannabis. Genetics are constantly being altered to increase potency, which is resulting in lower levels of other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes.
People need to shop for cannabis the way they would shop for wine– not based on a single cannabinoid.
However, the reality is that this is not a popular opinion.
Good guys always come last, at least in cannabis testing labs. This is because many companies will sacrifice the integrity and validity of their results to obtain a higher THC count by any means necessary.
“Delivering accurate potency results, especially when it comes to flower, often results in losing clients,” Adds Rosman. “But that’s all we can do. And so we talk to state legislators, we speak with our own state regulatory authority. And, you know, we, we work with our clients a lot, and we tell them going back to the great inflation example. A lot of folks are producing a quality bud. But if everyone around you is getting those A pluses, even if it’s undeservedly, so, their product is diluted, in the mix.”
Stay tuned for daily cannabis news updates at Sativa University!