In this post:
- Tests for farmers
- Tests for processors
- Tests for retailers
- Tests for tinctures
- Tests for edibles and beverages
- Tests for topicals
Laboratory testing is essential to comply with regulations; it also ensures the quality and safety of products, builds trust with consumers, and commands the highest price point. Many companies think hemp and cannabis testing is all about potency, but calculating CBD and THC content is just the beginning.
So, what tests do you need for different types of products? There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to hemp and cannabis testing, mainly due to various state regulations. But here, we break down the essential tests based on stages in the supply chain and your end-product to guarantee the quality your buyers and consumers expect.
For Farmers Who Need to Test Plants at Harvest
Hemp growers in the US must contract a state-designated third-party laboratory to test their hemp plants before harvest, to ensure that they contain less than 0.3% THC. This makes potency testing an essential part of the harvest process.
But compliance isn't the only thing farmers should consider. Consumers buy hemp and cannabis products for their therapeutic benefits, which are directly linked to the plant’s terpenes and how they synergize with its cannabinoids. Terpene profiles change from plant to plant depending on many factors, so it’s essential to test your hemp and cannabis for terpenes in order to market the full spectrum of healing compounds it contains.
If you are a farmer who is planning on selling flower, we recommend selecting a full panel test with terpenes. Why? This level of testing gives you the most significant number of options to market and sell your final product.
Processors and wholesalers will be more likely to give your product preferential treatment with a full panel + terpenes vs potency alone.
For Processors Who Need to Test Extractions
More and more consumers are seeking cannabis extractions due to their potency and ease of use. That's excellent news for processors who work hard to create quality products. It also means that testing these products is more crucial than ever. Processors certainly need to quantify the cannabinoid content to display them on product labels and so consumers can choose the extraction that best suits their therapeutic needs.
But for the health and safety of the end-user, processors also need to be sure that the solution is free from harmful trace chemicals known as residual solvents.
At ACS, We recommend that crude extractions have a full panel of safety tests run. This includes potency, residual solvents, microbiology, heavy metals, and mycotoxins. For final products, we suggest that processors choose a full panel with terpenes if terpenes are claimed on the label.
For Manufacturers of Finished Products
At ACS, we recommend full panel testing for all finished products, from hemp and cannabis flower to extractions and edibles. From pre-harvest to post-processing, harmful materials can contaminate products at every stage of the supply chain, putting consumers’ health at risk. Full panel testing + terpenes ensure that any product – whether smoked, vaped, or eaten – is safe and full of the cannabinoids and terpenes customers expect.
Many states require full panel testing, including FL, MA, LA, TX, OR, and CO. Florida has some of the strictest testing requirements. That means that manufacturers who want to sell products in the state need to conduct a full panel analysis, including testing for 67 Pesticides, more than is required by any other state.
Besides state mandates, consumers are increasingly becoming more educated about contamination risks and expect companies to prove a products’ safety before selling them. Companies who want to build trust in the market, meet this demand by conducting full panel tests and being transparent about their results through a published Certificate of Analysis (COA). ACS offers white label clients unlimited copies of their COA with brand name changes for $50 each.
For Retailers That Sell End-Products
Hemp and cannabis retailers should always ensure the products they sell have undergone complete safety testing. Many states require it, so retailers in places like FL, MA, LA, TX, OR, or CO cannot sell products unless they’ve passed all mandated tests. Retailers don't need to have the products tested themselves, but they must make sure the supplier can show proof of compliance with State mandated testing of each product.
Starting in January 2020, Florida's Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (FDACS) started regulating and inspecting facilities that prepare or sell prepackaged food, consisting of or containing hemp extract, to the end consumer. That means retailers should do their due diligence to ensure they're selling safe and compliant products, as other states could adopt similar regulations.
Recommended Tests for Tinctures
Consumers interested in cannabis and CBD tinctures worry about the purity of the products. And although CBD brands tout their products’ efficacy, the actual cannabinoid content doesn’t always match the label. While some states only require cannabinoid potency testing for tinctures, full panel safety tests help consumers feel secure about the products they buy.
The state of Florida requires full panel tests for tinctures. But keep in mind that terpene profiles can be an excellent way to help a distillate-based tincture stand out from the rest.
Tincture producers might also want to consider niche tests like flavonoids to show off every healing compound that makes their products stand out from the rest. Tinctures that do not contain flavonoids or terpenes, like isolate-based tinctures, don't need these additional tests as they are not applicable.
Recommended Tests for Edibles and Beverages
As the cannabis edibles industry grows, producers continue to expand their creative boundaries, offering foods and beverages with enticing flavors and potent qualities. Edibles and drinks also make it easier for consumers to control their dose, which attracts many people who don’t have as much experience with hemp and cannabis.
As such, consumers expect to get the correct dosage stated on the label and a safe and clean product. That's why ACS recommends complete, full panel tests for all edibles and beverages.
While many states only require potency tests for edibles and beverages, others require full panel testing. So, if companies want to sell products nationwide, they need to take this extra step. Another test to consider is flavonoids, as they are prevalent in edibles and may offer additional therapeutic benefits.
Recommended Tests for Topicals
Topicals are one of the most used cannabis and hemp products and the most significant grey area for testing regulations. Potency analysis is required for topicals, but beyond that, the remaining tests are up to the regulatory agency for each State.
At ACS, we think all companies should confirm their topical product is free from contaminants that could harm someone once absorbed into the skin. Terpene tests are also an effective marketing tool to inform customers of other active ingredients in the product that could deliver nourishing, anti-aging benefits.
No matter the type of product or production stage, all hemp and cannabis products must be tested. The particular requirements may vary slightly from state to state, but keep in mind that compliance isn't the only reason to conduct tests. As the industry grows, consumers are looking for labels that offer more information than just cannabinoid potency.
They are looking for QR codes that link to COAs showing the results of full panel safety tests. They’re also looking for terpene content to enhance the products’ therapeutic profile. Companies who want to stand out in a competitive market while demanding a high price need extensive laboratory testing to ensure their products exceed safety and quality standards.