Cannabis Testing Under The Spotlight In Alaska

Cannabis testing
Image: jarmoluk

Not all cannabis testing is created equal it seems – and that can have implications for medical marijuana patients.

A laboratory comparison prepared by Alaska State Environmental Health Laboratory for the Alcohol Marijuana Control Office (AMCO) summarised the results of data validation performed on samples collected and submitted by AMCO to two testing laboratories in Anchorage.

Both labs were sent approximately half each of the same cannabis muffins,  cookie crumbs, capsules and flowers.

There were significant differences between the two labs in their reports. For example, when testing for the THC potency of capsules, one lab reported nearly double the amount of THC of the other.

In testing for the presence of Aspergillus niger (a fungus that causes black mould), there were also significant differences between positive and negative results.

Part of all the discrepancies could be down to different testing and extraction methods. For example, with regard to cannabinoid potency extraction, one lab used Agitation/QuEChERS* Salt and the other Sonication/Agitation. For the microbial test, one used plating and the other qPCR.

For products of this nature, consumers need to be assured of dosage and for those with compromised immune systems, the presence of fungus can be life-threatening.

While requiring testing is a very positive thing given the number of untested products out there, the consistency of that testing is also paramount.

Among the recommendations in the report were standardising testing procedures and follow-up audits once a lab is operational, both on a periodic and special purpose basis.

The data validation report can be viewed in full here.

Non-medical use of cannabis (i.e. adult/recreational use) has been fully legal in Alaska since 2014. People over the age of 21 may legally possess, grow and use marijuana. While individuals can give cannabis away, the only place to legally purchase it is in a state licensed recreational marijuana store.

Even prior to 2014, growing marijuana was legal under the state’s privacy laws – however, it couldn’t be taken out of the home where it was grown.

The state also has a medical cannabis program.

*QuEChERS stands for “quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, and safe”