For a certain generation of smokers, the idea of marijuana lab analysis to ensure quality and potency is fantastically futuristic. Who knew that in just a few short years, weed enthusiasts would go from smoking whatever brownish/dryish/questionably-scented eighth they could score to choosing from a wide selection of sparkling green lab-certified bud?

But cannabis analysis does more than assure you aren’t (literally) smoking crap—if you know how to read the lab results, you can adjust your purchases to reflect your personal preferences for potency, dosage, taste, and even aroma. Here’s a brief guide to understanding the cannabis lab test results that every reputable dispensary should provide upon request:

Potency

Potency testing tells you the amount of certain cannabinoids present in your weed. THC and CBD are the most commonly known cannabinoids, but there’s also THCA and THCV (different forms of THC), and CBDA, CBC, CBN, CBG and CBDV (different forms of CBD).

Potency tests are provided as percentages per weight (the most common metric) or total milligrams present. THC and CBD typically comprise 1-30% of most strains, while the lesser-known cannabinoids are usually closer to 0.01-5%. As a handy tip, the best strains have a little bit of all the cannabinoids, not just THC.

For dosage purposes, the percentage of cannabinoids is based off a 1,000 milligram amount (otherwise known as a gram). A sample with 30% THC, therefore, has 300 milligrams of THC. The percentage varies not just strain-by-strain, but depending on the product as well. Flower usually has a low percentage of THC, while edibles tend to fall under 50%, and concentrates (wax, shatter, budder) contain 50-90%.

Terpenes

If your weed has a fresh citrus taste or delightfully skunky aroma, you can thank terpenes, which are aromatic, flavorful oils that occur naturally in most plants, including marijuana. Every strain has its own unique composition of terpenes, which also contributes to the overall physiological response from the cannabinoids present. Due to the delicate nature of these oils, terpenes make up anywhere from 1-15% of flower varieties, but much less so in concentrates because the extraction process is highly destructive.

Terpene test results will give you the percentage or microgram amount—a result of 1,000 ug/g (micrograms per gram) means the terpene accounts for 0.1% of the total—along with the particular terpene type.

Some common cannabis terpenes include:

  • Myrcene: Herbal and calming, also found in hops, mango and lemongrass
  • Pinene: Woodsy and alerting, also found in pine needles, rosemary and basil
  • Caryophyllene: Peppery and stress-relieving, also found in black pepper, cloves and cinnamon
  • Limonene: Citrusy and mood-lifting, also found in fruit rinds, juniper and peppermint
  • Terpinolene: Fruity and uplifting, also found in nutmeg, cumin and lilac

Contaminants

Potency and taste are key when selecting a strain of weed, but you also want to be sure what you’re buying doesn’t contain contaminants and toxins that could seriously affect your health if ingested.

Most lab results will test for most or all of the following:

  • Chemical Residues: Such as pesticides and fungicides
  • Residual Solvents (used in manufacturing concentrates): Including as benzene, methanol and ethanol
  • Microbials: Like bacteria, fungus and mold
  • Heavy Metals: Such as arsenic, lead and mercury
  • Mycotoxins: Including aflatoxin and ochratoxin, which are just as dangerous as mold and bacteria
  • Moisture: Which measures relative humidity and the ability for bacteria, mold and fungus to grow
  • Foreign Material: Including soil, ash, dust, hair and (yes, sorry but true) fecal matter

CBD lab results

When everything from hand lotion to fruit smoothies is available with CBD added these days, professional lab analysis is more important than ever in the Wild West of CBD prevalence. But if you’re a CBD enthusiast, you’ll also want to ensure the product contains less than 0.3% THC, which is the amount that’s legal for hemp and cannabis-derived CBD products in the U.S.—anything more might affect a job-related drug test.

It’s also important to be wary of CBD products that claim to be THC-free—full-spectrum products (which are derived from the whole plant, hemp or otherwise) will always contain a minimal amount of THC, even if it’s an amount smaller than what most lab equipment can test for (look for the CBD LOQ, limit of quantitation).

Lab results for everything at San Diego’s Balboa Ave Cooperative

At Balboa Avenue Cooperative, we want you to be fully informed about the cannabis products you use, which is why we provide professional lab analysis results for all our products. If you need help reading the results, we can walk you through it. In this wonderful present-day-future of all things weed-related, no one should have to settle for sketchy, toxin-filled marijuana ever again. And at Balboa Avenue Cooperative, they never will.