In a recent rule change, two-thirds of California marijuana labs are now unable to test marijuana flower and non-infused pre-rolls, according to state regulators. Only 12 labs are currently compliant with the standardized methods for testing THC potency, as mandated by a new state law. The hope is that this standardization will address the longstanding issue of THC potency inflation in the industry. While the new rules will not immediately impact the THC content listed on retailers’ inventory, they are expected to have a positive long-term effect on the integrity of the market. Critics argue that potency inflation is a problem in all regulated markets, and California may be at the forefront of cracking down on it.
California Marijuana Labs Cannot Test Flower
Less than one-third of California’s 37 licensed cannabis testing laboratories are currently able to test marijuana flower and non-infused pre-rolls due to recent rule changes. The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) has reported that only 12 labs are compliant with the new state law that requires standardized methods for testing THC potency. Labs that tested flower without being in compliance may face consequences from the agency. This new regulation aims to address the longstanding issue of THC potency inflation in the market, which many industry insiders believe has been inadequately addressed by state regulators.
New Rules for 2024
Starting January 1, 2024, new requirements for THC testing methods have been put in place. These requirements were established by legislation signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom in 2021. The DCC was tasked with developing a standardized testing method for labs to use, and only labs that submitted a verification report attesting to their compliance with the new method by October 31 can currently test flower and non-infused products. The DCC has published a list of labs that have submitted verification reports. Labs that did not submit the report can still test edibles, concentrates, and infused pre-rolls.
Despite the new regulations, some non-compliant labs have continued testing flower and non-infused pre-rolls. This has caused these products to become “locked” in the state’s track-and-trace system, which monitors the cannabis supply chain. The DCC is currently reviewing verification reports and working with licensees who have submitted them. Once the verification reviews are completed, labs will be able to test for flower and non-infused flower products. However, it remains unknown if these ineligible products will be allowed for sale.
The demand for high-potency products puts pressure on labs to present high THC results, as retailers are reluctant to purchase products that won’t be popular with consumers. Some labs that refuse to inflate or adjust results are calling for stricter consequences for labs that engage in unscrupulous practices. There is uncertainty about whether standardized testing methods will effectively resolve the potency-inflation problem.
Calls for Stricter Consequences
Many in the industry are supportive of consequences for labs that inflate THC potency results. In regulated markets across the country, there is a problem with potency inflation, with licensed dispensaries selling flower and concentrate products that advertise THC percentages that are botanically impossible. Stricter consequences for labs that engage in this practice could help address this issue. However, it remains to be seen how the resolution of the potency-inflation problem will unfold.
Impact on the Market
The implementation of standardized testing methods for THC potency is expected to have a potentially beneficial impact on the integrity of the cannabis market. By making it harder for labs to inflate results, these methods aim to prevent cheaters from manipulating THC content. This could result in more accurate and reliable information about THC potency for consumers. However, it is yet to be determined how these standardized testing methods will affect the listed THC content on retailers’ inventory of regulated cannabis products.
Current Enforcement and Punishment
As of now, there have been no cases of discipline or punishment resulting from random testing. The DCC has begun randomly testing products pulled from cannabis retail shelves at state laboratories. The goal is to identify product makers or labs that provide THC numbers that significantly differ from state-directed lab testing. However, no disciplinary action has been taken yet. The DCC will evaluate the compliance of labs based on verification reports and COAs (Certificates of Analysis) along with Metrc data.
Critics and Concerns
Potency inflation is a problem in regulated markets, and California’s market is no exception. Critics argue that the inflated THC percentages advertised for flower and concentrate products are misleading for consumers and undermine the integrity of the legal cannabis industry. Standardized testing methods aim to address this issue by providing more accurate information about THC content. However, there are concerns about the impact of these methods on the cannabis market and whether they will resolve the issue completely.
California’s Cannabis Market
California has the largest regulated cannabis market in the United States, with annual marijuana sales exceeding those of all of Canada. With more than $5 billion in sales, it is a significant player in the industry. The implementation of standardized testing methods in California could set a precedent for other jurisdictions in cracking down on potency inflation. The state’s efforts to address this issue may help improve the integrity of the overall cannabis market.
Industry Hopeful for Change
There is hope within the industry that standardized testing methods will finally address the longstanding problem of potency inflation. By providing accurate and reliable THC potency information, these methods could help create a more transparent and trustworthy market. This could benefit both consumers and businesses by ensuring that products are accurately labeled and meeting regulatory standards.
Next Steps for Labs
The DCC is currently reviewing verification reports submitted by labs attesting to their compliance with the standardized testing method. Labs that have submitted these reports will be able to resume testing flower and non-infused products once they are found to be in compliance. The department is actively working with licensees to complete the verification reviews. It is essential for labs to comply with the new regulations to ensure the integrity of the testing process and the accuracy of THC potency information for consumers.