The more legal marijuana markets there are in the country, and the more regulations there are in those markets, the bigger the business of weed testing gets. Every state has their own unique priorities and testing specs. Colorado’s weed regulators look unusually hard at pesticide use, recalling crops left and right. California has no strict quality control, but the industry itself has created its own standards, and made SC Labs results the seal of quality on a product.

Big testing firms like and SC Labs and Confidence Analytics in Washington state test for a surprisingly wide variety of contaminants. In addition to harmful fungi or bacteria like E. coli, Confidence also employs a method to predict the likelihood that a batch of bud will develop mold in the future. “They want it to be less than fifteen percent moisture by weight, which is a fairly straightforward test,” tester Beth Cantrell told VICE and The Influence in a recent article.

The labs can also determine how safe concentrates made from potentially hazardous solvents such as butane or propane are. Washington state law limits the residual alkanes (or gas content) in extracts to five hundred parts for million. Cantrell says her lab conducts that test in something called a “gas chromatography flame ionization detector device.”

Washington has some uniquely strict regulations on their cannabis. Among other things, growers are required to record and save video surveillance of every plant in their operation at all times. California is a little more lax, but might find itself with a few more regulatory T’s to cross and I’s to dot if (probably when) legalization goes through at the end of the year.

Other factors these labs are looking out for include potency and terpenes. These don’t just ensure that connoisseurs are getting the best quality dope possible. Both speak to health concerns as well. In Washington, edibles have a 10 mg limit per serving to curb less experienced stoners from taking more than they can handle.

Cantrell also explained that the terpene components of a bud don’t affect only the taste of a product, but its effect on a user’s body as well. “Each terpene affects the way you interact with the cannabinoids,” she said, “and some of the terpenes have an effect on the body in and of themselves, which would be kind of behind the science of aromatherapy—that those chemicals actually do interact with our neural network and our body and create a specific response.”

If results show up no bueno, that can be some really heavy news for the cultivator in question. In Washington, a crop that fails test standards is held off the market, though it can be processed into extract in certain situations. In Colorado, crops that fail to meet standards can be seized and destroyed.


Phot via Flickr user daddybozkeasy