Dec 22 2020 - 3 Min Read
Buying Cannabis: Know What You’re Getting
Testing helps ensure quality, safety and a product that’s more predictable—in a good way.
Many of us have had the “mystery cannabis” experience: You get marijuana from a friend or acquaintance. You don’t know anything about how it was grown or produced, how potent it is or how it will make you feel. There’s only one way to find out….
Obviously, this can go well or not-so-well. You might have felt too high, or nothing at all. You might have felt sick. You might have felt ripped off. (Again, we’ve been there.)
Fortunately, dispensary cannabis is much more of a known quantity—think of it as choose-your-own-adventure rather than mystery. That’s thanks to laboratory testing, which gives a wealth of important information about every cannabis product sold. You can be confident of what cannabinoids and terpenes are in your cannabis (those are compounds that cause certain effects) and whether you can expect a specific sensation, like a high or reduced pain. Even more importantly, testing tells you that your cannabis isn’t laden with stuff you definitely don’t want, such as pesticides and other chemicals.
Cannabis sold for medicinal and adult use must be tested, by law, before it is sold in a dispensary. At RISE Dispensaries, you can ask a cannabis consultant or patient care specialist to show you the test results for any of our hundreds of products, and to explain what it all means. (We love that stuff.)
On the contrary, when you buy marijuana from a neighbor or on the street, “there is no return policy. There is no go-back-and-make-it-right. You get what you get,” says Beth Whitley, an outreach specialist for RISE Dispensaries in Illinois. At RISE, “we want our adult use guests and our patients to have the experiences they’re looking for, and we can pretty accurately choose a product because we have all this testing information.”
Why Cannabis is Tested
Testing checks for chemical and biological agents that could cause health problems, such as pesticides, additives and mold. Cannabis is a plant that needs to be fertilized; professional cultivators use products that have been proven safe and effective, whereas home growers are not regulated and are left to their own devices regarding chemicals and methods, Whitley says.
Elizabeth Ardillo, PharmD, lead pharmacist for RISE Dispensaries in Pennsylvania, puts it this way: “Marijuana purchased on the black market, meaning not from a legal and licensed dispensary, is unpredictable. You don’t know what soil was used to grow it, what it might have been sprayed with or what could be mixed into it.”
These unknown chemicals can have serious health effects. One notable example happened in 2019, when thousands of people got very sick and some even died from vaping marijuana. The cause was an additive used in black market vape cartridges.
Testing also reveals the major cannabinoids in a product, namely, THC and CBD, so the cannabis label can inform the user of how potent the product is and what effects it’s likely to cause. THC is the cannabinoid associated with psychoactive effects (a high), while CBD is linked to relaxation; both have uses for pain relief and other medical issues.
For example, “is this going to stimulate you and you’ll be euphoric, or is this going to make you sleepy and relaxed, more of a nighttime product?” Whitley says.
How Cannabis Testing Works
Testing is a multi-step quality assurance process that varies from state to state, but it generally goes like this:
- Cannabis is grown in cultivation centers, where it is processed and turned into products for sale, including flower, edibles, concentrates, vape cartridges, tinctures and more.
- Each batch of cannabis is tested by an independent, licensed cannabis testing lab. The lab worker selects a random sample from each batch for testing.
- The sample undergoes an ingredient analysis to make sure it contains what’s advertised on the label (such as THC and CBD).
- The sample is checked for substances, microorganisms and compounds that can cause adverse health effects. Testing looks for pesticides, mycotoxins (toxins made by fungus), solvent residue (left over from processing) and microbiological contaminants (bacteria and mold are two examples).
- If the cannabis is turned into a product and has been processed, such as tinctures or edibles, the final product is also tested.
If the cannabis does not pass testing, it is disposed of and does not make it to the dispensary.
Buying Marijuana at Your Local RISE Dispensary
Cannabis buyers can interact with a product’s lab results as much or as little as they wish, Whitley says. Some people aren’t interested, and others want to know everything they can. If you’re in the latter group, RISE staffers would love to geek out with you over terpenes, THC/CBD ratios and other stats. “We let our guests know that if they have questions, we’re happy to pull labs and talk them through it,” Whitley says. “We want you to know what you’re getting, and also what you’re not getting.”
Find a RISE Dispensary near me, give us a call, or send us a message today.