The Cactus has been preaching for some time that all patients should request lab reports before purchasing any cannabis from a dispensary. Even without knowing how to read the reports, you can filter out some products/sellers simply due to a lack of lab reports. But as more and more dispensaries have been getting their products tested in preparation for the enactment of SB 1494 this month, which legally requires testing, simply the existence of a passing lab report is not enough. We have to learn how to read them correctly in order to get the full benefit of the analysis.
Up until this point, in most cases we have trusted our budtenders to help guide us in choosing strains, but even the most intelligent budtenders may not have tried every single product with the intention of understanding it at the level required to serve the broad spectrum of cannabis patients’ needs. The best of the budtenders have been requesting and are welcoming these lab analyses, as they help them to help the patients. Thank you budtenders!
Don’t misunderstand. Lab reports should be used in conjunction with your senses, NOT in place of them. Trust your gut, you know what cannabis to consume.
Photo courtesy of Level One Labs
Why look at the labs?
For novice recreational users, there may not be much perceived need to differentiate between strains, but any patient or experienced consumer knows that all cannabis is not created equal. The differences in strains have historically been determined through self-experimentation, one finds that buds with certain physical characteristics tend to work best for them. Through sight, smell, and in the old days, touch, many cannasseurs can determine if a bud will be to their liking or not. In the dispensary age, touch isn’t allowed, so how can you tell if that bud is sticky? Potency isn’t the only reason for labs. Maybe you smoke a certain strain and find yourself feeling anxious, overtired, over excited, or just not the expected results. check the labs and you may find that the strains that make you feel that way have something in common.
Effects & Medicinal qualities
Are you using cannabis to help you sleep or to energize? Are you looking for pain relief or trying to reduce anxiety? How is it that cannabis is considered a viable medicine for all of these things, even as they seem like opposites? Because cannabis is not one species, it is an infinite genus of plants that scientists have clumsily ordered as Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. We all know that simply labeling cannabis as sativa or indica doesn’t even come close to explaining the effects that might be found when consumed. Historically, you had to smoke a joint and see what happened. With lab reports, you can compare your experience with the report and begin to find what terpene combinations, cannabinoids, THC %, CBD % that you want/need. It’s easy to smoke a bowl and say, that was exactly what I needed, but how do you replicate that experience? Look at the report and take note of what is in it: THC vs CBD content, combination and % terpenes, CBN, CBG, etc.
Did you know that you can be allergic to some of the terpenes found in cannabis? It isn’t uncommon to find that certain strains of cannabis rubbed on the skin of the forearm can produce a rash type reaction in some people. Whether or not this seems serious to you, it could have a real effect for certain patients. The cosmetic industry knows about contact allergies from terpenes, and are required to list ingredients for that reason, even though you don’t consume them directly. Smoking may not cause a reaction, but your cannabis infused skin cream could be a different story. It isn’t enough to simply label these products with a generic strain name or ‘broad spectrum,’ as this doesn’t tell you anything about the true contents.
Terpene allergies in cannabis aren’t usually very serious, but certain residual solvents, heavy metals, mold, etc can be extremely toxic, and even more so if you have a specific allergy to them. It seems like a no-brainer that cannabis should be thoroughly tested and the full results shown to the patient, not just a pass/fail.
Photo courtesy of Level One Labs
Every cannabis smoker has tasted bad weed, it can be disgusting. But what leads to that flavor? Is it something wrong with the weed or is it your personal tastes? When smoking untested cannabis, good luck figuring that out. Lab reports are going to make it much easier to identify the expected flavors in the cannabis, rather than trusting a name like Super Lemon, check the labs for limonene and other terps you expect to see. At first, this may seem daunting, but over time you’ll begin to recognize what terpenes are contributing to the flavors you find tasty. Don’t just look at the labs in the dispensary before buying, but compare them to the flavors you experience. You’ll learn what to look for sooner than you think.
How to read lab reports
Arizona Medical Marijuana Program Certified Testing Laboratories
Joseph Cassini is a writer and designer for The Cannabis Cactus Magazine. He enjoys cooking, history, and smoking cannabis outside of the city.
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