#3- Testing Lab Requirements 101
Intro: This is Cannalaw Connections where we connect you with the legal, scientific, and financial experts of the California Cannabusiness industry brought to you from Los Angeles California Evergreen Law proudly presents Cannalaw Connections posted by California Cannabusiness attorney Chris Hoo.
Chris: Hello everyone, and welcome to Cannalaw connections. I'm your host Chris Hoo. Today we're having a very special episode of Cannalaw Connections live here at WeWork off of La Brea Hollywood in Hollywood, California. And we're going over everyone's favorite topic testing lab requirements. So, what are the testing labs testing for? That's what we're learning today at Cannalaw Connections.
Let's get started. So, like I said my specialty is testing labs and manufacturers. I have clients that are all types in the entire chain, but that's where I specialize in. We're going to talk today about what the testing labs are testing for, alright? Because this is brand new territory, we've never had testing requirements before for cannabis products. So, let's get right into it.
Okay, so quickly, what are they testing for, just a list. Homogeneity, cannabinoids, residual solvents, and processing chemicals, pesticides, microbial impurities, mycotoxins, water activity and moisture content, filth foreign material, heavy metals, and terpenes. Okay, that's the most boring list you're going to see. I'm going to go through all of these, all ten of these what these mean. But that's what they're required. The one thing you should note is that terpenes are not required, they are only required if you are claiming them. So, I was talking to Christine earlier before about you see all the time people are saying, "Oh yeah, there's this kind of terpene, or this kind of terpene in our product." Now they're going to verify it. So, all this verification is going to come from the testing lab. They look at what you're claiming on your label, and then they're going to test for it. And one of the things, the only one that's option is terpenes. So, if you're claiming a certain terpene, you're going to have to prove it at the lab now. But besides that, one through nine, those are all required.
Okay, number one homogeneity:
Homo means same, so homogeneity just means it's evenly distributed throughout the product. This is specifically for edibles, so these my edible emojis. But they're going to take your cookie, or your candy bar and they're going to test it to make sure TCH is evenly distributed throughout the product. The example here that I pulled from the internet just think of it like if this candy bar was cut into ten pieces, if you randomly took a sample, ten percent of it, a corner of it, it should not have more than twenty percent TCH. That's what in an ideal world it be, twenty percent, right? Because- Sorry, ten percent, because it's ten pieces in the bottle, in the bar. The standard deviation that you're allowed to deviate from in the regulations is ten percent. So, this is could actually be, in an ideal world, it would be ten percent, right? But it's allowed to be zero percent to twenty percent, if that makes sense, right? That's considered within the standard deviation.
So, when you get your products, the labs are going to be testing flower, inhale product, right? And they're also testing manufacturer product. And when you send it to the lab they send back a COA, a certificate of analysis, and it's a complete report of all the things they tested for, and the results. And it's either a pass or not pass pretty much. And I'm going to tell you how you pass each of them. So, this one you pass if it's within ten percent, plus or minus, okay? Any questions about homogeneity? Okay, just remember homo means same.
Question: Oh, what if let's say, or rather, how many pieces of the candy bar will they test? Like for example, you have a piece that's lower than the standard deviation, but that's a one off compared to the rest of your bars.
Chris: You're only taking a sample. So, if this sample is off by ten percent, that's it, it fails. Makes sense? So, if this, yeah, if this has no THC at all, this ten percent has no THC it's going to fail. If it has twenty-one percent THC it's going to fail. It has to be within ten percent of what it's supposed to be. That's the standard deviation. Good question. Yeah, any other questions about homogeneity? Okay. So, that's for edibles, candies, all that. These are the few terms I'm going to try and pronounce because I should not pronounce these but these are the
cannabinoids that they're testing for:
So, you've seen the products that claim we have THC only, or we have CBA only, or we have CBD only, right? Well, now you have to actually prove it. And like I said, same thing, they just compare with the label. Whatever you are claiming on the label it has to be true now, and they're going to issue that pass or fail on the certificate of analysis. [05:18] So, what is it? THC is tetrahydrocannabinol THC is tetrahydrocannabinol acid, CB is Cannabidiol, CBD is cannabidiol acid, CBG is cannabidiol, and CBDN is cannabidiol. I can pronounce those. Yeah, but like I said if you're claiming these on your label, they're going to test it. You have to on the label- Sorry, on the label and also in the testing lab you have to present it as a percentage, and also as a milligram per gram. So, you're going to show if it's a ten-milligram candy bar this is the percent that has this percent of THC this percent CBD etc., etc. Any questions about cannabinoids? No questions about cannabinoids? Okay.
Alright, residual solvents, and processing chemicals:
So, I'm not going to try and read all of these. I'm not going to try it all, but the ones that are underlined and they're italicized, those ones you cannot have them at all in the product, alright? So, you detect it at all, it fails. All the other ones, those ones, they have certain action levels. So, it depends if it's being inhaled, or it's being eaten through an edible, but they have a certain action level that's acceptable, alright? These are also- This is also one of the few things that can be rehabilitated. Rehabilitation just means that if it fails one of the test you can actually take it back to a lab, or take it to a rehabilitation center and mix in more cannabis, and dilute it basically and make it so it goes beneath the action levels and that way you can set it back and it will pass, okay? That's actually really unique in California, all the other states they just wasted all their product. You failed the testing lab, you start out, you have to waste it. In California we're trying more economical more environmentally friendly and if we can rehabilitate some of these we will. But like I said, that first six, you cannot have any trace amount at all in the product. The other ones there's action level. Yeah, and again, those are also in, they're measured in unit for milligram per gram. Any questions about those? Residual solvents? Processing chemicals? Okay, cool.
Alright, next, pesticides:
I'm not going to try to name them all either, but there's two categories of pesticides that they test for. There is category one, which is all twenty-one of those. And those are the ones that- Sorry, I wrote this down. These ones are exactly. Okay, again, category one through twenty-one cannot be detected at any level, okay? So, once it's in there it fails. There's forty-forty other pesticides that are in category two that again they have detection levels, they have action levels. So, if it's below a certain action level in inhalables or in edibles, it will pass, it can still pass, alright? So, I know it sounds kind of funny, but there are acceptable amounts of pesticides, right? And these levels are based off of recommendations from the environmental protection agency, etc., etc. They are very well studied recommendations. And again, they are going to be reported on the COA, the certificate of analysis from the testing lab. And again, in milligrams per gram. Okay? Any questions about pesticides, category one/two? No questions on that.
Question: So, if any of these pesticides are detected, can it be similar to the chemicals where you can go and try to cure it? Or does it automatically get wasted?
Chris: I know it sounds funny because the only thing that you can rehabilitate are pesticides and residual solvents. Does that make sense? So, because they give you that option of detectability like the action levels it means that it's kind of easy, you just mix in more product, you mix in more cannabis to dilute it so it goes below the action level. And I'm glad you're asking about the rehabilitation because that's actually a niche that I think is going to be underserved. I think if you're interested in rehabilitating cannabis flower you should look into like making a company like that because I've had a lot of questions about that rehabilitation, that's going to be a very big business I think. Yeah. Yeah, good question. Any other questions about rehabilitation, pesticides, action levels? [10:13] Alright. Cool. All these action levels and their detection levels, they're all in the regulations as well. I didn't want to bore you with the numbers.
Okay, number five is microbial impurities:
So, I'm not even going to bother trying to pronounce these, but these are ones that if they detect it within one gram in the flower and/or in the edible then it fails automatically. This is one of those automatic fail things if they detect it you fail. Not detected in one gram, that's how little can be in there. And micro toxins, mold that's what it is. I was talking to Ryan about a lab, a new lab in the valley she took a tour of it. Yeah. CannaSafe? Good, good. Yeah, so I checked out Steel Hill in Burkley, and in the Valley and they had featured dishes like this that like this exploded after just one day. So, I think they did a study on the cannabis flower in Oregon and they found like ninety-percent would fail under the required testing action level for pesticides and for micro toxins. So, good, good thing we're testing for these things.
Alight, again, it's going to be on your COA, your certificate of analysis, and it's going to be reported in micrograms per gram, and it cannot be rehabilitated, okay? So, again, the only thing that you can rehabilitate is the residual solvents and the pesticides because they have certain actionable levels, these they don't have action levels, you just can't have it. The action level is zero. Yeah. Any questions about that? Micro toxins? Nope? Okay.
Water activity and moisture content:
So, both in the flower and in the edibles, they want to see how much water is in there. These are the levels that are passable. You can pass under this. So, these aren't rehabilitatable either because it's water. But yeah, they do it for flower and for edibles, yeah. Anybody here have experience with moisture content? Water? Moisture? Nothing like that? Yeah, it's real interesting because this right here, this is called water activity that's how you pronounce it. And it's basically vapers, they compare vaper movements against each other and that's how they get this number. Yeah. Cool.
Okay, filth and foreign material:
This is pretty- We can all do this, you don't need to go to a testing lab to do this. They actually have to physically look at the cannabis and take a look at it, and the same thing for the edibles, they're supposed to look at it, exam it. Okay, you're supposed to do this before the homogeneity test for obvious reasons. The homogeneity test is assuming everything else is okay. This should really be the first test you perform because it's visual. It's visual, does it smell? Does it have rat you-know-what in it? Okay, and there's actual detectable levels, there's acceptable levels of foreign material. If you look over here you can have a little bit of sand, you can have a little bit of mold, you can have a little bit of rodent hair. A little bit is okay, yeah, it's true. [Chuckle] And again, these are all recommendations from the CDA, from the California Manufacturers Association, these are all recommendations. So, if anything actually the pesticide detection levels there's supposed to be a thousand, or ten thousand times lower than others- Sorry, higher more sensitive than other States. So, we're actually accepting less pesticides, less residual solvents then other States, we're being overly cautious supposedly. That's what I've heard some people, some of my clients who are testing lab people who have been doing it for years, they say we're being overly cautious, we're going to over-regulate it. So, we'll see. Okay, any questions about mold? Foreign material? No? Okay.
Okay, heavy metals:
Again, action levels are measured in micrograms per gram. And the first one is like- Sorry, the first number is for inhalable the second one is for edibles, okay? [15:13] So, this is the action level that is acceptable for inhalables, and this is the number that is acceptable for edibles. Heavy metals, cadmium, lead, arsenic, mercury, there's acceptable levels for these things as well. Any questions about metals, heavy metals? You have a question about it?
Question: Besides arsenic, why would it be that the edible levels are allowed to be higher?
Chris: I don't know why. These are just recommendations that the state adopted. I can't answer why. There is, actually, if you do have questions about the regulations they do have a statement of reasons that goes along with the regulations that if you have a weekend free if you just feel like reading it, go ahead and read it, but they don't answer all the questions. Usually when they give a detection level, they just say this is recommended by the department of pesticides, or yeah, the EPA.
Okay, and last one, terpenes:
Like I said, not everyone is claiming terpenes, but if you are claiming terpenes then they're going to test for it, they're going to call you out on it basically. They're not going to allow you to have a bs label anymore that's the rule. So, they'll do a terpene profile for you. And it's going to be more expensive, but again, same thing. They're going to give you a certificate of analysis, it's going to tell you where the lab is, what they tested for, who tested it, and if you claim terpenes, what your terpene profile looks like. Anybody work with terpenes before, or are familiar with the profiles? I know there's another meetup for like terpene training and they basically teach bud tenders how to smell terpenes and recommend them and talk to clients about it as well because terpenes are actually what affects you or affects the cannabis product more so than anything else. So, a lot of times people who are talking, "I felt really, really hungry." Or, "I felt really, really like upbeat, or really sleepy." That's usually the terpene profile. It's not usually because it's CBD or TCH, it's usually the terpene profile. Yeah, so, it's really interesting I went to the terpene training as well, it's really interesting, but most of the strong smells that you know and love and are totally recognizable right away they are usually as terpene. Like lemon is a terpene, and pine is a terpene as well, and so is lavender. So, yeah, check out [17:45] Meetup.com, really exciting way to get involved with the community is you go into these workshops and meeting terpene nerds. Yeah. Any questions about terpenes? The terpene profile how it's tested? Okay, yeah, question?
Question: this next question is coming from a lady who has a question about manufacturing. And she was asking how big the batches have to be when they are tested. And she was talking about having a batch of one, two, or three, and should they be testing all three together. The answer is-
Chris: There's the minimum, the maximum a sample can be, the size the sample can be that it has to have one sample taken to be tested. Does that make sense? So, for flower, it's ten pounds, it's ten pounds per flower. So, each ten pounds of flower has to be tested. I don't know what it is exactly for batches of cookies, or edibles, but there is a maximum it can be, but it's not necessarily going to be every batch has to be tested, but if all your batches match up to the maximum amount like those three then one of that sample can be taken of those three. Yeah. But yeah, it's a minimum- It's a maximum size that the sample can be that they're going to take from. Does that make sense? Okay, yeah. Yeah. Anything else?
Testing labs, do you know who arranges the testing labs? It's the distributors. So, the distributors are the ones who communicate between the testing labs and the manufacturers, the growers, they're the ones who arrange the testing. Yeah. And that's also part of the track and trace system. I don't know if you're familiar with the track and trace system but it's a electronic system that the State tracks the product the entire time, and that's also part of testing labs as well. So, when it's at the testing lab, all the information is implemented into the track and trace system the State always knows where the product is, and what the results were. So, when you get a copy of the COA, the certificate of analysis, also the State does. There's going to be very little paper exchanged in the regulations they talk about paper being exchanged a lot, but that's not going to be reality. Most people are not going to be dealing with paper, it will be all electronic. [20:07] Yeah. Anything else?
Question: Actually, well, what would you suggest to, you know, possible cooking manufacturer, edible manufacturer, in order to properly meet all of the requirements including turpentines?
Chris: Right, right. So, if I wanted to take the easy way, I wouldn't even claim terpenes, right? Remember terpenes are optional? So, I wouldn't even claim it. If I'm just giving the information, or I'm trying to advise potential manufacturers about how to be in compliance with all this in the future, just start off knowing that exactly what the requirements are, right? You know you're going to have to send it to the testing lab, you know it's going to be tested for homogeneity, you know for pesticides, you know for residual solvents. Just talk to a lawyer, talk to your compliance officer at your business, but they're going to be able to let you know, okay, let's just start from the beginning, we're going to start manufacturing under the rules with the expectation that we're going to pass testing. Yeah, testing cannabis, like a lot of things, cannabis doesn't have the best reputation to put it lightly. There have been horror stories of testing labs being bought and being able to sell results. That's terrible, that's bad, but that's just part of the legitimization of the industry. There's going to be bad apples, and they have their reputation, that's just becoming more legit is having real results, [21:37] results, you know, no bs and no buying results. Yeah. Any other questions? Cool. Okay, well thanks a lot for coming, and stick around eat some more food. Let's talk and get to know each other better. And like I said we're here every first Tuesday of the month. Cool, thank you.
Chris: Alright, well that wraps it up for tonight. Thank you so much everyone for coming. And like I said, we're here every first Tuesday of the month from 6:30 to 8:00 here at WeWork in Hollywood. And every week it's the same format, we have some great food, we talk to people, make some great connections, and ask a lot of questions. If you're able to make it out next time make sure to check us out on Meetup.com, or you can go to our website evergreenlaw.co to checkout about the meetup and get some more information, check out some frequently asked questions. You can also contact me Chris Hoo, I'm an attorney and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks a lot everyone, have a great night.
Outro: Thank you for listening to Cannalaw Connections. To hear more and read the show notes from this episode head over to evergreenlaw.co/podcast.