How to Read a Cannabis Lab Report
Lab reports are one of the only tools you can use to accurately determine the safety and quality of a cannabis product you’re intending to use. As a result, learning how to read a cannabis lab report is an important skill that every cannabis consumer should develop.
In this guide, we will cover all of the different components of a cannabis lab report, providing you with tools along the way you’ll need to learn all the pertinent information about any cannabis product. By the end, you’ll know how to tell if a cannabis product is good or not with the click of a button
What is a cannabis lab report?
A cannabis lab report is a document issued by an analytics lab that provides important data pertaining to a cannabis sample. In some cases, this type of documentation is the only tool you will have as you endeavor to uncover the actual quality of a cannabis product versus how it is represented in marketing.
Why are cannabis lab reports important?
Cannabis lab reports are used by both consumers and regulators to determine the safety, purity, and quality of a cannabis product sample. Using a simple yet fine-tuned process called chromatography, analytics labs separate cannabis samples into their constituent components, weighing the mass of each after separation has been completed.
In this way, labs can find out the exact concentrations of substances present in cannabis down to almost imperceivable quantities. If there are any contaminants present in a cannabis sample, lab reports will find out. Similarly, analytics labs are capable of very accurately determining the levels of cannabinoids and terpenes present and a cannabis sample.
In the case of CBD and other cannabinoids that are usually sold online instead of through dispensaries, lab reports are even more critical since these products are not reviewed by regulators prior to sale. You’ll need to carefully review the lab report for a product you’re considering as well as fully trust the lab that issued it before you can be certain of the product’s quality and safety.
Should cannabis lab reports be independent?
Yes, independent lab reports, meaning reports issued by a lab not affiliated with the cannabis producer providing the sample, are essential. In the case of state-run cannabis programs, all testing labs are independent and free of bias. With online cannabis products, however, it’s important to look into both the company producing the cannabis and the lab that issued a report for that cannabis to make sure there aren’t any conflicts of interest.
What should cannabis labs test for?
As you stare at a cannabis lab report for the first time, how do you make sense of what you’re looking at? Below, we will list the primary categories that should have an entry on any complete cannabis lab report:
The overall concentration of cannabinoids in a cannabis sample is very important, along with the concentrations of every individual cannabinoid it includes. In any thorough cannabis lab report, every detectable cannabinoid in the sample should be listed, preferably in order of highest percentage of the overall sample to lowest.
Terpene and flavonoid potency
Often overlooked, terpenes and flavonoids are just as essential to the entourage effect as cannabinoids. It’s a sign of a good lab report and a competent issuing lab if not only terpenes but flavonoids are listed out in full. This is the only way you can determine the aroma, taste, and effects of a cannabis product before you use it.
Unless it is grown indoors, cannabis is prone to accumulating agricultural toxins due to its attributes as a bioaccumulator. Even if cannabis is grown organically, runoff and blow-over from neighboring fields can still contaminate cannabis products. For your safety, it is essential to make sure all cannabis products you use contain zero agricultural contaminants, and the only way to do so is to review an independent lab report.
If cannabis is improperly grown, processed, or stored, it can accumulate mycotoxins such as fungus and mold. Even if no mycotoxins are visible, cannabis samples can still contain dangerous levels of these contaminants, which are especially harmful to your lungs. That’s why it's so essential for cannabis labs to test samples for mycotoxins as well as other common contaminants.
With cannabis concentrates and other types of products that have been through processing, it’s possible for contaminants to accumulate during the extraction process. Thorough lab reports, therefore, also include sections covering concentrations of common processing contaminants like BHO and residual ethanol.
Reading a cannabis lab report 101
Now that you know the basic categories a lab report should cover, we’ll provide some additional details that will help you get the most out of reading a cannabis lab report:
Check the batch number
Every cannabis lab report should have a clearly labeled batch number. This number should be different for each tested product. In the event that you contact the testing lab and provide the batch number, they should be able to confirm that it is associated with the product in question.
Research the issuing lab
There are lots of cannabis labs that can pride themselves on being fully independent. Some cannabis testing labs, however, are objectively better than others. To make sure the lab report for a cannabis product you’re considering was prepared in a professional manner, ensure that the lab issuing the report can be trusted to be up-front and thorough.
Check for thoroughness
Some lab reports skim over the details or miss critical categories altogether. Even if a cannabis lab report looks great at first glance, consider digging through the whole thing to make sure nothing was missed.
If any necessary information doesn’t immediately jump out at you when reading a cannabis lab report, don’t hesitate to contact the issuing lab. Trustworthy cannabis labs train their customer service staff to be open and transparent, so even simple unwillingness to provide information might be a red flag.
The bottom line: How do you read a cannabis lab report?
Reading a cannabis lab report is as simple as checking cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid potency while also reviewing contaminant levels. It’s also a good idea to review information like batch numbers and contact information for the issuing lab in case there are any issues or concerns.
With the right knowledge, getting all the information you need out of a lab report is easy. Please view this page for a full list of Secret Nature lab reports.
Cannabis lab report FAQs
Learn more about the art of reading a cannabis lab report below:
How do you read a COA report?
To read a COA (certificate of analysis) report for a cannabis product, begin by reviewing the cannabinoid and terpene levels, and go on to ensure that levels of common contaminants are low-to-nonexistent. To make sure the report you’re reading is valid, you may also want to check the batch number or contact the issuing lab.
How do you read CBD lab results?
Reading the lab results for a CBD product is the same as reading lab results for any other type of cannabis product — except in one crucial way. The cannabinoid at the top of the list should be cannabidiol, not tetrahydrocannabinol, since CBD is the dominant cannabinoid in CBD products.