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Post: Lab tests show THC potency inflated on retail marijuana in Colorado

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Lab tests show THC potency inflated on retail marijuana in Colorado

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) Cannabis flower sold in Colorado claims to contain much more tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, than it actually does, according to my findings published in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One.

THC is the psychoactive compound that is derived when cannabis flower – commonly referred to as “bud” – is heated through smoking or cooking.

Why it matters

Accurate THC reporting is a linchpin for medical patients, recreational consumers and the overall integrity of the cannabis industry. Medical and recreational flower is generally the same – the difference is in testing requirements, price, taxes and purchase limits. Misleading potency information can disrupt medical dosages, misguide recreational users and erode trust in an industry striving for legitimacy .

Consumers often associate higher THC levels in cannabis flower with superior quality , potentially leading to overpayment for products that may not meet their expectations. This misconception can also create incentives for cultivators, testing labs and dispensaries to generate higher THC numbers – whether through cultivation techniques or through testing fraud.

Additionally, testing for toxins, pesticides and total yeast and mold can also fall victim to falsification. Recent reports reveal instances where labs in New York and other states have passed products that should have failed. This casts doubt on the credibility of the broader testing processes in place.

How I did my work

I gathered a total of 23 cannabis flower samples from 10 dispensaries across the northern Colorado Front Range, which includes Denver, Fort Collins and Garden City. The samples encompassed 12 strains, including indica, sativa and hybrid types, and varied in reported THC values. Some had ranges, such as 12.8%-19.3% on the lower end and 28.07%-31.28% on the higher end, while others had single values, such as 16.4% or 17.4%.I sent the samples to a third-party testing lab that does high-performance liquid chromatography , or HPLC. HPLC is a method to separate, identify and quantify components in mixtures based on their chemical properties. It is the most commonly used method in cannabis testing to analyze cannabinoids and detect […]

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