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How Accurate Are Cannabis Product Lab Tests?

In every legal cannabis market in the United States lab testing is required for cannabis harvests and processing. Testing cannabis for cannabinoid levels and potential contamination is a hallmark of the regulated cannabis industry, and provides the legal industry with a distinct advantage over the unregulated cannabis market.

A team of researchers in the United States from California, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oregon, and Louisiana recently conducted an analysis of lab testing data, using lab results in the 2019-2023 year range.

“The systematic assessment of raw vegetative cannabis material, and products containing cannabinoids, by accredited analytical testing laboratories (ATL’s) is a core safety and quality assurance component of medical and recreational cannabis programs. The list of analytes examined by ATL’s include cannabinoids and terpenes as well as potentially harmful contaminants including residual solvents, heavy metals, microbials, and pesticides.” the researchers stated.

“The focus of this study was to conduct a retrospective examination of pesticide PT results from 339 PT’s collected from 2019-2023 as part of The Emerald Test™ for ATL’s in the medical/recreational cannabis industry.” the authors also stated.

“The PT data used in this study were obtained from the The Emerald Test™. The number of ATL’s participating in each PT session are as follows: Sping 2019 (47 ATL’s), Spring 2020 (41 ATL’s), Fall 2020 (36 ATL’s), Spring 2021 (43 ATL’s), Fall 2021 (42 ATL’s), Spring 2022 (56 ATL’s), Fall 2022 (36 ATL’s), and Spring 2023 (38 ATL’s). A total of 339 PT reports were used to develop the data set used in the current study.” the researchers stated about the data they incorporated into their analysis.

Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia have adopted adult-use cannabis legalization models, and several additional jurisdictions have also adopted medical cannabis legalization policies. However, not every legal jurisdiction permits legal sales of cannabis products.

The team of researchers for this latest testing analysis found that, “over a four-year period that ATL’s demonstrated an overall improvement in their ability to detect and quantify pesticides.”

“Some classes of pesticides (e.g. pyrethrins) had a significantly higher level of improvement as compared to other classes of pesticides (e.g. Neonicotinoids).” the researchers also stated.

Cannabis testing results as they pertain to THC content remains an issue in the emerging legal U.S. cannabis industry, with a November 2023 study finding that “marijuana flower sold in legal stores in four states is routinely and systematically inflated, sometimes by as much as 25% or more.”

The global cannabis testing market is projected to be worth an estimated $1.8 billion in 2024 according to a new market analysis by Markets and Markets. The testing market is projected to increase to $4 billion in value by 2029 (CAGR of 17.2%).

“The important factors impacting market growth are legalization trends and rising medical applications for cannabis. Rising approvals for medical and recreational cannabis drive the regulations requiring product safety testing which in turn fuel the need for cannabis testing services. Additionally, the rise in the number of cannabis testing labs due to legalization is propelling the demand for analytical instruments is likely to uplift market growth in coming years.” Markets and Markets stated about its analysis in a press release.

The world’s cannabis testing market is projected to increase in size by $1.5 billion by 2027 according to a separate report by Technavio, growing “at a CAGR of about 13.06%  during the forecast period.”

“The cannabis testing market encompasses a range of applications, including the detection and quantification of heavy metals and residual solvents in tinctures, salves, edibles, vape oils, raw plant materials, and novel equipment. Consumer safety and regulatory standards are paramount in this industry, necessitating stringent testing protocols.” Technavio stated in a press release.

A recent analysis by The Business Research Company estimated that the global cannabis testing market was worth roughly $2.54 billion in 2023. The researchers also estimate that the size of the global cannabis testing market will rise to $3 billion by the end of this year.