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Knowing how to read a CBD flower lab report is important when it comes to making sure that you’re buying good quality flower. In fact, we wouldn’t advise that you buy any CBD product at all, without first checking out the product or company’s third party lab reports.
Also known as a certificate of analysis (COA), the lab report breaks down exactly what is in the CBD that you’re buying, as well as what isn’t.
Understanding the importance of these lab reports and knowing how to read them will empower you to make well-informed buying decisions when it comes to any and all CBD products, including smokable flower.
- The Importance of Lab Reports
- Reading the Lab Results
- THC Percentage
- What is tested
- The Need for Pro-Active Purchasing
The Importance of Lab Reports
As you may or may not already know, CBD flower comes from the hemp plant, which was legalized at a federal level as part of the Hemp Farming Act in the December 2018 Farm Bill.
Unfortunately, despite the legalization, the market remains unregulated by the FDA, meaning there is still no real quality control on CBD products that hit the consumer market.
What this means for the unsuspecting customer, is that what you think you’re buying may differ quite dramatically from you’re actually buying.
The reason the product should be tested by a third party is that the company carrying out the testing has no financial interest in your buying decision.
Verifies Cannabinoid Content
Firstly, the cannabinoid content that is supposed to be in the CBD flower, bottle, or cartridge, may be severely lacking.
This might mean that the product doesn’t work for you in the way you want it to and we have no doubt that poor results may put people off trying CBD again in the future.
A third party lab report will verify exactly what cannabinoids are present in the product (including CBD and THC), including the quantities of each.
Verify Product Purity
Secondly, the product could contain substances that will be harmful to your health, such as heavy metals, mold and chemical pesticides. Hemp is a remarkable plant that is often used in bioremediation, to help clean the land in which it’s planted, after the soil has been polluted from industry.
That’s why It’s extremely important that the CBD flower you buy is sourced from hemp grown on clean and arable farm land.
If it’s not obvious where the hemp flower was grown (homegrown right here in the U.S. is ideal!), then it’s vital that you see evidence of product purity.
Otherwise, all those nasty pollutants may ultimately end up in your lungs and bloodstream.
Setting the Standards
Luckily, the more reputable companies in the business have taken it upon themselves to provide third party lab reports that prove their products are clean and true to their claims, in terms of content and potency.
These standards have been “borrowed” from the legal medicinal marijuana industry, to offer the same transparency practices that must be adopted in that marketplace as a legal requirement.
Reading the Lab Results
Each CBD flower strain that is sold should come with its own unique lab report. Once you’ve found the lab report of the CBD flower you want to buy, you can begin to decipher it.
Lab reports will vary in their layout, depending on which independent laboratory conducted the screening, but the vast majority begin with the cannabinoid profile of the flower.
Each section will be labelled to tell you what was screened for and then will display the results below.
It’s important that this testing is carried out by reputable third party laboratories, so that you can be sure that the company carrying out the testing has no financial interest in the product you’re considering buying.
Please note that only the total Delta 9 THC needs to be below 0.3%. That does not mean that the total THC (THC-A, Delta 8-THC, THC-V) needs to be below 0.3%.
The cannabinoid profile and the presence of heavy metals and pesticides are the most common test results you’ll see on COA’s.
The cannabinoid profile of a lab report will show you exactly what cannabinoids are present in the flower, a well as in what quantities.
Total cannabinoids vs CBD % and THC %
The total cannabinoids will usually appear at the bottom of the results, or the number may be highlighted off to one side.
This number tells you the percentage of all cannabinoids present in the flower, which is important because of a phenomenon called the “entourage effect”, in which the sum of the plant is greater than its parts.
The two most well-known cannabinoids you should look out for are CBD and THC, making sure the CBD content matches the product claims and that the delta 9 THC (or Δ9-THC) is below 0.3%, as required by law.
You’ll also be able to see if there are significant quantities of lesser known cannabinoids, such as CBG, CBC, and CBN, as well as raw, acid forms of cannabinoids like CBDa, THCa and CBGa which, when heated, will convert into CBD, THC, and CBG respectively, through a process known as decarboxylation, when smoked.
In the amounts section of the results, you’ll often see ND listed. The ND stands for “none detected”, which means there wasn’t a significant enough amount of that particular cannabinoid to register.
Presence of Heavy Metals
This section of the report is much shorter and shows the results of testing for heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead (usually in that order). The final column of each result should contain the word “PASS”, to show that the levels detected are within allowable and safe limits.
Presence of Pesticides
These test results will confirm that you won’t be breathing in any harmful pesticides that may have been used in the cultivation of the hemp flower. Premium quality hemp will always be grown in farms that utilize organic farming methods.
Unfortunately, even samples that have been grown organically may contain trace amounts of pesticides that have infiltrated the plant from the air and water (that can’t be helped), but the word “PASS” will signify that the flower is clean and safe to smoke.
You may also see an asterisk at the end of a column, which (check with the fine print) should signify that “no recovery was observed”.
Percentage to Milligrams
For most other CBD products, the CBD content is stated as an absolute number in milligrams (mg).
To calculate the percentage in mg you can use this “simple” calculation.
Let’s take a 1 gram pre roll with 15.6% CBD to start with.
1g = 1000mg | 15.6% CBD
1000 x 0.156 = 156mg
But what if the pre roll is .75 grams?
.75g = 750mg | 15.6% CBD
750 x 0.156 = 117mg
Less Commonly Screened
The laboratory may also have screened for terpenes, microbials and mycotoxins.
If tested, the moisture content of the CBD flower will oftentimes appear at the bottom of the cannabinoid profile of the strain. Flower that hasn’t been cured properly will be prone to either drying out too much and losing potency, or development of mold and mildew if it’s too wet.
The terpene profile describes the various essential oils that can be naturally found in hemp flower and the hemp terpenes contained within each flower strain determine how the flower will taste and smell. They also contribute their own unique therapeutic properties, as well as enhanced, synergistic benefits, that can again be felt due to the entourage effect, briefly mentioned previously.
Interpreting this section of the lab report is pretty straightforward, showing the presence and quantity of each terpene in parts per million (PPM) or weight percent.
If a lab report contains a section labelled “microbials”, then it shows the flower has been tested for the presence of bacteria, viruses, and funghi, such as yeast and molds, E-coli, and salmonella.
The results should state “none detected”.
Mycotoxins are harmful substances that can be produced by fungus and molds. Again, the status for all mycotoxins listed should read “PASS” in the end column.
Other Types of CBD Products
If you’re buying any other CBD products, aside from flower, then the company may also provide you with solvent residue screening. CBD is commonly extracted using chemical solvents and this type of screening will ascertain how much solvent residue has been detected in the end product.
The Need for Pro-Active Purchasing
Until the CBD market is regulated it’s down to you, the customer, to be more proactive when it comes to making well-informed purchasing decisions.
If a company doesn’t offer COA’s for all of its products, then you should stop to ask yourself, why not? The ever-increasing CBD flower market offers you a lot of choice, so there’s no reason to settle for a company or product that doesn’t provide, at the very least, proof of cannabinoid content and potency.
Here at Green Unicorn Farms, we hunt down the most premium smokable hemp, containing rich and diverse cannabinoid profiles, from only the most experienced, organic farmers in the U.S. All of our strains are tested for their content and potency, as well as their moisture content, which proves that the flower has been cured properly.
Green Unicorns are hard to find, but we’re committed to hunting them down for your smoking pleasure.