The cannabis industry looks radically different than it did even a few short years ago. A whole 18 states have fully legalized recreational cannabis, hemp is federally legal, and almost every region in the country has some form of medical marijuana. As the industry continues to grow, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of different products and choices available. And, with limited, and at times downright confusing, regulations, how can you be sure you’re getting a safe, high-quality product? As a cannabis consumer, your greatest asset when shopping is a COA (certificate of analysis). Not sure what that is? Don’t worry! This post will tell you everything you need to know about COAs, including where to find them and how to best use the information they contain.
What Is A COA?
COA is an abbreviation that stands for certificate of analysis. You may also see a COA referred to simply as “test results,” and that’s essentially what they are. When a cannabis company sends its products to a testing lab, the results of those tests come back in the form of a COA. A certificate of analysis typically contains two key pieces of information: purity and potency of the given product. Potency measures how much cannabinoids are actually in the tested product. This will determine the percentage of compounds like THC and CBD. Without accurate cannabinoid percentages, it’s extremely difficult for customers like you to find effective doses.
Additionally, labs can test for potential impurities or contaminants in the product. These include things like heavy metals, microbials, pesticides, residual solvents, and the presence of foreign materials — definitely stuff you don’t want in your cannabis. With a proper COA, you can feel confident that the potency listed on the label is accurate and there are no potentially hazardous contaminants present in your product.
US Laws Regarding COAs
COAs seem pretty useful, so wouldn’t the government require companies to test their products and provide those results to potential customers? The answer depends on several factors. Like almost all laws governing the sale of cannabis, testing requirements are fractured across state lines. Almost every state with legal cannabis has some form of testing requirement. However, some state regulatory boards are stricter than others.
Hemp products are another story. The 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp, which the bill defines as any cannabis plant containing less than 0.3% delta 9 THC per dry weight. This opened the door for CBD companies to legally sell hemp-derived products across the country. Despite the newfangled federal legality, the FDA has not approved any hemp-derived CBD product aside from Epidiolex for consumption and therefore doesn’t regulate the CBD industry. That means there’s no law requiring a CBD processor to lab test their products, making it extra important for CBD consumers to make sure they’re only buying CBD with COAs.
How To Get A COA For A Cannabis Product
Typically, if a cannabis company has spent the time and money to lab test their products, they’ll want that information easily accessible. You can often find it on the companies website or directly on the packaging itself. At E1011 Labs, we proudly display our COAs here on our website and on an easy-to-scan QR code located on every pack of Stems. If you’re having trouble locating a company’s COAs, you can try reaching out via email, but it may mean that the company simply elected not to test their products.
How To Read A COA
Reading a COA isn’t always simple. Here are a few key important terms that will help you better understand what you’re looking at:
- LoQ = Limit of Quantification. This is the smallest amount the test will quantify, or list.
- LoD = Level of Detection. This is the smallest amount the test can detect
- ND = None Detected
- NT = Not Tested
- CFU - Colony-Forming Units (for microbes)
Always check the COA’s header to ensure an accredited third-party lab conducted the test, and make sure the COA shows results for both potency and contaminants. Buying cannabis or CBD can feel overwhelming, but checking for a certificate of analysis is a great way to make sure you’re buying a safe and effective product.