How to Choose a Good Cannabis Test Lab
Testing is an important aspect of cannabis production, and some labs are more qualified for the task than others. Jodi McDonald explains what to look for in a quality testing lab.
Why is cannabis testing important? I think about this question a lot. Truth is, testing provides integrity to the cannabis industry. It is an important gatekeeper to protect consumer and patient safety, and it adds value to the tested products by building in a window of transparency to the production method.
Not all testing labs, however, can provide the high levels of service and integrity needed to achieve those goals. As a producer, you must perform your due diligence in finding a quality lab. So, if you are looking to have your products tested, here are some insider tips:
The Top Five Factors to Look For in a Test Lab.
A lab with a robust quality program is as good as gold. Sending samples to a lab that is committed to quality means that your results come from experts who are trained and qualified to test your samples. It also means those experts spend their waking hours making certain that the instruments they use for analysis are operating optimally, which allows them to measure your sample accurately. Often, a lab with a quality program has accreditation such as ISO 17025 or holds accreditation through industry-specific organizations.
Excellent customer service begins with good communication. Knowing who you can talk to about your sample is always important. Having this knowledge is critical when things don’t go the way you expect. Being able to reach someone at the lab who will triage your concerns and get you in touch with the right expert also goes a long way. Equally important is that the test lab talks to you when things don’t go according to plan. Unscheduled delays don’t happen often, but it’s nice to know your lab is still working for you when delays occur. Turn-around times are important and a good lab will plan the lab schedule around maximizing every analytical minute to meet your timelines.
It’s the team you hire, not the physical lab, that really contains the magic. By working with a third-party lab, you extend your own team to include passionate experts who can add value to your process and product. They have insights as to why unexpected results occur. They can help you troubleshoot problems so you can avoid those issues in the future. The expertise and depth of knowledge that the team at a test lab has is a call or email away; you only need to start a conversation.
Test Failure Procedures
Not every test goes according to your or the lab’s plans. So, what a lab does when the test results don’t meet specifications is an important factor. The best lab partner has a procedure it follows when reporting results that are out of specification. Also, ask the lab about its procedure to determine if the sample actually failed or if the result might have been due to laboratory error.
Listen to what other people are saying. Ask other producers which test lab they are using and if they are satisfied with the quality of work. Also, understand what accreditations, partnerships, and affiliations a test lab has. This helps you understand its motivation for being in the testing industry, giving you a sense of whether you can trust it. With a great test lab, science and data come first. It is not motivated by who asks for the tests. It processes and tests all samples the same way to provide accurate and reliable data every single time, to every single test partner.
As a producer, partnering with a great test lab adds knowledge and expertise to your team. A well-prepared sample analyzed on well-maintained and calibrated instruments using validated methods by a trained expert gives you reliable answers about your product. It confirms the quality and safety of your cannabis product while helping prevent low-quality or adulterated products from reaching your consumers. So, start asking questions to find your best test lab.
(Wondering how to interpret the results? Comprehending Your Cannabis Test Results)
Written by Jodi McDonald
Jodi McDonald is the president and founder of Keystone Labs and is a medical microbiologist, inventor and super science-geek. She has 20 years’ experience in the quality control, regulatory, and quality assurance environment for the pharmaceutical industry. Jodi believes testing is essential for taking control of your personal health.