cannabis testing

Making Sense out of Cannabis Test Results

Here at Item 9, it’s no secret that we are big fans of safety and transparency. This commitment allows patients to confidently medicate without worrying about contaminates in flower, concentrates, or edibles.

Cannabis testing has become a vital measure to keep our industry and patients safe. In most states, cannabis products purchased from a licensed dispensary are required to undergo rigorous testing by a state-accredited lab. Labs primarily test for potency and levels of THC and CBD, residual pesticides, unwanted contaminants, and the presence of other unwanted substances, like mold and mildew.

The cannabis lab testing industry is responsible for ensuring that cannabis products are in compliance with a state’s regulatory body before they can be distributed and sold. In order to meet compliance standards, a product must meet the state’s standard for safety and purity. For example, residual solvents are tested in concentrates to ensure they are free from harmful material. Here at Item 9 Labs, we ensure all of our concentrates contain less than Nevada, Colorado, and California standards, which is 500ppm.

Testing not only ensures safety but also helps patients anticipate what effects to expect. Finding the right balance of cannabinoids for individual needs is key to creating the experience they seek. However, test results can often be confusing or even unreadable to laymen.

Here we attempt to make sense out of lab testing, so everyone can better what’s going on: 

What Your Cannabis Is Being Tested For

Cannabis products go through several tests in order to meet compliance standards. In Arizona, testing will legally be required beginning in November 2020. However, many states mandate that producers test for the following: 


Potency analysis reveals how much THC and CBD are in a product, key information for accurate dosing. These metrics can be provided in a number of ways:

  • Cannabinoid per weight (e.g. 20% THC)
  • Total cannabinoids present (e.g. 150mg THC)
  • A ratio of THC: CBD (e.g. 2:1 CBD: THC)

Contamination (microbial, chemical, physical)

During cultivation, processing, and distribution, cannabis products can be exposed to many sources of contamination. Generally, products are screened for chemical, microbial, and physical contaminants and heavy metals. 

Chemical Contaminants

Pesticides and other chemicals, like artificial growth hormones, can be dangerous for a consumer to ingest. For example, chemical contaminants like Vitamin E Acetate have been associated with the recent surge of vaping sickness. State regulatory bodies demand products are free of certain contaminants before distribution.

With some cannabis products, such as concentrates and extracts, solvents are used in the extraction process. Labs test the levels of these residual solvents, such as butane, xylene, and ethanol. Miniscule quantities of these solvents are permitted, but legal levels vary by state.

Microbial contaminants

Microbial contaminants are often introduced by water. Mycotoxins like fungi, mold, and mildew can be dangerous if consumed, especially for those with weakened immune systems or preexisting medical conditions. Although this type of contamination is most likely to occur during cultivation, dangerous microbes can also be introduced during handling and packaging. While fungi and molds are the primary concerns, harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. Coli can also be introduced by workers with poor sanitation habits and are dangerous if ingested.

Physical contaminants and heavy metals. 

Dust, dirt, hair, and other substances can contaminate cannabis products during cultivation, packaging, or handling. Lead, mercury, and other heavy metals can also find their way into cannabis products, often through their presence in the soil.

Comprehensive Cannabinoid and Terpene Profiling

Additional, optional tests analyze cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Although these tests aren’t necessary for compliance, many producers opt to have them in order to better understand their strains’ composition.

However, it can be confusing for many patients to understand these results and determine which cannabinoid profile will best suit their needs. When understood correctly, test results can give patients a reference point to determine the ideal dosage of cannabinoids.

For example, if 1g of flower contains 12.5% THC and 12.5% CBD, then it contains 125mg of THC and 125mg of CBD in the sample. In general, many people claim that the ratio of cannabinoids is the most vital component of test results; common thinking suggests that a 1:1 ratio between cannabidiol (CBD) and THC would create the ideal product. However, other cannabinoids also have distinct effects, and terpenes also have their own medicinal benefits.


Get in touch if you have questions about Item 9 Labs’ testing protocols. We are rigorous with our standards, and would love to tell you more about them!