Aurora, CO: The THC potency of many retail cannabis flower products is lower than what is advertised on the products’ packaging, according to data published in the journal PLOS One.
Investigators affiliated with the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical School randomly purchased 23 cannabis flower products from ten different state-licensed dispensaries. Each of the purchased products were then reanalyzed by a single certified testing lab.
“Sixteen of 23 samples (69.56 percent) had observed values that were more than 15 percent lower relative to the lowest reported THC percent by dry weight [as reported on the product’s label], and 13 of those samples (56.52 percent) were more than 30 percent lower than the reported value,” researchers determined. “These results make clear that consumers are often purchasing cannabis that has a much lower THC potency than is advertised.”
Several studies assessing the potency of unregulated CBD products have reported similar discrepancies.
A 2021 study assessing trends in the THC potency of cannabis flower products sold in Nevada and Washington identified “a statistically unusual spike in the frequency of products reporting just higher than 20 percent THC in both states.” The study’s authors suggested that both cannabis growers and labs may be manipulating the testing process in a manner that inflates products’ purported potency.
Authors of the latest study concluded: “Overall, approximately 70 percent of the samples were more than 15 percent lower than the THC potency numbers reported on the label, with three samples having only one half of the reported maximum THC potency. Although the exact source of the discrepancies is difficult to determine, a lack of standardized testing protocols, limited regulatory oversight, and financial incentives to market high THC potency likely play a significant role. Given our results it is urgent that steps are taken to increase label accuracy of cannabis being sold to the public. The lack of accurate reporting of THC potency can have impacts on medical patients controlling dosage, recreational consumers expecting an effect aligned with price, and trust in the industry as a whole. As the legal cannabis market continues to grow, it is essential that the industry moves toward selling products with more accurate labeling.”
NORML has long called for greater standardization and oversight among cannabis testing labs, opining, “[T]esting and labeling ensure that adult consumers have consistent access to a standardized product and have the information necessary to make an informed decision prior to purchasing.”
Full text of the study, “Uncomfortably high: Testing reveals inflated THC potency on retail cannabis labels,” appears in PLOS One.