Cannabis’ Potency Testing In DC: Why Growers Still Need More Info

At an event held on the second floor of the Red Rocks bar and restaurant on the popular H street corridor was a first for Washington, D.C. Home growers could get their cannabis tested on-site for THC potency and moisture content by simply breaking up and grinding a bud and dropping it into a tray in a testing machine, with results in just a few minutes.

The best bud came in at 25.4 percent THC, with high fives all around. Others tested in the high-teens.

This was an event organized by Steep Hill Labs, a testing company that opened their first commercial cannabis testing lab in Berkeley in 2008, and brought their portable Quantacann2, a desktop spectrometer, to test the potency of the locally grown cannabis.

Steep Hill’s sixth lab, their first on the east coast, is set to open near Baltimore, where doctors and researchers will do a deeper dive into testing cannabis than just its potency – screening for solvents, pesticides, molds and more.

Another lab is on the drawing board for Pennsylvania; company owners are scouting locations in the D.C. area for yet another lab.

“The Maryland lab is ready, and we are going to have our first inspection in May,” Dr. Andrew Rosenstein, CEO of Steep Hill/Maryland, said.

What the potency testing event in D.C. showed is that D.C. growers have a pretty good handle on potency, Rosenstein said. “The growers that I have met here in D.C. are really responsible people trying to create a safe product for patients,” he said. “They take it very seriously.”

Potency testing is the first step to getting people interested in the full suite of testing and understanding its importance, Rosenstein said. “So we are doing not just potency testing, but beginning the process of education about the other issues involved in testing,” he said. “We want to create a different culture in D.C. and Maryland so that patients understand that testing is vital to creating a safe and compliant cannabis that regulators can accept.”

There is still the black market working in D.C., where recreational use is legal but selling and buying it is not, but Rosenstein said that people will soon begin to turn to tested cannabis. “People will gravitate to something that is regulated, processed carefully and tested,” he said. “I think that is going to happen. We are going to see that change. There will always be a black market in every field. But I feel the evolution towards safety and compliance is important, because patients’ lives are at stake.”

He says that Steep Hill may at some point get set up to do grower and dispensary owner certification training similar to other groups, such as the Americans for Safe Access. “For now, our business plan is really focused on testing rather than training.”

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