What did I expect to find at a cannabis testing facility? I don’t know, maybe like microscopes and a bunch of those little glass slides with cultures maturing to an opaque mistiness. People in lab coats, for certain.
I walk into a processing room where samples of a gram-and-a-half are received. Here, folks were busy taking photos of samples, which then, along with the test results, will appear on Weedmaps. The samples are then prepared for analysis in the machines. I can only image the process that needs be in place to be certain that samples are not mixed up, surely this is common practice across science, but during my visit I was hyper-aware of not picking anything up and putting it down in a different place, fearful I might break a beautiful system.
Though the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety act requires cannabis in California to be tested in a way similar to other agricultural products and foods, the state has said the infrastructure to enforce these regulations will not be ready until 2018. This leaves much of the responsibility for accessing tested cannabis to consumers.
SC Labs has partnered with Weedmaps to supply dispensaries and customers with publicly available test results for medicine grown by particular cultivators and where to find the product to buy. The lab tests for THC and CBD content plus a range of pesticides, all with very scientific sounding names like Acequinocyl, Fenoxycarb, Paclobutrazol. Having read the names, aren’t you glad you can be sure that the medicine you’ve purchased is free of such pollutants?
Entering the next room, I find two technicians staring at results displayed on computer screens. It is here that the samples are analyzed. The feeling of a science lab gives way to that of an IT department, despite the obviously scientific equipment. I ask about the various graphs on the screens, the analytical results play across the screens like a heart rate. It is explained to me that one set of results is essentially a test pattern—a sample for which the results are already known—there simply to test the machine’s calibrations. The second result is a new sample, the peaks and troughs determine how much of which compound is present. In the background, machines whirr and gently swirl samples in the same way you might circularly slosh a tumbler of whiskey.
Much of the effort generated in these labs seems to be simply to ensure processes are religiously followed and results are verified, but if it means you won’t be smoking Bifenazate or Spirotetramat in your next spliff, you’ll probably agree that it’s a benefit to our community that testing facilities like SC Labs and their clients are going above and beyond state requirements to ensure the quality and safety of our medicine.