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Cannabis Testing and Treatments are Put to the Test

By Laura Kuhl
Feb 22, 2018

Cannabis testing involves more than just a potency check. Marijuana is continually at risk of contamination from mold and bacteria. Producers and distributors may have cannabis treatment procedures in place to reduce mold counts, but not every state is committed to standardized safety cannabis tests.

A Lack of Standardized Cannabis Testing

The mold and bacteria that is naturally attracted to marijuana flowers can be lethal to users who choose to inhale their herb. Pathogens put users at risk for lung infections, even cancer. Laboratories across the country are outfitted to test marijuana cannabinoid concentration and residual pesticides, but only a handful of states require microbial testing.

Microbial testing involves an examination of the total yeast and mold count (TYMC) that can cause pathogens to grow within the cannabis plant. Some states put regulations in place to limit TYMC. Others are more lenient. In Colorado, commercial cannabis cannot contain more than 10,000 mold colonies per gram. In Vermont, no laboratory regulations are enforced. And in California last year, twenty dispensaries were unwittingly selling contaminated cannabis.

These inconsistencies between states are troubling, but it is hard to regulate procedures that are new and, at best, inconsistent. In a recent editorial in The Cannabis Industry Journal, Ketch DeGabrielle, the former operations manager of Los Sueños Farm, discusses the different treatment procedures available to the cannabis industry. “Cannabis is finally becoming a legitimized industry,” he writes. “And we will see regulations that make cannabis production look more like food production each year.”

The Cannabis Industry Preps for Regulations

The regulations the states are putting together greatly depend on the technological techniques used to treat and test commercial cannabis. Treatment procedures can vary from invasive to illegal to environmentally friendly. DeGabrielle compiled two years of research on treatment procedures, investigating gamma radiation, UV light, steam, and microwaves, among others.

The team at Los Sueños decided that radio frequency was the safest and most effective treatment procedure. “There is no decarboxylation or potency loss with radio frequency treatment,” DeGabrielle explains. “This method has been proven by a decade of use in the food industry and will probably become the standard in large-scale treatment facilities.”

The ease and scalability of radio frequency testing make it ideal for standardized cannabis treatment and testing. Being used in the food industry makes it easily translatable to cannabis. By using technology like this to create ideal grow conditions, producers can reduce the amount of time and money spent on testing procedures.

Leaders in Cannabis Testing

In response to creating ideal grow conditions, the team at DigiPath Inc (OTCQB:DIGP) is developing the ideal cannabis testing solutions. The lab conducts a detailed microbial screening using qPCR, a polymerase chain reaction to deduce the number of colony-forming molds on cannabis plants.

DigiPath Labs, based in Nevada, tests for more than just TYMC. Their screening probes for pathogens like salmonella and E.coli. DigiPath is one of the few laboratory facilities that complete tests for bacteria, heavy metals, and moisture that may have been left behind after curing. In the United States, where regulations are inconsistent, DigiPath is coming forward to put standardized testing procedures in place.

Steep Hill Labs is also creating a standardized structure for medical testing, and they have been perfecting their procedure since 2008. Steep Hill tests cannabis using the USP 61 method, a laboratory procedure that tests specific cultures in a microscope plate. This strategy allows their technicians to get up close and personal with cannabis to determine TYMC, pesticide and solvent residue, and provide a certifiable mycotoxin screen.  

With this kind of technology, Steep Hill Labs, DigiPath, and other cannabis testing facilities are putting themselves at the forefront of a budding sector in this industry. State-wide standardization procedures will be a reality for this industry sooner rather than later, and growers who start using safe practice techniques now, like at Los Sueños Farm, are setting themselves up for success. It is encouraging to see innovators in this industry taking charge while the law works hard to catch up to their progress.


Lose Sueños Farm is a part of The Green Solution (TGS), a partner of iAnthus Capital (CSE:IAN) (OTC: ITHUF). PotNetwork recently reported on TGS’ expansion plans for Colorado.

DigiLabs Inc (OTCQB:DIGP) posted record-breaking first-quarter sales of nearly $1.2 million, with 86 percent growth over last quarter.

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