Dec 2022
3 min

5 Things to Know About Cannabis Testing Labs

Cannabis lab testing is the most important gold standard currently being pushed in the industry.

Moreover, the safety and quality of cannabis products is crucial in the green rush of the last 5 years. Especially when low-quality and possibly toxic products continue to hit the shelves with little regulation.

We sat down with Shelby Stanley, Digipath Labs customer relations expert and consultant, to get the lowdown on third-party cannabis testing labs. We condensed her expert insider knowledge into 5 key truths you should know about cannabis testing labs. These tips can be useful for those just getting started in the cannabis industry or for seasoned cannabis veterans looking to find out a little more about services their lab might offer.

Remember, the information collected here is representative of Digipath Labs, an industry-leading 3rd party laboratory. It’s our hope that other third-party labs in the industry are following their example or that you can take away something here to suggest as best practices to the local laboratories that your company works with.

fresh cannabis leaf with colorful gummy bear infused edibles on a solid pink background

5 Important Things to Know About Cannabis Testing Labs

1. They can be real partners.  

Did you know that cannabis testing labs can actually help to improve your business as a cultivator and processor? Here’s how.

Firstly, and contrary to popular belief, they aren’t scary entities trying to stop you from selling your product. Third-party laboratories, like Digipath Labs, will take a look at the data that comes back in your lab results and assist you in organizing site audits, data mining, formulations, or collecting trending data. These audits aren’t designed to get you in trouble, they can help you get to the bottom of your problematic test result. They’re equipped with all of the tools and personnel to help you address the issue moving forward, whether it’s a foreign substance, mold, etc.

Secondly, cannabis labs can be a wealth of information when it comes to special formulations.  If you’d like to make unique cannabis products, your third-party laboratory can be extremely helpful. They can assist you as you create your formulas so you can regulate specific amounts of cannabinoids in your products so you hit your desired consistent miligram (MG) amounts in batched products: edibles, oils, and more.

Thirdly, size doesn’t matter! They don’t care about how big your facility is. Whether you’re a large or a small facility, you’ll get the same professional treatment. Prominent labs like Digipath understand the value of client retention and you’ll notice they’re determined to keep your business.

“We don’t want your business for 10 minutes, we want it for 10 years. We consider ourselves your science partner.” – Shelby Stanley

2. They keep cannabis effective.

With the popularization of cannabis in the last decade, it can now be prescribed medically for people of all ages with critical conditions. Cannabis lab testing results are the most important thing to verify user safety for both medical and recreational cannabis users.

Independent laboratories make sure you’re selling a clean product that’s hitting all the correct cannabis test results marks to give your customers an effective experience. Every product tested by a cannabis third party laboratory will come with a Certificate of Analysis (COA) detailing the cannabinoid and terpene profiles, and any possible contaminant content that exists in your current product like pesticides, heavy metals and microbes. Additionally, they can provide the cultivation and processing companies with information on nutrient metrics: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), so they can be sure they’re providing the highest quality cannabis.

Just like you would when you go to a grocery store, you look at the nutritional facts on a product label. This way you know what you’re putting into your body. You should be doing the same thing when you purchase cannabis from a dispensary.

For example, some customers love cannabis products high in CBG (cannabigerol), and preliminary results show that it may help to support focus. A COA can easily point such a user in the right direction for finding a product that’s high in CBG by clearly displaying the amounts.

“No matter who it’s tested by, everybody should be requesting COA’s with every product purchased at a dispensary. It’s going to tell you exactly what is and isn’t in that product.”  -Shelby Stanley

cannabis testing lab certificate of analysis

3. They keep cannabis clean.

Whether you’re purchasing or growing cannabis, it’s important to review the corresponding lab results and pay close attention to the heavy metal, pesticides, microbial and solvent sections of the COA.

Depending on where you’re purchasing cannabis, the allowable levels of pesticides and heavy metal impurities will differ. For example, the state of Nevada has some of the strictest impurity measures in place in the United States.

Look no further than your COA lab results If you want to know more about the impurities in your product. If the product label doesn’t contain all of the information you’re looking for, every dispensary should have the full testing results of every product on hand.  

The process is quite interesting if you wonder how labs are able to determine these figures in the first place. Lab technicians use cannabis lab testing instrumentation to actually incubate product samples of 72 hours to grow colonies in order to measure for Total Yeast and Mold, Total Coliform & Enterobacteriaceae, Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus terreus Aspergillus niger, Salmonella, Pathogenic E. coli and mycotoxins. The existence of these contaminants can result in a pass/fail result based on established state limits.

4. They’re actually rooting for your business, but they won’t lie for you.  

Third-party laboratories are built on the principle of transparency and quality control. This is especially true for well-established labs built on trust and committed to following state and federal standards.

For this reason, cannabis testing labs prepare to stand behind the results that their microbiologists and chemists produce. However, this doesn’t mean that they’ll leave you hanging when you have some issues.

If a lab identifies that your product has tested positive mold and yeast (the most common reason for a failed product), they won’t just tell you that you failed and move on. A quality laboratory will go the extra mile: send you your data, drill down, and collaborate with you on best steps to move forward.

For example, if your cannabis tests positive for Aspergillus, your lab will be familiar with possible origins or cultivation techniques that could be contributing to the issue and can consult with you on how to make proper corrections to your daily activities. Once you identify an issue, you can lean on your third-party lab to help you navigate past the problem.

5. They’re doing everything they can to mitigate YOUR risk.

Independent laboratories want you to feel confident in your product. If you fail any aspect of your lab tests, you’re eligible for the extra servicesprovided, including site visits and swabs.

During a site visit, your independent laboratory will send out personnel to take a closer look at your facility by collecting swabbed samples. A well-established lab will perform this duty in a cost-effective manner. Be sure to touch base on costs beforehand, because some labs have gained the reputation of coming in and making extra money by over-swabbing. But the truth is what you measure you can control. Swabbing and micro testing can end up saving your entire harvest because it helps you identify where the problem is.

You can lean on your laboratory partners to help you mitigate your risks as a grower or processor by helping you identify the potential causes of your failed test result.

scientist hand with blue glove on holding a beaker with blue liquid in a laboratory

Where can I get my cannabis tested?

Before you test your cannabis, there are a few important factors to take into consideration.

  • Word-Of-Mouth: If you have connections within the cannabis industry, schedule a call to hear more about who they have worked with and how their experience was. This way you can either rule out or in local laboratories.
  • Turn-Around Time: The time it takes for a lab to return results can be crucial to getting your products on the shelves. Labs take anywhere from 3 to 7 days to return results.
  • Price: When you’re doing your vetting, be sure to be upfront about what you can afford. A quality lab can help you customize your lab tests to fit your price range.
  • Location: You need a local cannabis testing lab because currently, you cannot cross state lines with any cannabis products. It’s always best to get choose a lab close by; again, like Digipath Labs, they are your science partners.


See, cannabis laboratories aren’t so bad are they?

We hope this article helped to shed some light on cannabis laboratories. However, it’s up to you to vet and choose the proper business that fits your needs.

If you’re just starting in Cannabis and need a helping hand, look no further. Leafsheets is here to help with industry information, proven practices, and required standard operating procedures for your cannabis business.


Find Required Documents

Dispensary Operating Plans

Cultivation operating Plans

Processing Operating Plans

Employee Agreements, Forms, and Handbook


About Leafsheets

Leafsheets is a cannabis business support and acceleration platform that is breaking the barriers to entry and success in cannabis business by simplifying cannabis entrepreneurship by providing vital operating plans, business information, and answers to the most pressing questions. **Leafsheets is an experienced business advisor and not a legal advisor. For legal advice, consult with a licensed legal practitioner in your state.

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