By Marisa DeZara
In Oregon, edible labels seem to say one thing, while potency testing seems to say another. As the state’s marijuana testing industry suffers from a lack of regulation, edible packaging may not always reveal the truth about how much THC is contained within a marijuana-infused treat.
According to The Oregonian, “hazy science drives the making, testing and marketing of marijuana-infused edibles, a fast growing segment of Oregon’s booming medical marijuana market.” Although Oregon’s regulators assure customers that cannabis-infused treats go through an extensive testing process before being sold at the dispensary, investigative research suggests otherwise.
The Oregonian conducted a three-month investigation into the illegitimacies and discrepancies regarding the medical marijuana testing industry and the potency in marijuana edible products. In Oregon, testing is done by a “cottage industry,” with approximately 19 labs operating without clear supervision or scientific standards.
On the other hand, Colorado’s testing industry requires audits and on-site inspections. This legitimizes its operations and can ensure greater accuracy when testing potency. As reported in Time, Colorado sold nearly 5 million edibles in 2014. However, despite Colorado’s potency testing industry having a better reputation than Oregon’s, “Colorado officials struggle with how to regulate the marijuana-laced treats.” This is mainly with regard to whether or not dispensaries should sell gummies and soda pop, treats that could mainly appeal to children.
Edible testing and regulation is an infantile industry and still has many flaws in both Oregon and Colorado. Labs in Oregon, albeit many of them run by scientists, produce inconsistent potency results. Patients are affected by deceptive packaging, as they spend money on edibles with a labeled amount of THC, yet often they do not receive the amount of THC indicated, whether much lower or in some cases much higher than what is printed on the packaging.
Because the marijuana testing industry in Oregon lacks standard scientific protocol, each lab determines, on its own, the best way to measure how much THC is contained within an edible product.
Moreover, potency is a key selling point when it comes to medical marijuana. Labs can feel pressured to pump out persuasive potency results, as they vie for potentially profitable contracts with producers. Ric Cuchetto, lab director of ChemHistory, a marijuana-testing lab in Milwaukie, Oregon, told The Oregonian, “It’s a ridiculous, upside-down market … . People are buying on potency and yet there is not a lot of value in the results.”
The Oregonian reported that, of the 15 edible products tested by its analytical chemist, only one contained accurately labeled potency information. Contrary to the common narrative that consumers ingest edibles overloaded with THC, the majority of products tested seemed to have significantly less THC than what had been printed on the label.
Tina Martinez told The Oregonian, “It’s dangerous for everyone.” Martinez is a medical marijuana patient who treats her chronic nausea with marijuana-infused edibles. “For it not to be correct, that’s kind of like mislabeling food.”
For the marijuana industry to prevail, consumer safety must be at the forefront of business operations. Although marketing and selling cannabis-infused products are imperative to the well-being of the industry, deceptive testing methods and inconsistent potency results will not build trust with consumers. If the industry wants to have a chance at national legalization, then its members must maintain best practices that demonstrate integrity and legitimacy.