Oregon, we have a problem.
Anyone with a search engine can piece together characteristics of certain strains and how much THC they produce. Oh, wait; there’s an app for that … or dozens. I lose count these days.
Let’s take one of my faves, Dutch Treat: Relaxing, piney, and sweet, with a standard production of 18–25% THC—according to three different reviews online. So, did I raise an eyebrow when I saw Dutch Treat on Oregon shelves labeled at 30% THC? Did I take it in to an independent, accredited lab and have it tested for accuracy? You bet your inflated-potency results I did! The results? Disappointing.
Nefarious lab results are rampant in our community; they are hurting every participant in the cannabis industry affected by the trade, commerce, and consumption of recreational weed.
“I have had labs ask me what I want my potency numbers to look like and make an offer,” said David Todd, owner and operations manager of Glasco Farms, a craft cannabis producer in central Oregon. “It’s insane; I want to stand behind my product and show through scientific fact that I produce a superior flower.”
But without enforcement of lab practice standards, producers are being pressured to play dirty. In her third year cultivating at a two-tier recreational cannabis farm, Mrs. Ganja sent me an e-mail about the pressures she is up against to produce high THC: “The only sure way to get my product on the shelf at a profitable price is with THC (at) 25% or above. Not a lot of strains have that potential, but the market has plenty with 28% to 32% floating around so I have to go with the same labs as the rest of the independent farmers to get the best numbers I can. The lab I use return(s) good numbers.”
Those “good numbers,” AKA high THC percentage, are the driving force behind sales. A strain tests at 20% THC and sells for $1,000/lb; then it tests at 25% THC and sells for $1300/lb. You produce weed for sale—this is your business. And labs are telling you that they can manipulate samples and reports to make you more money. Everyone else is doing it. If you don’t, your product isn’t “good enough” to sell. What do you do?
It’s a vicious cycle perpetuated by lies, lack of enforcement resources, coercion, and undereducation. We are all responsible. Yet, ask who the source of the problem is and everyone points fingers across the circle.
Most consumers are uneducated about cannabis and only focus on THC percentage. Dispensaries and budtenders should be educating them. Producers should take a stand and use an honest lab. Labs should operate ethically.
I repeat: Oregon, we have a problem.
It’s time to stop living in a land where Dutch Treat is hitting 30% THC. It’s time for everyone to demand auditing and ethics.
Laws and administrative rules have been implemented on how to sample, prep, test, and report cannabis analyses to ensure fair commerce, consumer health, and public safety. But there’s a clear need to blind-test the different labs and for unbiased, third-party research and development.
As federal eyes turn to Oregon to investigate black market activity, regulatory bodies are tightening their grip on licensees to maintain legal validity and avoid being shut down.
A crackdown began August 23, 2018, when the OLCC investigated several prominent producers’ practices. Black Market Distribution incurred the harshest penalty: the OLCC revoked their wholesale license due to multiple violations.
“We want good, compliant, law-abiding partners as OLCC marijuana licensees,” said Paul Rosenbaum, OLCC Commission Chair. “We know the cannabis industry is watching what we’re doing, and believe me, we’ve taken notice. We’re going to find a way to strengthen our action against rule breakers, using what we already have on the books and, if need be, working with the legislature to tighten things up further.”
Trends in METRC data lay the foundation for truth, and it’s time to put them to use.
“The cannabis tracking system worked as it should, enabling us to uncover this suspicious activity,” said Steven Marks, OLCC Executive Director. “When we detect possible illegal activity, we need to take immediate steps....”
Potency fraud might not be at the top of the list for investigation, but labs and producers are breaking the law, and there will be consequences. ORELAP and OLCC have the right to investigate and revoke the licenses of labs that are falsifying data, and consumers can file claims with the Department of Justice.
The time to demand change and integrity is now.
Kelly O’Connor is the client liaison at Pixis Labs. Please email Koconnor@pixislabs.com for questions regarding lab services.