Canada has some of the strictest cannabis testing requirements in the world. Before being released to the public every cannabis product – from dried flower to edibles, vapes and extracts – has to be tested by a third-party laboratory against rigorous standards.
In order to be sold to the public, a cannabis producer must test the levels of cannabinoids – specifically THC and CBD – as well as test the cannabis for contaminants such as mould, microorganisms, and heavy metals. Cannabis also needs to be tested for pesticides, and extracts must be tested for residual solvents, which are required to be removed before the product is sold.
Many producers also choose to test their cannabis for terpenes, but this isn’t required by law. They do it to draw attention to the quality of their weed.
All of these test results are recorded in a Certificate of Analysis, or COA. Producers are required by law to keep their COAs and to provide them to Health Canada for examination and auditing. Some producers also like to post the COAs of their products, but it isn’t required.
WHAT’S IN A COA?
COAs are pretty extensive documents. In order to test cannabis, a lab has to have special approval from Health Canada, which is the country’s governing health body. And all samples must adhere to a strict, documented chain of custody.
CERTIFICATE OF ANALYSIS DOCUMENT
Producers are required to test for THC, THCA, CBD and CBDA – though they will often test for minor cannabinoids such as CBG and CB as well.
LOD, LOQ and ND
LOD refers to “Level of Detection.” This means that in order to be detected by the lab, the cannabis must contain at least the percentage listed.
TERPENE ANALYSIS AND MOISTURE CONTENT
As previously mentioned, Cannabis producers aren’t required by law to test for Terpenes, but often do so to measure the quality of their cannabis (higher terpenes means more flavourful and aromatic cannabis).
Terpenes are listed in descending order. While over 400 terpenes have been identified in cannabis, most producers will choose to only test for the most common types. Find out more at TERPENES EXPLAINED.
Controlling moisture is a vital step for growing good cannabis. If cannabis is too dry, it will burn too fast and won’t be enjoyable to smoke. If it’s too moist, the cannabis may start to grow mould or microorganisms before it gets to the consumer. Reputable growers maintain moisture within a target range that balances product safety and consumer satisfaction.
TOXINS, MICROBE AND HEAVY METALS
In order to be sold, cannabis must be tested for microbes, which include things like bacteria, mould, yeast, and aflatoxin (aflatoxins are the poisonous spores excreted by certain types of mould).
Canada has some of the strictest safety requirements in the world for cannabis, and the level of microbes (CFU/colony forming units) allowed in cannabis is comparable to those used in the pharmaceutical industry.
Producers must also test their cannabis for harmful levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead, which can be absorbed through the roots of the cannabis plant into the final product.
Health Canada is very strict on the use of pesticides, and Cannabis producers are required to test their products for over 90 restricted pesticides before releasing products for sale.
Ultimately, Canada’s rigorous cannabis testing – supported by a series of labs and government agencies that are constantly auditing producers – ensures that the cannabis products supplied to Canadian consumers are some of the safest and cleanest in the world.