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California Temporarily Shuts Down Labs Giving False Cannabis Test Results

On January 1, California took a significant step to address labeling scams in the cannabis industry by temporarily shutting down testing of cannabis flower at a majority of certified labs. This move is in response to allegations that labs artificially inflate the THC potency of cannabis products to increase their market value. The state’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) has introduced new testing requirements specifically for cannabis flower, including bud and non-infused pre-rolls.

As of January 3, only 12 out of the 38 labs in the state had met the new standards set by the DCC. While non-compliant labs can still test other products like edibles and vape pens, they are temporarily prohibited from testing cannabis flower. This category represents the most popular form of legal cannabis.

California law mandates that all cannabis products undergo testing at state-certified labs for contaminants such as pesticides and for THC potency, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. THC potency is typically displayed as a percentage on cannabis flower packaging, similar to alcohol content on beverage labels.

The reduction in licensed labs is not expected to cause delays in product availability, according to David Hafner, a spokesperson for the DCC. He emphasized the agency’s focus on enforcing the new rules and encouraged industry cooperation with approved labs using the updated testing method.

The new regulations stem from a 2021 law aimed at combatting labeling fraud within the legal cannabis market. Labs have faced accusations of inflating THC potency results to encourage farmers to charge more for their products, capitalizing on consumer preferences for higher THC content.

A 2022 study found that 87% of tested products had lower potencies than indicated on the labels, leading to consumer lawsuits against cannabis companies for false advertising. DCC Director Nicole Elliott has labeled this potency inflation as a result of unscrupulous labs undermining regulations, harming consumers, and posing a threat to public health.

In September of the previous year, the DCC issued a warning to labs, notifying them of active retesting efforts and potential license revocation for those providing inaccurate results. The recent move to temporarily halt cannabis flower testing is seen as a measure to address these challenges and improve the integrity of potency reporting in the California cannabis market.

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