After analyzing 75 different retail marijuana edibles(by 45 brands) from Seattle and California, researchers found wide variations on claims from the product labels— and in the case of THC the products had less of the psychoactive cannabis component more than 60 percent of the time. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins estimated that about one-fifth of all medical patients relied on edibles (ingestibles like chocolates, baked goods, drinks for candies) to treat their pain and other conditions for which they are allowed state-issued MMJ cards. The research—published this June by the Journal of the American Medical Association—was conducted by the same team who will lead a major PTSD(post-traumatic stress disorder) study on MMJ usage later in 2015. The analytical costs of the survey were provided by California’s Werc Shop Labs and co-founder Jeffrey and M.E. Raber.
A buyer of edibles was most likely to find mis-labeling from Los Angeles dispensaries, according to the research. The study also looked at claimed versus actual amounts of CBD within the edibles. For CBD, the claims made on the label found accurately reported in only 13 of 44 products tested. While many medical providers suggest a ratio of 1:1 for THC;CBD, the study bound the median results found were a problematic 36:1 ratio of THC to CBD. Of the 44 (from the larger group of 75 edibles) about nine were underlabeled (having more CBD than claimed) and four were overlabeled.
Ian Barringer, founder of Boulder testing lab RM3 Labs, thinks the Colorado emphasis on recreational testing of edibles delivers a much more reliable potency profile for all edibles. “I think many of the companies who were not able to produce consistency have gone out of business.” Barringer notes that THC is more reliably available in chocolates (since THC likes to dissolve in high fats products) but harder to consistently deliver in beverages since THC does not dissolve in water. He guesses that the 15 companies who have produced THC beverages over the past few years are now down to four or five who have figured out ways to prevent separating.
A newly passed Colorado state law will require testing for medical products by July 1, 2016. But Barringer notes that virtually 100% of the adult use products which are tested for potency, pesticides and purity are also the source for production of medical-level edibles. “We are a good way ahead of California and Washington edible makers” in Colorado, because the west coast regulators have no rules for potency in southern California, and the Washington rules for edibles testing is going to be effective later in 2015. Another innovations likely to come from the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division is a broader test of an edible-makers’ overall process and statistical control to make all products reliably consistent. This would reduce the requirement for expensive and time-consuming testing of small edible batches.
Only 17 percent of the studies edibles was accurately labeled. Researchers sorted the tested cannabis ingestibles into underlabeled (if they had more than 10% over the claimed amount of THC, or about 60%), overlabeled (have more 10% above than the THC amount shown on label, or 23%) and accurately labeled within a ten percent variance.