Connecting the Dots with Nikki Lawley: why cannabis testing matters

nikki lawley cannabis testing

When I started my medical cannabis journey, the learning curve was steep. Aside from the overwhelming number of products, rules and regulations, and state-to-state variances, there was so much to understand. One thing that definitely confounded me was the testing information on the cannabis packages—aka the COAs.

I did not know what the initials meant or why it mattered! I thought the first official COA I looked at looked so confusing, and I had no idea this was the key to understanding what cannabis worked and why.

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COA stands for Certificate of Analysis. This is the test report all medical and adult-use cannabis must go through before it is available for sale in the regulated market. Test results outline essential pieces of information, including cannabinoid profiles, terpene content, and the presence of any contaminants such as heavy metals, microbes, pesticides, or fungi. 

Having passed the required testing is an indication of consuming safe cannabis from a regulated market. The COA can aid in understanding what cannabinoids and terpenes work best for the desired effect one is seeking. 

Each state has its own requirements for testing. The guidelines come from the state regulators. There is no standard of what information must be presented from state to state. 

For instance, in Nevada on the label the top three cannabinoids and terpenes are right on the label. This helps the consumer make an informed decision. There are different pesticide and heavy metal percentages allowed per state—this is important for patients to understand. Strain names mean very little without the full transparency of the COA. 

In New York, a QR code must be on the adult-use packaging for the consumer to scan and access the entire COA from the lab. It would be nice if every state had the same rules to make the system streamlined.

I encourage patients to learn what requirements are in their state and learn how, as a consumer, you can access this information. This information can help one journal their experience with accurate information if the state makes available the cannabinoid and terpene content. 

When at a dispensary, ask to see the COA. Take a picture of it and discover all aspects of what is in your product! Cannabis is medicine; the more you know and understand, the better your experience will be—connecting the dots one person at a time with the right information.

This article was submitted by a guest contributor. The author is solely responsible for its content.

nikki lawley

Nikki Lawley is a patient advocate, speaker, and founder of Nikki and the Plant. She personally discovered cannabis as medicine after suffering a life-changing injury while working as a pediatric nurse. Nikki resides in Buffalo, NY.