Lab Shopping & The Absurdity of High THC - GTR Seeds

Lab Shopping & The Absurdity of High THC

Posted by Emery Garcia on

It's no secret the legal cannabis market is driven by test results. Whichever strains hit the highest numbers often sell the best regardless of whether they "hit harder" or have a more desirable effect than another with lesser content. The THC content is just an easy number to look to - and something folks think they can trust to get them the highest. 

It is however a trend in cannabis that I'm looking forward to ending. Sure, a few people reach for the Everclear in a liquor store, or prefer Old English over a craft brewed Pilsner at 5% - but someday this too shall pass.

As former growers in the legal Oregon market, we had a pile of genetics we tossed just because the consumer didn't want a flower testing at 16% - even when they were adored in-house and most certainly got everyone high. It's a sad reality, high THC scores are what the people want. And as a grower mentioned to me recently "If you can't change the game, you may as well play it."

Fortunately for producers, they aren't the only ones playing the game. A consistent conversation among rec growers has in recent years drifted to which labs give the highest scores. As hopeful as we all might be that laboratory testing would be accurate - even accredited labs can cook the books and are just as happy to be crooks.

Dubbed "Lab Shopping," growers flock to labs that inflate THC numbers the highest. By tinkering with the moisture adjustment the savvy lab can make a 15% flower back into marketable at 20% without the blink of an eye - and it seems like just about everyone is playing the game. Labs in all legal states have come under scrutiny in recent years for flagrant violations with several having their accreditations revoked. 

A recent study published in the National Library of Medicine sought to expose the industry standard inflation and did just that. Out of 23 different samples with posted potencies - all 22 were inflated by an average of 25% with some even farther off the mark. The study is groundbreaking in my book and I hope it does eventually lead to some changes in the industry. The highest testing flower in the study, a "Danky Kong" was said to be 27.73% THC - the sample came back at 19.58% when independently tested.

Overall the study found the average THC content between the 23 varieties was 14.91% - with the lowest reported labeled at 17.87% - while if they'd believe the labels the average was well into the 20's. Please take the time to check it out.

Uncomfortably high: Testing reveals inflated THC potency on retail Cannabis labels

But why does it matter?
In my book it matters because the consumer is still being driven by THC numbers. High scores are like a flashing neon sign that people can't stop staring at. High THC scores get some farms paid big and others swept under the dirt. High THC scores mean fantastic strains are buried simply because they don't hit the numbers. 

In reality, cannabis plants generally don't ever produce more than 25% of any one cannabinoid. There are plenty of test results that show otherwise but this goes back to labs cooking the books. When you think about a flower and what 25% means, 1/4 of what you are looking at is composed of 1 element. Thats pretty darn impressive.

The main point to drive home is, the numbers do not matter.  Everything people have been trusting to tell them what cannabis they like has been a lie. There are 10% strains that get people incredibly high. Cannabis is completely subjective and each users experience is molded heavily by the combination of cannabinoids and aroma compounds such as terpenes, adelhydes, and esters. If THC content was all that mattered everyone would just smoke pure THCA crystals.

At this point all we can do is sit back and wait for this silly trend to come to an end.




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  • Been waiting over ten years now for this trend to end…. I had flower tested independently at that time which came back with a spread of 12-14 percent THC depending on the strain. Same strains were marked as 20+ percenters in the stores.

    Corbin Roskam on

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