The Inflated THC Crisis Plaguing California Cannabis


The THC articles you see on a label when you wander into a dispensary? There is a quite excellent likelihood the selection is fake.

In each and every condition with regulated hashish, there is a need to label the efficiency of goods so consumers can make informed purchasing and medicating conclusions. The rules generally point out that the THC/cannabinoid articles on the label should be in just a particular relative percent difference of the precise analyzed results for the merchandise to be salable. In California, that threshold is +/- 10%.

The challenge is, with all the emphasis on THC proportion in flower and concentrate items, tremendous tension has been put on cultivators and manufacturers to press their figures up. Greater quantities = larger rates. But regretably, strengthening their escalating, extraction and formulation procedures only gets businesses so considerably. So, they continue to ‘lab shop’: providing their business to whichever lab gives them the best potency.

There are roughly 50 Division of Hashish Command (DCC) licensed labs in the point out, and level of competition is fierce to retain market place share in a maturing and plateauing industry. Whilst level of competition utilised to be healthy and revolved all around quality, turnaround time and client company, now it’s essentially turn into a numbers recreation. As a outcome, numerous labs have sacrificed their scientific integrity to chase what the purchasers want: greater THC efficiency benefits with out contaminant failures. The follow has come to be so widespread that labs overtly advertise their increased potency values to attain clients with out concern of recourse. Below are two illustrations:


In excess of a year in the past, a couple of labs fed up with what was going on got jointly to decide the extent of the efficiency inflation difficulty. We proactively obtained and tested above 150 randomly chosen flower samples off dispensary shelves. The outcomes were staggering. Eighty-seven p.c of the samples failed their label promises (i.e., were >10% deviant of their labeled values), with around 50 percent of the samples >20% deviant of their labeled THC values (i.e., more than 2x the authorized permitted variance). Additionally, our labs found numerous instances of unreported classification 1 pesticides in some of the analyzed samples at multiple occasions the authorized limit – a considerable general public overall health issue. The deceit was not constrained to small cultivators hoping to get by but also some of the industry’s most important brands.

The exact challenges and economic disorders are in enjoy for concentrates. Companies of these items also hunt for the greatest D9 THC values due to the fact wholesale price ranges for distillate are established by THC material: <86% for the lowest value, 86-88%, 88-90% and >90%, with a new price tag stage for more than 94%. As a consequence, individuals can stroll into a dispensary and find concentrates like the one shown down below that report>99% total cannabinoids (>990mg/g) and incorporates just about 10% additional terpenes. You really don’t have to be an analytical chemist to realize all those figures include up to perfectly in excess of 100%, which is physically unattainable.


Every person can agree that the method is broken, but who is at fault? Need to the blame be put on dispensaries, several of whom use THC % as their only getting or internet marketing metric? Or on cultivators, makers and distributors, who request the maximum final results probable relatively than the most precise types? Or on the labs themselves, who are knowingly reporting inflated final results?

In the end, the unique firms are acting in their have self-desire, and a lot of are collaborating in this observe simply just to remain afloat. Dispensaries can not moderately be anticipated to know which benefits are inflated and which are not. Cultivators and makers really feel obligated to use labs that present them with the best benefits otherwise, they are placing them selves at a downside relative to their competition. Furthermore, labs that are not willing to inflate their figures have to be completely ready to view shoppers wander out the doorway to sustain their concepts – an existential problem for several.

The main rationale why potency inflation has grow to be so prevalent is that there have been no destructive repercussions for individuals that are cheating.  

The axiom is accurate – really don’t despise the participant, loathe the match. Contrary to most companies, testing labs operating with integrity want significant restrictions and oversight to guarantee a stage taking part in subject. Without them, the economics pressure a race to the base wherever labs both have to inflate much more and much more or go out of business. Since 2016, the DCC (previously BCC) has taken zero meaningful actions to discourage or crackdown on potency inflation— not a one recall of an inflated products or license suspension of an inflating lab— so predictably, the trouble has gotten progressively even worse over time.

So, to remedy the problem earlier mentioned – who is at fault for our broken program? The answer is easy: the DCC.


In the Drop of 2021, we commenced partaking with the DCC to handle the industry’s potency inflation considerations. The DCC requested we provide them with direct proof of our accusations, so we gathered and shared the flower details talked about above. The Division examined the identical batches off the shelf and verified our success. By some means not a solitary recall was issued – even for the batches made up of category 1 pesticides.

We pushed for more accountability, and DCC Director Nicole Elliott assured us steps ended up staying taken: “The Office is in the course of action of setting up a quantity of mechanisms to fortify compliance with and accountability all around the screening solutions expected of labs and will be sharing much more about that in the near future.”

Alternatively, we received a standardized cannabinoid potency approach (mandated by SB 544) that all labs will be essential to use. On the floor, a standardized methodology sounds like a fantastic thing to degree the taking part in area by forcing suspect labs into accepting commonly approved greatest procedures. In fact, however, most labs already use the very same fundamental methodology for flower and concentrate cannabinoid profiling and inflate their benefits utilizing a wide range of other mechanisms: selective sampling, utilizing beneficial reference materials, manipulating knowledge, and so on. In addition, the process mandated is outdated and will flatly not do the job for numerous complex matrices such as gummies, topicals, beverages, fruit chews and much more. If adopted without variations, it would be a catastrophe for manufacturers of these products and the labs that test them. Yet, the press launch issued by the DCC reads as while they’ve gained a pat on the back again and shipped the silver bullet to the efficiency inflation problem.

Right here are a few more meaningful steps the DCC could choose that would support combat potency inflation:

  • Perform program surveillance sampling and tests of merchandise off of shop shelves possibly at the DCC’s inner lab or by leveraging DCC certified private labs.
  • Recall goods discovered to be guilty of intense ranges of efficiency inflation.
  • Perform in-human being, unannounced audits of all labs, maybe focusing on individuals reporting statistically increased THC results.
  • Conduct schedule spherical-robin research where every single lab exams the very same sample and outliers are discovered.
  • Shutdown labs that are not able or unwilling to remediate their potency inflation troubles.

For some considerably less disciplinary suggestions:

  • Clear away incentives for efficiency inflation, like putting a tax on THC share
  • Established up plan schooling periods for labs to handle areas of worry and make improvements to interaction with the DCC


Another person could retort – who cares if the quantity is a little bit larger than it ought to be? No 1 will discover a very little much less THC in their products. A few counterpoints:

  1. Customers are becoming lied to and shelling out more for a lot less THC.
  2. Health-related cannabis users rely on distinct dosages for meant therapeutic results.
  3. Moral folks who put their whole lives into cultivating top quality hashish, production quality products and properly screening simply cannot contend with those people ready to cheat. If points get worse, only the unethical actors will be remaining.
  4. Labs that inflate efficiency are additional possible to dismiss the existence of contaminants, like the classification 1 pesticides we located in our surveillance screening.
  5. This one compound, delta-9 THC, is the complete purpose why this sector is so hugely controlled. If we are not measuring it precisely, why control it at all?

We will keep on to struggle for a foreseeable future in which good quality and ethics in the hashish field are rewarded somewhat than penalized. And shoppers can have self-confidence in the excellent and protection of the merchandise they acquire. Our labs are ready to create extra surveillance information, offer further ideas for improvement in restrictions/enforcement, and deliver even more focus to this issue. But there is a limit to what we can do. In the stop, the wellness and long term of our market are totally in the palms of the DCC. We hope you will be a part of us in calling on them to enact significant and essential adjustments that address this challenge.