California Cannabis Testing

As of July 1st, 2018, California cannabis labs will require mandatory testing on all inhalable and edible products before they can be sold to the public. Growers are required to submit samples for cannabis testing that contain .35% of the total weight of the corresponding batch.

California’s cannabis testing requires a lab to perform nine different analyses of samples. These tests are listed below, along with the action levels that determine a pass or fail, where applicable.

Moisture Content and Water Activity For Cannabis Testing

Moisture content and water activity in cannabis testing are crucial parameters that ensure product safety, quality, and shelf stability. A cannabis plant’s moisture content, and the amount of water in the cannabis sample, can indicate the potential for microbial growth. High moisture content and water activity in cannabis plants can lead to mold, mildew, and bacterial contamination, and pose major health risks if consumed.

For all batches, moisture content will be reported separately as a percentage.
Water activity levels must be below .65 Aw for all dried flower and prerolls.
Water activity levels must be below .85 Aw for all cannabis edibles testing.

Microbial Impurities For California Cannabis Testing

For cannabis lab testing in California, the assessment of microbial impurities stands as a critical component to ensure the safety of all manufactured cannabis products. 

Microbial impurities refer to the presence of bacteria, molds, and other microorganisms that may pose health risks if consumed. California’s cannabis lab requirements require thorough screening for microbial contaminants, such as: 

The following must be undetected in 1 gram of both inhalable cannabis and edibles:

  • Escherichia coli
  • Salmonella
  • Pathogenic Aspergillus species:
  • A. fumigates
  • A. flavus
  • A. niger
  • A. terreus

Mycotoxin Cannabis Testing

California mandates comprehensive testing for mycotoxins to safeguard consumers from potential harm, particularly focusing on mycotoxins such as: 

  • Total of Aflatoxin B1, B2, G1, and G2 must not exceed 20 μg/kg
  • Ochratoxin A must not exceed 20 μg/kg

These toxins can thrive in suboptimal cultivation or storage conditions, and their presence in cannabis can lead to severe health issues in consumers. Rigorous testing in California cannabis labs often utilizes advanced analytical and remediation techniques to ensure that cannabis products meet or fall below the state’s established safety thresholds.

Foreign Material

In a California cannabis testing lab, foreign materials in cannabis can include synthetic fertilizers or plant nutrients, chemicals, dirt, and other foreign substances unsafe to inhale or consume. 

The laboratory must, at a minimum:
Examine both the exterior and interior of the dried flower sample
Examine the exterior of the cannabis product sample

The sample shall be deemed to have passed the foreign material testing if the presence of foreign material does not exceed:
¼ of the total sample area covered by sand, soil, cinders, or dirt
¼ of the total sample area covered by mold
1 insect fragment, 1 hair, or 1 count mammalian excreta per 3.0 grams
¼ of the total sample area covered by an imbedded foreign material

Heavy Metals Cannabis Testing

California’s cannabis lab regulations mandate thorough testing for heavy metals to ensure that cannabis products meet strict safety standards. Cannabis labs in California will use advanced analytical techniques to accurately quantify the levels of heavy metals in cannabis samples. Inhalable cannabis goods must be below these thresholds to pass:

  • Cadmium – .2 µg/g
  • Lead – .5 µg/g
  • Arsenic – .2 µg/g
  • Mercury – .1 µg/g
  • Other cannabis goods must be below these thresholds to pass:
  • Cadmium – .5 µg/g
  • Lead – .5 µg/g
  • Arsenic – 1.5 µg/g
  • Mercury – 3.0 µg/g

Cannabis testing in California also includes Cannabinoid and Terpenoid tests, to ensure the product conforms to the labeled content for each Cannabinoid or Terpenoid. It also includes tests on Residual Pesticides, Processing Chemicals and Residual Solvents. 

What happens if I fail?

Check out our Cannabis Remediation page to see what options you have after receiving a failing Certificate of Analysis from a cannabis testing lab.