Over the years, I’ve been bombarded with all sorts of messaging about the importance of organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, preservative-free, artificial ingredient-free, sugar-free, fat-free (and ultimately taste-free) foods.
The messaging has worked.
I try to eat organic when I can. I try to avoid fast food when I can (In-N-Out Burger doesn’t count). And if I do eat something I shouldn’t be eating, like In-N-Out Burger, I feel really bad about it, just like I’m supposed to.
But when it comes to marijuana, I barely think about what’s in it, other than THC. There’s been no intense messaging or ad campaigns designed to make me think twice about the quality of my weed. And why should there be? It’s illegal in half of all U.S. States. I’m lucky just to live in a state that actually allows me to purchase medical marijuana. Who cares what’s in it?
But the times, they-are-a-changing. Now that Nevada has legalized medical marijuana, recreational marijuana might not be far behind, come November.
In the current climate, the question “What’s in your weed?” doesn’t seem so out of place, especially when you read horror stories like this. Heavy metals, pesticides, fungus, bacteria…
Mmmm. Nothing like a little E coli. to go along with your cannabis cookies, right?
The Silver State Only Wants “Gold Standard” Medical Marijuana
There’s good news for Nevada residents, though. According to Shelby Stanley, Operations Manager at Digipath Labs, Nevada has the strictest marijuana quality control testing standards in the entire country.
That means that local marijuana testing labs like Digipath are making sure that the marijuana products you consume will actually make you feel better and healthier, as opposed to sending you to the ER.
Shelby recently gave me a tour of Digipath Labs, and I could tell from the get-go that she is extremely passionate about and committed to the work they do there.
“I want patients to feel comfortable, confident and safe enough with our work that when they walk into a dispensary, they specifically ask for Digipath-certified products,’” Shelby told me. “We also have an open-door policy here. Cultivators, dispensary owners, patients, or anyone else who’s interested in learning more about the work we do is welcome to come down to Digipath and get a tour of our facility.”
What it Means to be “Digipath-Certified”
Digipath ensures that the marijuana you consume doesn’t contain toxic levels of pesticides, herbicides, bacteria, funguses, or heavy metals. They also test the power and potency of each batch so that you know you’re getting a high-quality product. This means testing for beneficial, organic compounds like:
Cannabinoids – The most commonly known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), although marijuana plants can contain up to 100 different types of cannabinoids. They’re responsible for the “high” feeling we experience when we consume marijuana.
The following excerpt from the Digipath Labs’ patient handbook does a great job of breaking down the positive attributes of cannabinoids:
THC is a powerful psychoactive agent, analgesic, muscle relaxant, antispasmodic, and neuroprotective antioxidant that delivers 20 times the anti-inflammatory power of aspirin and twice the power of hydrocortisone. CBD helps us fight microbial infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) while helping our bodies moderate some of the adverse effects of THC such as anxiety, tachycardia sedation, and hunger pangs.1
Terpenoids – You know that very distinct smell that weed has? Terpenoids are responsible for that, as well as for the color and taste of marijuana. And although the name sounds a little too much like “turpentine” for my tastes, terpenoids are an invaluable part of marijuana’s bacteria-fighting, fungus-fighting, and tumor-fighting properties.
Fun fact: terpenoids are also present in medicinal plants like rosemary, basil, lime and lavender. See that? You learn something new every day!
Digipath tests usable marijuana, concentrates, edibles, and a variety of marijuana-infused products. They randomly select a random sample from every batch of a product before it ever hits the market, and results come back within 48 hours. The individual or company who orders the test receives a “certification of analysis (COA),” which shows the amount and type of cannabinoids and terpenoids present, as well as whatever hazardous materials happened to show up.
Marijuana batches that don’t meet the quality testing standards are either destroyed or recycled into a safe, usable product form.
Helping Medical Marijuana Patients Make Better Product Choices
Growers and dispensaries aren’t required to make their certificates of analysis available to the public, but they can and sometimes do, and for good reason.
Digipath tests for 11 types of cannabinoids and 22 types of terpenoids. These compounds are not all created equal.
Some function as sleep aids, anti-inflammatory agents, expectorants, anti-depressants, decongestants, and anti-spasmodics. Others alleviate nausea and pain, manage depression, reduce the effects of glaucoma…the list goes on.
In order to help patients sort through this maze of chemical compounds, certain growers and dispensaries have formed a partnership with Digipath.
Patients who visit these businesses will receive a free patient handbook and get access to the COA for each cannabis strain and product that’s sold there.
The handbook includes a comprehensive list of cannabinoids, terpenoids, and the ailments and symptoms that these specific compounds address. Patients can then compare this list to a particular strain or product’s COA in order to determine what medicine will best suit their needs.
Let’s say I want a cannabis strain that will help me sleep at night and not make me paranoid. According to the Digipath patient handbook, I should find a strain that contains cannabidiol (CBD).
I meet with a dispensary rep and I tell him/her I’m looking for a strain with CBD in it.
The rep says, “Okay, then you should try strains X,Y, and Z!”
I say, “That sounds great. Do you have a certificate of analysis for strains X,Y, and Z, so I can see what exactly is in them?”
At that point, the dispensary rep should provide me with a binder or notebook with the COAs inside. That way, I can see the lab results for each strain and be able to confirm that they contain enough CBD to keep my paranoia at bay.
Remember: Marijuana is Medicine
Nevada’s strict testing guidelines put a lot of responsibility and burden on cultivators and dispensaries, but in the long run, these standards benefit both the patients and the entire medical marijuana industry. Stigma still exists around marijuana, so it’s important for medical marijuana advocates to keep emphasizing this point: marijuana is a medicine.
By holding itself to the kind of common-sense quality standards that govern other types of medication, the medical marijuana industry makes important steps towards increasing its legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
After all, you are what you eat. And what you smoke.
- Medical Cannabis Patient Handbook [Pamphlet]. (2016). Las Vegas, NV: Digipath Labs.