When Cannabis is sampled by an analytic laboratory it is taken in it’s final harvested form – inflorescence bound to stem. Proper technique, designed to reduce the chance of outside microbial contamination, involves sealing the sampled material in an air-tight container, which is not opened until it is safely under a biocontainment hood. Prior to opening the material under biocontainment conditions, the material should be homogenized. Analytic laboratories that take the proper precautions will use sterile steel bearings in the sample container, and then use a specialized piece of equipment to homogenize the sample fully. Once homogenized the container can move into another sterile environment, known as a biocontainment ventilation hood. Here the sample will be prepped into subsamples, resealed and sent to the appropriate laboratory setting for analysis.
Some lower quality labs, in an attempt to artificially increase THC concentration, will tamper with the initially collected sample by removing certain portions of the material, including stems, and trimming larger leaves of the bud, which may not contain high THC levels. By reducing the amount of material tested, especially material that may exist on the left of the THC curve of the sample, the average THC concentration will move to the right of the curve, due to both the lower denominator of sample weight, and the higher concentration of THC left in the numerator sample.
This secondary handling of the sample material is fraught with disaster. Not only does it artificially inflate the THC concentration, leading the consumer to find a disconnect between what the label indicates and what they experience, but also introduces potential microbial contamination into the sample. Many cultivators don’t realize that having a lab produce higher-than-accurate THC measurements also introduces a high risk of microbial failure. The worst part for the cultivator is that this then triggers a full batch failure, causing not only remediation of the harvested batch, but also leading to confusion about the sterility of the growing environment. Further, when analytic labs don’t sample, process and prep material properly, the resulting inaccuracies do harm to the brand of the cultivator.