What is a Cannabis COA?

by Lindsey Winsemius - Posted 9 months ago

We’ve discussed in previous articles how new research and discoveries in the cannabis industry are leading to many changes and advancements. This research is helping us understand more about the elements in cannabis that affect health and the “high” you may experience.

Because of the complexity of cannabis and the many strains being cultivated, recent headlines have warned about inaccurate labels on hemp and cannabis products.

The Journal of the American Medical Association  (JAMA) has shown in a recent study that product labels often miscalculate cannabinoid potency or fail to report the existence of cannabinoids that are present in the products. In a study of 84 hemp labels, JAMA found that nearly 70% either over or under-represented their CBD potency. 

Additionally, 18 of the 84 hemp products contained THC. And in some cases, there was enough THC to produce unwanted intoxicating effects.

How do cannabis companies combat these inconsistencies? We use a third party laboratory to conduct their own testing and publish a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for consumers to review.

What is a Cannabis COA?

A cannabis Certificate of Analysis (COA) is a document that outlines the testing results of a cannabis product. This cannabis testing is conducted in a state-certified lab that follows strict testing methods and uses sophisticated equipment. 

The lab tests for multiple things including potency, heavy metals, residual solvents, and pathogens to ensure the safety of cannabis products. This ensures more uniformity and helps you, the consumer, make better decisions about the strains you are purchasing.

Why is a Cannabis COA important?

There are many reasons why a cannabis COA is important. 

Consumer Safety

The third-party testing allows undesirable elements, like pathogens or metals, to be discovered. A COA gives consumers the peace of mind to know the products they are purchasing are good quality and free from unwanted contaminates or residual solvents. 

Like the food or beverages we consume, we expect products we consume to be safe. A cannabis COA is one way to increase safety and help you feel comfortable knowing the cannabis you are purchasing is tested and certified as safe.

Product reliability

Testing in highly sophisticated third party labs allows detailed and uniform labels. That means you know exactly what you’re getting every time you purchase a cannabis product. This removes the variation or unreliability, and allows you, the consumer, to achieve the results you’re looking for, every time.

Where to Find a COA?

Many companies are starting to print QR codes on the product’s outer packaging, which can be scanned to view the full COA report. Other companies publish COAs online in the product description portion of their website. 

If you’re not sure where to find the COA for a cannabis product you’re purchasing, don’t hesitate to ask. Ask your local budtender or contact the company online to see the COA.

What to look for in a Cannabis COA.

Does the report apply to the product you’re purchasing?

The first piece of information you’ll want to look at is the Report Date to be sure that the results are recent and relevant. Then you’ll want to confirm that the name of the third-party laboratory is listed prominently so that you can verify the lab’s existence and credentials. Then you’ll want to look for the name of the product’s brand and cross reference it with the brand listed on the product packaging.

Is the product safe and how potent is the product?

You can use the product summary to find this information.

COA Cannabis Summary Example

In the example above from the ACS Laboratory, you can see that the hemp company tested the potency of all cannabinoids. You can also see that the brand conducted safety testing for contaminants (residual solvents, heavy metals, pathogenic microbiology, etc.) and that it passed every test. The presence of both ingredient and safety information tells you right away that this COA represents a full panel, as opposed to potency testing only. 

Below the testing summary, you can see the potency results for the most well-known and therapeutic cannabinoids. Knowing  how much CBD, CBG, CBN, or THC the product contains can help you discover if it will deliver the effect you desire. 

What Cannabinoids and Terpenes are in your product?

The COA can also tell you exactly which cannabinoids and terpenes your product contains and how concentrated they are. 

As we’ve discussed previously, the amount and kinds of cannabinoids and terpenes have a big impact on how the products will taste and what health benefits it can provide. You can learn that information in the more detailed part of the COA if you’re interested.

COAs are important to help you know you’re getting a safe, reliable product. Understand what you’re consuming by taking the time to look over the COA for your favorite products. As we continue to learn more about cannabis, we can cultivate better products to improve your experience and the benefits you receive.