Insider’s Guide to Effective Pathogen Detection for Marijuana

Posted by Milan Patel on June 1, 2018

Impact of Contamination

According to an article in Forbes, the industry is expected to grow to as much as $50 billion by 2022. That includes not just growers and distribution centers, but also cannabis technology companies, software companies that serve the industry, agricultural companies, and more.

There are 9,397 active licenses for marijuana businesses in the U.S. and more than 100,000 people employed by the cannabis industry, according to CNN Money Report. This includes cultivators, manufacturers, retailers, dispensaries, distributors, deliverers and test labs. Every one of these people is financially dependent on the speedy, reliable flow of safe product to consumer. That flow can be slowed or interrupted by a few things, such as inefficient or ineffective lab testing. Being prepared for such interruptions can mean the difference between getting paid or losing customers.

Accurate lab testing for microbial and other contaminants can help sustain the smooth transition of cannabis products through the pipeline to the retail shelves.

State regulations and standards are being implemented quickly to protect the safety of consumers. Some companies don’t understand the testing process and are not prepared to ensure their product is compliant.

Regulations and Pathogen Detection

As states have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, there are reports of microbial contamination at dispensaries. Contaminated cannabis is potentially a looming public relations headache for the entire industry and especially for those specific growers, labs and retailers that are identified and named. Bad press is bad for business. Contamination poses a higher risk for patients with a compromised immune system; it can make customers sick or worse, and has the potential to immerse well-meaning cannabis businesses into thorny litigation.

Without federal guidance, the cannabis industry must contend with a matrix of state and local regulations. These include guidelines for pathogen detection. Navigating the regulations -- especially for companies potentially selling across state lines -- requires an effective testing program.

Practical Criteria for Marijuana Testing and Pathogen Detection

Consider the following as you review cannabis testing labs and other options for pathogen detection: 

  • Sensitivity and Specificity: Look for products that detect the smallest possible colony forming units (CFU). The higher the sensitivity, the better the test.
  • Test Turnaround Time: Most labs and testing kits require growth of a culture in a petri dish. This can lead to tests that take as long as 3 – 5 days. Look for modern, DNA-based tests that can deliver results in less than 7 hours.
  • Singleplex/Multiplex Testing: Look for testing done using multiplex organisms as well as multiple samples, rather than singleplex organisms per sample. Multiplex testing verifies significant throughput in terms of testing, is much more accurate, and will lower the overall cost.
  • False Positives/False Negatives: While you can’t eliminate every false positive or false negative, depending on the testing method, you can significantly reduce false results. Ask the lab or testing supplier to provide the rate of false results.
  • Validation: Not all testing is reliable and accurate. Validation will help ensure the testing process is accurate and credible. It reduces the risk for the company and consumers. Look for testing technology that has been validated by an outside, national resource.
  • Cost: Some testing options and cannabis testing labs are significantly more expensive and offer lower pathogen detection and identification of microbial contamination. Review the total cost of testing per sample and criteria before deciding which company to use. Total cost should include material, labor, overhead, and equipment amortization.

Identifying Effective Cannabis Testing Labs

As state governments begin rolling out new regulations for the cannabis industry, businesses must learn their options and understand how pathogen detection and cannabis testing labs work in order to obtain value and peace of mind. Not all testing options are created equal. Some methods will leave your business exposed to compliance and regulatory risk.

Protect your business and the consumers that use your product with effective pathogen detection and cannabis testing labs and kits to ensure the highest degree of clean product.

Want to learn more about marijuana testing and discover how DNA-based testing ensures the safety users? Contact PathogenDx and ask for a demo of our inexpensive DNA testing kits.

Topics: cannabis testing, cannabis contamination

Written by Milan Patel