I’ve been wanting to write about safety and the value of lab testing for some time now and a couple of rattling recent events finally motivated me. First, my son has had a few breakthrough seizures. Since we did just happen to switch to a new batch of his high CBD oil, it felt prudent to get it tested. So I filled up a one milliliter syringe and brought it down to SD PharmLabs, our local San Diego medical marijuana laboratory testing facility. Secondly, the reputable Werc Shop laboratory in Pasadena was raided and shut down this week, preventing responsible families from empowering themselves the same way I just did.
Not reassuring. It’s very alarming within our parent/caregiver community when the holes in California’s medical marijuana program show up because it is often us who find ourselves at the bottom - us “real patients.” Its easy to get complacent here in liberal So Cal, but its a clear reminder of how much more education and advocacy is still needed to ensure the right kind of infrastructure - one that actually supports and protects patients, instead of threatening and taking away our resources.
Medical marijuana testing facilities are a critical resource, one that should not be taken for granted or under valued. It is the information provided by these laboratories that help make marijuana medical. Analytical information about the chemical compounds in marijuana is of little value to the recreational user. But for the medical patient, this information guides everything.
You need to know what you’re taking to be safe. These labs provide data on microbiological contaminates, residual solvents, terpene profiles and potency profiles (ie. how many mg cbd/thc). Knowing exactly how much of what is in an oil allows caregivers to dose appropriately. It informs what patients could be responding well or reacting negatively to. It indicates how high the quality of the medication is.
And since every batch of oil is different, it can be important to have this information for every batch you make or buy. These kinds of test results may or may not come with the oil you purchase. They should, but even reputable suppliers in California don’t always provide them unless they are requested. So request them. However, even if they are provided, its still a good idea to test it until you have built trust in your supplier. (While this is undoubtedly a frustrating extra expense, many labs offer discounts for pediatric patients.) There is definitely snake oil out there and sadly manufacturers have been known to mislead consumers. By double checking their claims, we help create accountability within the industry.
The results also teach caregivers a lot about the plant itself, ie. the ratio of thc to cbd, terpene profile, if all the acids decarboxilated when making the oil, etc. And with trial and comparison, a parent can observe overtime what may or may not be working for their child. Some patients really are that sensitive. The difference of a couple mgs of CBD or THC could be the difference between seizure control or not. Some kids respond well to certain strains and terpene profiles, and its good to know what that profile is for creating as much consistency as is realistic.
We are very lucky to have access to these specialized facilities in San Diego. Even within states that have some kind of marijuana program, such facilities are rare. Sadly, pioneering parents in Colorado have legally lost their ability to order tests. This has to change. When we don’t have access to labs, we don’t have all the information we need to be responsible and safe. And we want to be responsible and safe.
Medical marijuana testing facilities empower parents by ensuring safety. They provide the data we need to dose and make appropriate treatment decisions for our children and they hold the industry to a standard of integrity. They are an ethically important part of the equation that need to be understood and advocated for to ensure patient safety.
“Aurum nostrum non est aurum vulgi.” Our gold is not ordinary gold. — Gerhard Dorn