As the cannabis industry expands, more and more growers are cultivating the cannabis flower. However, to get from seedling to the finished cannabis product that we can buy at the local dispensary, the product needs to pass several mandatory tests and regulation procedures. Under the regulations of the FDA, producers need to list the cannabinoid profile on the label of their product (for example, the total THC composition), although sometimes the number on the label doesn’t match the actual THC potency of the cannabis product.
But is it possible to determine how much THC is present in your cannabis strain from the comfort of your own home? While there is no official industry standard for testing THC in cannabis products, the most accurate method to determine THC % in the products is using THC test kits. Below, we’ll go over all the information you need on cannabis testing kits and how you can test your cannabis samples at home.
Cannabis and Its Main Cannabinoids (THC and CBD) and Terpenes
Before we go over how you can test your cannabis samples, we need to give you the essential information on cannabis, its cannabinoids, and terpenes.
The cannabis plant is made from a variety of chemicals like hydrocarbons, amino acids, terpenes, sugars, and cannabinoids. Terpenes like myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene, humulene, and others create the scent that’s associated with distinctive weed strains, while the cannabinoids like THV, CBC, CBG, CBD, and CBN, interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Even though they’re all essential for the plant, scientists are mostly interested in the main cannabinoids found in weed – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The former has psychoactive effects on users, while the latter provides therapeutic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving benefits which is why it’s mostly used by medical marijuana patients. Through the process of decarboxylation, the tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and the cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) turn into THC and CBD which, once consumed, give users their desired effects.
The Importance of Testing THC Levels in Cannabis
Testing for the cannabinoid profile of a specific sample or strain is essential for determining the quality of the marijuana product, especially for medical marijuana patients who need exact doses. Because there’s a huge variety of cannabis strains on the market today, more focus should be put on testing samples to determine the exact percentage of cannabinoids that the strain contains.
Since the intensity of the strain depends on the most influencing cannabinoids, THC and CBD, their ratio contributes to the potency of the sample. If the THC content is too high, users may experience side effects like euphoria, minor hallucinations, panic attack, or other effects, so it’s essential that the dosing recommendations are precise. Doctors especially recommend testing the medical cannabis samples for medical marijuana patients before they start using them.
Laboratory Methods for Testing THC
Different accredited cannabis testing labs may provide different testing options, and the most common ones include:
- High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) – HPLC quantifies the THC and CBD content as well as other cannabinoid concentrations based on separation, identification, and analysis of the components in the mixture.
- Gas Chromatography (GC) and Liquid Chromatography (LC) – Chromatography allows for the separation of small molecules, proteins, or nucleic acids by boiling the molecules.
- Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) – TLC is used to test flowers, hash, and edibles, however, it won’t work with products that contain glycerin.
Apart from testing for the cannabinoid content, laboratories may also test whether the cannabis is free from pests, pesticides, mold, mildew, and chemicals which is essential for people with compromised immune systems or severe illness.
How Can You Test THC Levels in Cannabis at Home?
THC potency testing can even be done in the comfort of your own home by using a home THC test kit. To do the test, you can follow the steps we’ve provided for you below.
Purchase a Home Test Kit
You can find a huge variety of testing kits either in your local dispensary, or you can order one online. Choose a kit that looks for THC in particular, since kits that test for both THC and CBD might be more difficult to interpret. The price will vary between $20-$100 which will determine the level of precision.
Choose Your Marijuana Strain
While a lot of marijuana strains will have the cannabinoid content provided by the vendors, home testing is always a good idea to check whether the label matches the actual THC content in the strain. When testing, make sure the strain that you’re planning to test doesn’t get in contact with other strains, as that could give you a different reading.
Read the Instructions
Although home test kits are fairly simple to use, you can find small differences between them, so it’s always a good idea to carefully read the instruction booklet. That will ensure you know exactly how to conduct the test and will decrease the chance of inaccurate results. One kit can contain several tests, so if you’re unsure whether or not you’ve gotten the results right, you could retake the test again.
Place the Marijuana in the Test Vial
Break up large clumps of weed into smaller pieces and place about one-fifth of a gram of weed in the bottom of the vial. Make sure you look at the specifications of the kit so you know exactly how much you should put in the vial.
Add the Testing Solution
By acting as a solvent, the testing solution will draw out the components in the cannabis so they’ll be easier to identify. Add a few drops of the solution to the vial (use as much as the instructions specify) on top of the weed.
Close and Shake the Vial
After placing both the weed and the solution, close the vial and check that it’s properly sealed. Shake it for around 5-10 seconds and prop the vial so it stays vertically and the sample stays at the bottom.
Wait for the Sample to React
The instructions will provide the time needed to get the results from the testing (they should be around 10 minutes). After a few minutes, the solution will slowly start to change colors. A more intense color will indicate a higher level of a certain cannabinoid.
Check the Sample Against the Color Chart
Each test comes with an included color chart which is somewhere between the instructions. By comparing the color of the vial and the chart, you’ll be able to tell the approximate concentration of THC of the weed strain you’re testing. Color charts indicate a range of potency and not the exact percentage, so if you’re looking at the exact cannabinoid profile, you should test the sample at a lab.
While a home testing kit is an economical option, keep in mind that it may not be 100% accurate since it only gives a rough idea of the cannabinoid profile of your sample. If you decide to test your weed at home, make sure you follow the instructions provided on the package of the kit.
However, if you’re planning to use cannabis for medical purposes, it would be best to do the testing at an accredited lab. They will also check the sample for mods, bacteria, pesticides, and other types of contaminants that can be a serious health concern for patients with compromised immune systems and sensitivities.