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Legal Cannabis Labels are Lying to You

From the Editor

Hi there,

Hi there,

Imagine a winery that doesn’t have quite enough wine to fill an order. If they followed the same rules as legal cannabis producers, they could water down some whiskey until it had roughly the same alcohol content as their wine, slap on some wine labels and ship it out the door.

Now imagine a consumer, buying what they think is a bottle of their favourite wine, instead being forced to sip watered-down swill. That doesn’t sit very well, does it?

Well that is what cannabis consumers experience every single day. And unless that changes, the sector will never reach its full potential. 

As long as the THC and CBD content of the dried flower in the container matches the numbers on the label, nothing else from the terpene profile to even the cultivar need to be consistent. 

Building any sort of brand loyalty is impossible without that consistency: Why bother buying the same product over and over again if it is never actually the same? It also makes market expansion a challenge as non-cannabis consumers will be understandably wary of a product with so many lingering unknowns.

Worse than all that, the sloppy state of standardization in the sector also invalidates any research done to date on the medicinal effects of cannabis: Multiple studies have shown cannabis to be a useful natural pain reducer, for example. But exactly what type of cannabis was used in those studies? Researchers usually have no clue.

This issue of Weekly Chronicle details an ambitious new scientific effort to finally provide answers. If this industry is ever going to be taken seriously, it needs to stop putting watered-down whiskey in wine bottles and start giving consumers the basic courtesy of a consistent product.

Yours in pursuit of progress,

Volume 1: Issue 5

Legal Cannabis Labels are Lying to You

by Jameson Berkow

Legalization was supposed to usher in a new era of consistent cannabis. Every batch would be identical to the one before, just as Coke Zero never tastes like Dr. Pepper. Instead, years after the rise of the earliest legal cannabis markets, product substitution still thrives. Coke is in Pepsi cans, mixtures of Sprite, Cream Soda and Brio are in cans labelled Mountain Dew. Sheer madness! Now, a first-of-its-kind study is aiming to establish a baseline capable of holding cannabis to the same standards of consistency as every other consumer product.

The package says “pink kush”, but inside is a hodgepodge of northern lights, jean guy and sensi star.

As long as the cannabinoid levels balance out, no legal cannabis regime on the planet would have a problem with such blatant product substitution. And according to Steven Newmaster, the practice is shockingly common.

“When we go out and just sample off the shelf and buy a bunch of stuff, we go look at the product and buy different batch numbers and run it all, about 75 percent of those are wildly variable batch to batch and some of them that are supposed to be single-cultivar products [i.e. Pink Kush] are actually mixes,” Dr. Newmaster, a medicinal plant biologist at the University of Guelph who is also co-founder and chief science officer of Purity IQ, said in an interview.

The Weekly Chronicle is a subscription publication of Business of Cannabis.

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