iRace, Medical Marijuana

Certificate of Analysis (COA) Interpretation for Medical Marijuana Patients

By: Katie Kloss
A Certificate of Analysis (COA), colloquially referred to as “lab results” or “test results,” is a verified document from a third-party laboratory that provides details related to product potency and purity. Product potency includes measurements of the individual components of the cannabis itself, such as percentages of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, as well as terpene profiles that influence a product’s flavor, smell, and specific therapeutic benefits. Product purity, on the other hand, includes factors such as mold, bacteria, moisture content, pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, residual solvents (if applicable), and other contaminants, all of which may be harmful to the consumer.
Florida Statute (381.988) requires that all cannabis and cannabis products sold in dispensaries within the state of Florida be tested in this manner by accredited, independent laboratories. COAs are made available to patients in a few different ways depending on the individual dispensary’s policies, including by request at the dispensary at the time of purchase, on the dispensary’s website (typically in the product description), by contacting the dispensary’s customer service number, or via QR code printed directly on the packaging.
Interpreting a COA can be a daunting task, particularly for patients who are new to medical marijuana. However, this article aims to demystify their contents so that patients can easily and confidently read and understand their contents.
First, it is important to recognize that although report formatting may vary between labs and some dispensaries may elect to have additional testing conducted on their products, the key components of a COA are fairly consistent across the board.
Usually located at the top of a COA, you will find information about the lab that performed the testing, as well as key information about the product that was tested, including product/strain name, type of product/route of administration, cultivation and processing facilities, and batch number. Patients can use the batch number to confirm that the batch they purchased matches the batch listed on the COA, and the date listed can be used to verify that the product was recently harvested and tested in order to ensure that they aren’t purchasing an older product, which has the potential to negatively impact the consumer’s experience due to factors such as changes in moisture content, changes to the product’s texture/consistency, or terpene degradation over time.
The body of the COA will then enumerate the purity tests conducted on that specific batch. Acceptable results in this section are “passed” (commonly displayed in green text) or, depending on the component in question, “not tested” (commonly displayed in black or gray text). An example of an acceptable “not tested” result would be a test for residual solvents on a batch of dried flower, which does not use any solvents in its processing. Some COAs may further break down these results, including details such as which specific pesticides or heavy metals were tested for and their cutoffs, but often they will simply indicate if each test was completed and, if so, passed.
The potency summary contains information pertaining to amounts of the most prevalent cannabinoids (e.g., THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, THC-A) and terpenes (e.g. limonene, linalool, myrcene, pinene). These components can be thought of as the “ingredients” of a particular product and are generally listed in descending order from most concentrated to least concentrated. Some patients utilize this section to familiarize themselves with the different terpenes and their associated therapeutic benefits in order to tailor their cannabis consumption experience to their individualized needs.
Finally, the bottom of the COA should always contain the names and signatures of the lab technician(s) directly involved in the testing and lab director, as well as the lab’s name, license number, contact information, and a certification number. The inclusion of these details confirms that the tests performed were both authentic and conducted by a third party.
For a complete list of certified testing labs in Florida, please visit the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU)