Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis Testing Equipment

There are currently more than 7,000 cannabis dispensaries in the United States.

As more states legalize both medicinal and recreational marijuana, access to cannabis has become more widely available, shown by these dispensaries popping up all over the place.

Because of this, the cannabis industry is growing at a rapid pace. Where it was once almost taboo to talk about, today, more people are gaining knowledge on cannabis and getting jobs related to cannabis.

If you are in the cannabis industry or are thinking of joining, one of the major parts you should learn is how to use cannabis testing equipment and how to cultivate cannabis. It’s a complicated process with many different steps, and having background knowledge on how this works will help set you up for success.

Among the most important parts of cultivation is testing your cannabis, which is where that cannabis testing equipment comes in.

If you think you’re ready to dive in, get started on your cannabis testing knowledge with the guide below.

Standard Cannabis Tests and Cannabis Testing Equipment

First, you should know there are multiple cannabis tests you’ll need to conduct. Some of these tests will be done during various stages of the cultivation process, while others are done after harvesting.

They will require different cannabis testing equipment, which will be explored with each cannabis test.

Potency and Cannabinoids: HPLC

The most common cannabis test is done to detect potency and cannabinoids. With this test, you will be able to determine the cannabinoid profile of that particular plant, which is also known as its strain.

This will be able to detect its potency, medicinal benefits, physical effects, and overall strength of the plant. Most states require that you undergo THC and CBD potency testing, and many others also require you to test the CBC and CBG levels as well.

The equipment needed for potency testing is the high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). It is an essential piece of equipment for any cannabis lab, so it is worth investing in a high-quality model.

To rent HPLC, it costs around $1,400 to $2,700 a month, while purchasing it costs around $50,000 to $160,000.

Residual Solvents: GC-MS

Waxes and oils, which are super concentrated forms of cannabis, are extremely popular. They are used to vape and dab, or can be added to dry herb. Because of this, the process to make them has become more widely understood.

Waxes and oils are made by extracting terpenes and cannabinoids from the cannabis plant using solvents.

Common extraction solvents include:

  • Butane
  • Heptane
  • Acetone
  • Ethanol
  • Hexane
  • Isopropanol
  • Propane
  • Pentane

You must purge these solvents from the extracted substances to ensure there are no harmful chemicals or impurities in the products. The Residual Solvent Test (RST) is then conducted to test for any solvents by heating up the product to see the solvent evaporate.

The equipment used for the RST is the gas chromatography (GC-MS). To rent GC-MS, it costs around $1950 to $5600 a month, while purchasing it costs around $150,000 to $250,000.

Terpenes: GC-MS

Terpene testing is generally not required by the state, but it is often recommended as it will help to create the flavor profile of each particular strain.

Terpenes are what give cannabis its flavor and aroma, as well as many of its medicinal benefits. Testing the terpenes will allow medical marijuana patients to better choose a strain that will help with their particular ailments.

Luckily, to test terpenes, you can use the same equipment used to test the residual solvents, the GC-MS.

Heavy Metals: ICP-MS

Most states require testing for heavy metals, as things like mercury, arsenic, and lead can seep into the soil and therefore get absorbed into the cannabis plant, becoming toxic to humans.

You must conduct heavy metals tests to ensure your cannabis plants fall below the legal toxic concentration limits.

The equipment used to test heavy metals is the Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). This helps to determine the concentration levels of the various elements that are present.

To rent ICP-MS, it costs around $10,000 a month, while purchasing it costs around $80,000 to $150,000.

Pesticides: GC-MS

It is vital to test for pesticides, as there are a number of pesticides that are used by cannabis farmers that are toxic to humans.

To test for pesticides, you can often use the same equipment used for testing terpenes and residual solvents, the GC-MS.

However, each state has different requirements for this testing, so it is essential to always check with your local and state laws to see what is required.

Mold and Bacteria: qPCR

Mold, bacteria, and fungi will commonly be found on your cannabis plants during cultivation because of the moist environment they are grown in.

These can be toxic when ingested, so most states require that you test for any microbial growth during cultivation but also after packing and handling.

A huge part of cultivating cannabis is checking for this growth throughout each stage of the process, removing the infecting plants, and then often turning them into concentrates.

Testing for microbial growth requires the quantitative polymerase chain reaction machine (qPCR). This costs around $700 a month to rent and between $25,000 to $50,000 to purchase.

Ready to Test Your Cannabis?

Now you know all about cannabis testing equipment, which means you can begin your journey in the cannabis industry.

Whether you want to start your own dispensary or join one that is new and thriving, having this background knowledge will help you be successful in this growing industry.

If you are looking for more informational articles like this, browse through our website today!

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