There is a lot of misinformation out there about CBD and the other less famous cannabinoids. At GreenBox, our mission is to lead with science based education and dispel that misinformation. We want to help consumers understand not only what they are purchasing but also why it matters. In this first ever entry of the “Hemp Lab Series with Drew Ford”, we demystify what the Certificate of Analysis (CoA) is, and why it matters.
We are proud to say that Drew Ford is our Cannabinoids Expert and he is a member of the GreenBox Advisory Board. Drew is also the Chief Science Officer at Kase Manufacturing, a leading hemp and cannabis extraction lab based in California. Kase co-manufacture for the likes of the Stanley Brothers and Select. Recently, the team also launched their own brand, Cerious, which is creating a significant buzz in California right now. Drew has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and specialises in design, manufacturing process, extraction, refinement and safety standard procedures.
We caught up with Drew this week to get the facts on the Certificate of Analysis. The key takeaways from the interview are as follows:
- Ask for a CoA for reassurance that you’re buying a good quality product
- Check the CoA confirms there is a non-detectable level of THC (i.e. ND)
- Check the CoA confirms the correct level of CBD
What is a Certificate of Analysis
GreenBox: Hi Drew, thanks for spending some time educating our consumers on the science side of the industry. Can we start by asking what a CoA is?
Drew: Thank you, I am excited about what GreenBox is doing with consumer education and excited to be a part of it. CoA stands for Certificate of Analysis. This is a document used to prove that the products were in fact tested and certified by an analytical laboratory.
How to make sense of a CoA
GreenBox: This seems quite important from a quality perspective. We third-party test all products we sell at GreenBox. So, what is important to pay attention to when reviewing a CoA?
Drew: The information on the CoA will be dictated by the regulation set forth by each jurisdiction. For hemp products in the UK, the largest regulatory obstacle is the presence (or lack thereof) of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In the UK, a hemp product must effectively contain less than 0.01% THC to be compliant.
GreenBox: What does this mean and how does it affect the consumer?
Drew: This means there can be no detectable amount of the THC molecule. THC is psychoactive in nature and is what is responsible for the impairment associated with cannabis. By removing all this psychoactive compound from the hemp products, the government has deemed these products to be safe for consumers for sale.
GreenBox: So, how does one review a CoA?
Drew: A CoA will come in a variety of forms and list values in multiple different units such as PPM (Parts Per Million), PPB (Parts Per Billion), mg/g (milligrams per gram), %w/v (% of weight dissolved in the volume, or liquid), mg/ml (milligram per milliliter), or % (percentage). Simply put, these values are each stating the amount of a specific material in the overall product. When manufacturers formulate potency, they test the active ingredient to determine its concentration, and then calculate the amount to add based on the entire batch size and target potency. They will use the CoA of the active ingredient to determine the formulation.
An example Certificate of Analysis
GreenBox: Can you talk us through this example CoA?
Drew: Sure. This one is for a Vitality CBD 600mg oil, which you stock on GreenBox. At the top it shows the lab who conducted the test, Phytovista Labs. The first table details the product that the test was conducted on, the date the product arrived and the test method.
However, it’s the central table titled “Cannabinoid Profile” where the important info lies. It shows that, for example, the product contains 20.69mg of CBD for every 1ml of oil. This means that for the 30ml bottle there is 620mg of CBD detected in the bottle. The label officially says there should be 600mg of CBD. This is considered fine as it’s within 5% of the label specification.
Also in the central table, the absence – notified by the ND – of any THC molecules tells the reader this product is UK compliant as it is THC free.
When a product rolls off the manufacturing line
GreenBox: What happens when the product is bottled?
Drew: We carry out another test at this point to produce a CoA on the final CPG (Consumer Packaged Good). The CoA on the final CPG will tell the consumer how much of what active is in said product, whether it be CBD, CBG, or THC (which should be zero). When there is not enough of a material to measure, we call the result a ND, or Non-Detect. For a product to be compliant, the THC level must be ND. It is a good idea to compare the amount of CBD on the product label to the amount of reported CBD on the CoA to determine if the manufacturer is honest about what they are putting in their products.
What tests are there beyond cannabinoid content for a CoA?
GreenBox: What other tests might be shown in a CoA?
Drew: For regulated environments such as the cannabis industry, there are much more stringent guidelines that manufacturers must adhere to which can make a CoA far more complex. Some cannabis jurisdictions require testing for pesticides, microbial contamination, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and residual solvents content. The levels of each will depend on the government guidelines for that location and can range from extremely strict to very loose. For this regulated sector, all CoA’s must come from an independent 3rd party testing lab to ensure proper business ethics and practices. Understanding these CoA’s will usually require some form of training to explain what units mean what and what the acceptable limits are.
GreenBox: Thanks Drew, any parting thoughts on the importance of CoA’s?
Drew: Manufacturers use the CoA to formulate consistent and repeatable products and help to ensure that consumers are getting what they pay for. If a product does not have a CoA available, do not purchase it under any circumstances.
What an amazing first chat with Drew. Please send us your ideas and questions for future discussions here. On deck for next time around is a two-part discussion around extraction.