The Cannabinoid Content of Legal Cannabis in Washington State Varies Systematically Across Testing Facilities and Popular Consumer Products

Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 14;8(1):4519. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-22755-2.


The majority of adults in the U.S. now have state-legal access to medical or recreational cannabis products, despite their federal prohibition. Given the wide array of pharmacologically active compounds in these products, it is essential that their biochemical profile is measured and reported to consumers, which requires accurate laboratory testing. However, no universal standards for laboratory testing protocols currently exist, and there is controversy as to whether all reported results are legitimate. To investigate these concerns, we analyzed a publicly available seed-to-sale traceability dataset from Washington state containing measurements of the cannabinoid content of legal cannabis products from state-certified laboratories. Consistent with previous work, we found that commercial Cannabis strains fall into three broad chemotypes defined by the THC:CBD ratio. Moreover, we documented systematic differences in the cannabinoid content reported by different laboratories, relative stability in cannabinoid levels of commercial flower and concentrates over time, and differences between popular commercial strains. Importantly, interlab differences in cannabinoid reporting persisted even after controlling for plausible confounds. Our results underscore the need for standardized laboratory methodologies in the legal cannabis industry and provide a framework for quantitatively assessing laboratory quality.

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids / analysis*
  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Consumer Product Safety*
  • Health Facilities*
  • Humans
  • Laboratories
  • Substance Abuse Detection*
  • Washington


  • Cannabinoids