The question is often asked, “why not just buy marijuana from a street dealer? It’s cheaper.” The old adage, “you get what you pay for” is never more applicable than in the case of medical marijuana in Louisiana, especially when it comes to making sure products are safe and reliable.
Like most states where marijuana is legalized for medicinal purposes, all products set for distribution in Louisiana are put through stringent testing before shipping to the designated medical marijuana pharmacies. As of August 1, 2022, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) assumed regulatory authority over Louisiana’s medical marijuana program. LDH personnel are responsible for conducting inspections of medical marijuana production facilities and reviewing finished product test results to verify compliance with the requirements of La. R.S. 40: 1046. According to Section XLIX-2303 titled Laboratory Testing, here is a list of the steps adhered to by the Louisiana Department of Health and its agents.
A. Each batch of medical marijuana concentrate, final product produced from concentrate, and final product not produced from concentrate (ex. dried and cured flower) shall be made available by the licensee for a department agent of an approved laboratory or otherwise independent sample collector to select a random and representative sample of sufficient volume to conduct required analyses, which shall be tested by the department’s laboratory or an approved laboratory.
1. Medical marijuana concentrate shall not be used to produce any form of final product until it has passed all analysis limits for:
a. active ingredient analysis for characterization of potency;
b. pesticide active ingredients, including but not limited to, the most recent list of targeted pesticides published by the department;
c. residual solvents;
d. heavy metals; and
The LDH uses batch testing to ensure potency and safe levels of pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, microbial contaminants, and homogeneity (that the product would have uniformly and evenly distributed components). If a sample fails testing for heavy metals, pesticides, or mycotoxins, the entire batch is destroyed. If it fails the residual solvents tests, with approval from the department, the product might be reformulated and tested again. If it fails again, the entire batch is then destroyed. Only excessive residual solvents would trigger reformulation. For all other test failures, the entire batch is destroyed.
Every sample undergoes a mycotoxin test. Mycotoxins are secondary metabolite compounds produced by mold or fungi.
Each sample must also undergo a pesticide chemical residue test. These are pesticides that do not appear on the department’s approved list. All amounts allowed are less than 0.0001 percent.
Each sample must also undergo a heavy metals test. Though most are far less, no more than 0.0002 percent of any will cause the sample to fail testing and be destroyed.
Each sample must undergo an active ingredient analysis to ensure the presence of active ingredients and their concentrates and to ensure accurate dosing. The following active ingredients are tested: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), THCA tetrahydrocannabinol acid, CBD cannabidiol, and CBDA cannadidiolic acid.No more than a variance of plus or minus 15 percent is allowed. For example, a product purchased at a designated medical marijuana pharmacy in Louisiana that is labeled as 10 milligrams THC must contain no less than 8.5 milligrams and no more than 11.5 milligrams.
And, finally, each sample must be tested for homogeneity. Homogeneity refers to the uniformity of a substance; when compounds are evenly distributed throughout the structure of the substance, it is said to be homogenous. When a product is homogenous, it ensures product consistency in potency and dosage.
To see all amounts allowed for each set of testing, please see the legal text in Section XLIX-2303.
To make sure every product is safe to consume and every dose will produce similar results, medical marijuana products that have been thoroughly tested by professional labs are really the only way to produce reliable labeling and dependable doses for patients. If a street dealer were asked “what kind of testing do you use on this marijuana” you would likely get to see a really baffled look or hear uncontrollable laughter.
The bottom line is, those who choose street drugs don’t really know what they’re getting or if each dose will be predictable. In addition to being illegal, it’s also not possible to tell what residues, pesticides, or molds are in street products.
On the other hand, medical marijuana purchased from a designated pharmacy in Louisiana can be trusted to be reliable in its safety and predictable in its potency every time the product is purchased.