How To Read Laboratory Test Results For Hemp and Cannabis Products

It’s great that cannabis companies are supplying laboratory test results for their products, but how do you read those test results?

Hemp and cannabis products are now required to have QR codes that link you to laboratory test results or COA’s (certificate of analysis), but what does all that data and all of those numbers mean? Unless you know what to look for, you might as well be reading another language!

When you buy a packet of Advil, do you look up the product information and check out the percentages of ingredients? Probably not. However, providing laboratory test results is a requirement for cannabis products. In the following article, we’ll highlight some of the different sections of a COA and how to interpret them accurately. 

What Should You Look For On C.O.A's?

Product Name - You should always verify that the name of the product on the test results matches the  product in hand

Manufacturer Information – The product information will clearly identify who made the product or who the product is manufactured for. Some states also require the manufacturing license number to be included with the name and address.

Batch Number – The batch number on the product will identify which batch of products your specific product belongs to. This helps trace back to the origins of the product. 

Production Date – This will indicate when the product was made.

Unit Weight/Size – This will tell you the size of the product being sampled. This will help you in determining the potency per unit, if not provided.

Total CBD and THC – This is a quick summary of the potency of the two major cannabinoids as required by state and federal laws. It is a quick indication of how strong your product is. 

Testing Lab Information - Look for the information of the testing lab including contact information, testing dates and signature of verification.

ALERT! Total THC must be under 0.3% to be federally compliant with the 2018 Farm Bill.

Cannabinoid Analysis 

This section will tell you how much of each cannabinoid like CBD, Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, CBN CBG and many more are in the product. Ultimately, it tells you how strong is it.

% vs. mg/g – This tells you how strong the product is. There is a connection between the potency percentage and the mg/g in a product. A quick trick to convert a % to mg/g is to move the decimal point to the right by one. (For example: 0.2% would equal 2 milligrams per gram)

mg/g vs. mg/ml – If you purchased hemp flower or edibles the amount of CBD or THC, along with other minor cannabinoids would be listed as milligrams per gram (mg/g).

If you were to buy a liquid product such as tinctures or topicals, the density affects the potency per dose. Therefore, the accurate dose would be listed as milligrams per milliliter (mg/ml). 

mg/unit – This is an indication of how many milligrams of a cannabinoid are in a product. This is done by multiplying the number of grams by mg/g or mg/ml depending on the product type.

Understanding LOQ versus LOD 

LOQ (less than the limit of quantification) means that a compound was detected, but in such a small amount that it’s too small to report on the test analysis.

LOD (less than the limit of detection) means that the compound wasn’t detected at all in the test results. 

So what does that mean? THC-Free products that register as LOQ could potentially have small untraceable amounts of THC. 

What does full panel testing mean? So far only potency has been discussed. To get a full understanding that your product is safe, you want to make sure the products are full panel tested for their product type. Here is a quick look at the other testing types:

Pesticides- Indicates if there are any pesticides and if so, how much. Each state has its own allowable level.

Residual Solvents- Shows if there are any harmful solvents remaining in the oil left behind from extraction. 

Heavy Metals - Prior to planting, farmers will test their soil for heavy metals to guide them to see if remediation will be needed. This test is then repeated after extraction when used in ingestible or inhalation product.

Terpenes- A measurement of terpene levels within flower or full spectrum oil products. This helps give insight into the flavor and smell of the product.

Myco-Toxins- Assays for fungal derived toxins, such as mold or fungal spores that may have entered the product during the growing or manufacturing process.

Microbials- A measurement of microscopic bacteria such as salmonella or e-coli


Although state specific, here are the most common required tests are:  Potency, Pesticide, Residual Solvents, Heavy Metals, Myco-toxins, Microbial

Other Testing Types: Terpenes, Water Activity, Moisture 

Some states allow manufacturers to use certain test results from the ingredients in lieu of having to retest the final product. It is best when a full panel test is also done on the final product, not just on the ingredients.

However, if it is not provided, looking for the full panel test results on the hemp extract used in the product will verify this information as well.

How To Read Laboratory Test Results For Cannabis Products – Conclusion 

For many consumers, the only number that they’re interested in is the potency of the product that they are purchasing. However, when you take a closer look at the COA of a hemp cannabinoid product, you’ll discover that there’s actually a lot of very interesting information on there, such as; when the product was made, what batch number it belongs to, the potency of the product and if it is safe to consume. 

If you have any additional questions about interpreting a COA, please do not hesitate to reach out and contact us directly.

Educational seriesTest results