Cannabis Myth #8: Producers can Guarantee a Consistent Product

Many producers believe that they can ensure a consistent product by doing the same thing over and over again. But is this realistic?

There are a myriad of factors that can influence the potency of cannabis: genetics, obviously, but also lighting, feeding and watering programs, temperature and air flow through the growing space, and the list goes on. And it turns out that it’s near impossible to get these things consistent across a room full of plants, let alone from one crop to another. Some plants get direct air from a nearby fan, while others are more sheltered. Some are directly below a light and others have better lighting from the side.

The outcome of all this is that growers can get a reasonably consistent product when you consider the averages across a crop, at the macro level. But at the micro-level, there will be variations between the flowers, even from a single plant. It is not realistic to test an entire crop (especially when most testing destroys sellable product). Instead, growers must select a representative sample to submit for testing, and the results of those tests apply to the whole crop.

As consumers get more savvy about Canada’s now-legal cannabis, some are sending the products they purchase for testing and many are unhappy about the results. Given all the variability across the crop, it is pretty much a guarantee that their flowers will be slightly different from the grower’s claim. This is building a lot of distrust in the numbers on the packaging.

So what can growers do about it? We have a few options…

  • We could use non-destructive testing to test each bud as it is released, but the effort involved is prohibitive.
  • We could educate consumers on why the variations exist, but this has a very limited reach.
  • We could change sampling practices to get a range of flowers from different areas in the grow room and from different locations on the plant, instead of cherry-picking samples that are most likely to test high.

As for consumers, we need to remember that this is a complex plant with complex interactions. Regardless of what the package says about THC & CBD levels, these are a tiny fraction of the active ingredients in it, and in themselves are not enough to fully predict how an individual user will respond to an individual flower.

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