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Study finds inflated THC potency at Oklahoma medical marijuana dispensaries

Shelves stocked with marijuana ready to be sold.
Beth Wallis
StateImpact Oklahoma
Shelves stocked with marijuana ready to be sold.

A study from a local cannabis testing lab found some medical marijuana products sold in Oklahoma have lower THC levels than advertised.

In the study, 15 samples of popular strains from three Oklahoma dispensaries were tested. All of them had an over-reported THC potency, according to the report from Havard Industries.

Jeffrey Havard, the lab’s owner and manager, said there was a wide range of discrepancies in THC advertised and the actual THC potency. The average reported THC level of the strains tested is about 24%, but the average measured THC number was just over 14%, according to the study.

The value of marijuana is based on the THC content, meaning the higher the potency, the higher the price. Havard said inflated THC numbers mean consumers could be paying more money for less potent products.

“Also, if I'm trying to dose correctly and the potency is all over the place, like, it would be impossible for me to ever be able to accurately dose when the numbers are just varying so widely on what the potency of the product is,” Havard said.

He said there are many causes for THC inflation, for instance the samples sent to the lab are not the same products being placed on shelves.

“There's different methods that this can occur,” Havard said. “And we can't really say where this is occurring, but we do know that it is occurring, and that's kind of what we're trying to put out there.”

Havard said the study was submitted to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) during a rules meeting.

There are problems with inflated THC numbers nationwide. Lee Rhoades, OMMA’s chief science officer, said there are roughly over two dozen laboratories in the state and the agency has heard complaints of the issue.

The authority is setting up the quality assurance lab, and Rhoades said it will be used to double-check the accuracy and reliability of testing from licensed cannabis laboratories in the state.

Rhoades said this will be done through picking up and analyzing reserve samples from labs.

OMMA will also check labs’ work through another testing program. The agency will create sample tests for labs around the state, then do their own tests to determine if their results are the same to check THC levels in the future.

When a batch is tested, it must have an accompanying certificate of analysis wherever it is transferred or sold. Rhoades said he encourages people, especially those on a patient level, to ask for the certificate to double-check the results when buying a product.

He said he also wants people to gauge things for themselves and ask, “does that seem accurate in your experience, or not?”

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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