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The Medical Marijuana Lab Testing Process in PA

Medically Reviewed by: Christine A. Doerbecker, BS, RPh

In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana products must pass a series of tests before they end up on dispensary shelves and in your possession. Medical marijuana lab testing in Pennsylvania, arguably some of the most vigorous marijuana testing in the country, ensures that your medical marijuana is accurately labeled and safe to consume. We had the pleasure of sitting down with an independent PA medical marijuana testing lab, Steep Hill Pennsylvania, to walk us through the medical marijuana lab testing process.

The Medical Marijuana Lab Testing Process Explained

Once the grower/processors harvest their crop, they send the medical marijuana over to a PA Department of Health approved independent testing lab (ITL). All marijuana is tested in batches, called “test lots.”

On arrival, the PA medical marijuana products are tested at two different points. The first point is called harvest testing, and the marijuana may be tested in one of two forms: dried flower or fresh frozen flower.

In the case of dry leaf, each test lot can be no more than 10 pounds. Fresh frozen test lots can be no more than 65 pounds. (Hint – it has to do with the moisture!)

The second point of testing is after the marijuana has been made into the specific products forms that will be shipped to dispensaries (dry leaf, vape cartridges, tinctures, topicals, etc.). Before being shipped to a dispensary, the products are tested one last time.

What Your Medical Marijuana is Being Tested For

Medical marijuana lab testing varies state-by-state. In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana is screened for multiple key components such as potency levels (we’re talking THC, CBD and all the other favorite cannabinoids), terpenes, and unwanted contaminants such as residual solvents, pesticides, metals or mold.

medical marijuana lab testing methodologies
Source from Pennsylvania Department of Health

You can read more in-depth about the PA testing methods here.

Testing Limits in Pennsylvania

Testing limits in PA are much stricter than in our neighboring states. A sample that passes in Washington D.C. or Maryland may pass in their state but fail in PA. This depends on the microbial limits.

Microbial limits measure the yeast and mold levels that will get a sample rejected from the testing process. This is based on a metric called CFU (colony forming units) per gram. The microbial levels for dry leaf are 10x stricter in PA than in MD (10,000 CFU in PA vs. 100,000 CFU in MD).

Pesticide Usage Guidelines

The PA Department of Health suggests that grower/processors’ harvest be clear of pesticides, chemical agents and plant growth regulators.

The list below displays all of the prohibited pesticides in PA.

Source from Pennsylvania Department of Health

If an approved lab detects a pesticide on this list or any other pesticide above the limit of detection, they must notify the PA Department of Health. In cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, an investigation would then take place and the appropriate action would be taken against the grower/processor.

What If A Medical Marijuana Product Fails A Test?

If a medical marijuana product fails a test, the grower/processor must retest the batch with the same approved lab. If the second test passes, the grower/processor must retest the batch and pass with a second independent testing lab in Pennsylvania.

“We are here to ensure that Pennsylvania medical marijuana products are tested and proved to be at the highest quality. Patients should have full confidence in the medical marijuana products they purchase in Pennsylvania dispensaries,” said Billy Woolf, Steep Hill Pennsylvania’s CEO.

Additionally, Woolf explained that the PA medical marijuana shortage is not due to medicine failing the state-mandated tests.

“Any medication shortages are due to high product demand, not testing delays.” Woolf said.

About Steep Hill Pennsylvania

Steep Hill Pennsylvania is a PA Department of Health approved third-party testing lab located in Harrisburg, PA. The team, which is part of the larger team also in Maryland and Washington, D.C., is composed of Ph.D.-trained analytical laboratory specialists, health care experts, and board-certified physicians who have been experienced in patient care and diagnostic medicine for decades.

At Solevo Wellness, nothing is more important to us than your health and wellness. We have options available to purchase medical marijuana online for patients who register for our Online Reserve system. As always, PA Medical Marijuana cardholders, including first-time patients, may walk in at any Solevo Wellness location without an appointment. And if you’re exploring getting your PA medical marijuana certification (or recertification), we can help with that too!