Certificate of Analysis (COA)
Let’s review how laboratory testing works to produce a Certificate of Analysis (CoA), which is the most accurate method of identifying the cannabinoid content of flowers, and contaminants that would make them unsafe for consumer use. Laboratory testing provides the most reliable information about a plant’s cannabinoid and terpene composition. Testing also provides quality assurance that the product is free of pesticides, contaminants, or molds, which could negatively impact anyone’s health.
Ideally, all labs should be equipped to test for potency and microbial contaminants, and pesticide residues, but this is not yet the case everywhere. Due to the massive hybridization of the plant over the years, names of cannabis varieties are a way of predicting the effects different varieties might have. So-called “strain names” are fine as general guides to effects for recreational users, but medical cannabis patients have more specific needs and typically require more detailed information.
Each cannabis plant has its own terpene “bouquet” and consumers should be encouraged to use their noses to identify major “tones” in the bouquet such as pine or citrus fragrances, but if possible they should be included in a CoA too. A CoA’s and these different clues can help consumers find what works best for them when reviewing cannabis testing results.