Underweight Cannabis from LPs a big problem?

A recent story I read in Vancouver’s The Province by local reporter Nick Eagland stated that the pot that’s coming from licensed growers selling into the recreational cannabis outlets may be lighter than the quantity cited on the label by as high as 20%, a shocking revelation, if this is a more widespread problem.

Neill Dixon, President, O’Cannabiz Conference & Expo

By Neill Dixon, President, O’Cannabiz Conference & Expo

The story quotes a medical cannabis patient that, due to a shortage of his regular products at his licensed medical cannabis dispensary, resorted to purchasing weed from a local licensed store.  

“Altogether, I lost about ¾ of a gram” or the equivalent of about $10, in a total four products purchased.  By contrast, the packages provided by his regular medical outlet were often slightly overweight, which confers greater buyer confidence to the supplier brand.

Having not been involved in cannabis production – ever, I was unaware that there was an allowable variance in actual vs. labeled weight on the package.  As described in the same article, the maximum Health Canada variance from weight is 10%.  It strikes me that this is already a generous allowance considering the margins between the input costs and the wholesale selling prices available to a cannabis grower.  The notion that this allowance was regularly exceeded in 100% of the samples this patient tested is the equivalent to having the producer’s thumb on the scale when you make your purchase.

Apparently, the patient in question, Carl Pendleton of Gibsons, BC, is not alone; this problem has been relatively widely reported.  According to an email from the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch (which also handles cannabis sales), the situation has improved since legalization as quality assurance processes have improved.

Admittedly, I have no experience in these matters and no science degree to back it up either. However, the problem would appear to be a family matter, namely Father Time and Mother Nature.   The patient received packages that were in some cases sealed 11 months before they were purchased.   Nature contributed to drying out the buds in situ, thereby reducing their weight.

Hold on.  It’s not just that, and anybody who has ever ground up a bud and watched it turn to dust knows this to be the case. Old weed not properly stored or packed is not just dry, but also without adequate scent or taste, thereby denying the user of the full experience and possibly reducing the overall effect and pleasance.   It’s a rip-off through and through.

Cannabis is a complex plant with over 100 different naturally occurring chemicals and terpenes that interact with our neural systems in ways we are only beginning to comprehend.   Each combination produces a distinctive fragrance and may have different clinical benefits.  Age and dryness can break off and destroy trichomes containing these chemicals.  And the terpenes, those aromatics you smell and taste, simply evaporate when exposed to air and are lost.  The loss of these compounds changes the composition of the flower and can negate its value as a medicine or a recreational device.

Just as distressing as the dryness and evaporation problems are repeated stories and incidents of mold occurring in the buds.   Customer complaints reporting stale and moldy weed were also prevalent in the early days of the OCS in Ontario too.  Many people are allergic to the type of mold that occurs on bread or vegetation and the mold that occurs in cannabis is no different. It can block airways and make people feel sick.  I would warn anyone off products where the unmistakable odor of mold is present.

Back to the evaporation problem though.  This problem seems like a relatively easy one to fix and industry has provided a solution.  Boveda Inc., a past and present exhibitor at O’Cannabiz has the products and solutions to address this problem; its products are used by a number of respected cannabis producers, and others not using this product should consider some form of mitigation for evaporation if their dried cannabis flower packages are going to sit on the shelves for a while.

It is inattention to this kind of detail and lack of genuine quality control at some producers that may have the public not fully believing in their retail cannabis supply chain, elevated prices notwithstanding.

If we as a country and as an industry are ever to improve, this basic issue of trust must be addressed by our licensed cannabis producers.