The discussion started off innocently enough with a simple question between cannabis growers:
“What is the difference in THC content between the top ‘crown’ bud and the bottom ‘runt’ bud?”
The consensus was that there was no consensus. Everyone had a different opinion so we decided that some testing was necessary. Carefully, we rolled up two joints: one from the top and one from the bottom of a plant. After smoking both, we were sure it was a good strain, but our question went unanswered.
This time we decided to do something a bit more scientific. We carefully picked our buds and bagged them so they wouldn’t get contaminated. We were packing them up to go to a cannabis testing lab that uses gas chromatography to test potency.
Iron Laboratories, in Walled Lake, is the longest running testing lab in Michigan. In true scientific fashion, I did not tell the staff at Iron Labs what I had planned. Both of the samples came back with no molds and no impurities, which is great. But the real purpose of the test was answered in the potency section of the readout. Between the 2 bud locations, there was almost 4% difference in THC potency. Iron labs also offers a test for pesticides and bacteria, but I opted not to pay extra for it since it wasn’t pertinent to my experiment.
Howard Lutz, who, despite his long hair, does not use marijuana himself, is one of the owners of Iron Labs. While building his service brand, Lutz prioritized relationships with patients and caregivers, which is the reason all clients must be members. Testing of buds is undeniably the most common task in his lab, with concentrate and edible testing following right behind. The rare products like body care items are a welcome challenge for Lutz, who is proud to say they haven’t had an item submitted that they couldn’t test. From liquids to glass-like shatter, the lab has standard practices for every marijuana product. But the submissions that have always provided the toughest challenge are edible gummies. Lutz says it is because the typical solvent does not break down the gelatin well enough for the sample to be run through the machine. But that hasn’t stopped him or his staff from finding the right process.
About a year ago, Iron Labs moved to a different location, where they were able to receive their ISO certification. He gave me a tour and I could tell there was a very large investment in the equipment they use. Despite all of this, Lutz says he has not had a bit of police contact, neither good nor bad. With all the state of the art instruments, it’s a wonder that the state police department have claimed they can’t test marijuana products, and furthermore, that they have not sought out the guidance of Lutz or his staff.
In total, there are 14 individuals employed with Iron Labs; 6 support staff and 8 scientists, two of which hold a PhD. The lab has given service to some 900 members over the past year.
For anyone contemplating getting their medicine tested, it is important to find a cannabis lab that you’re comfortable with and build off that. Personally, I have tested with 2 labs in the past, when available, because accuracy was extremely important to me. In spite of that, I would not suggest that cannabis testing be mandated because even our fruits and vegetables are not. In fact, even beer microbrewers are not required to have lab tests done, nor are they obligated to provide the amount of alcohol content by volume on their packaging. It’s possible that on your next visit to the local grocery store or pub, you will see a lab tester for your micro beers or fruits, but I doubt it.
In general, testing in the marijuana industry is a welcome and helpful service, and places like Iron Labs are appreciated by many.