This follow-up to my recent post “Facts and Alt-Facts: How 2 labs Report on Potency” serves primarily as a response to those readers and interested parties that took the time to comment either on how the two charts aligned with their expectations or how my methods were allegedly deceitful.
I’ll put aside the “attack the messenger” tone uniting the latter group of posts, and focus today on the reported “Total Cannabinoid” trends reported by the top-volume Friendly lab and the top-volume PRAGUE lab for the period spanning May, 2015 through Dec. 2016.
The LCB sent guidance to the labs on May 11, 2015 that the number they were to report in the TOTAL field while recording potency for flower was to be THCmax (totally-decarboxylated THC).
During the period between June, 2014 and the first half of May, 2015 different metrics were being reported for TOTAL by different labs.
While Analytical 360 reported TOTAL using THCmax from the beginning, CONfidence ANALytics reported a total of multiple Cannabinoids, a number of which were not among those required for measurement or reporting by the LCB.
This led to CONfidence having larger (and, for a number of months, MUCH larger) TOTAL numbers than many of their competitors.
An earlier post on HI-Blog shares a short animated chart that demonstrates the inflation of TOTAL values reported by each lab compared to the calculated standard of THCmax. The big brown circle labeled lab N corresponds to CONfidence and the initially large blue circle labeled Lab J corresponds to Analytical 360.
Each of these labs has been testing and reporting their results since mid 2014 (near the beginning of this market).
Here is an annotated chart of their reported TOTAL Cannabinoids since May of 2015. This chart corresponds primarily to THCmax (although I believe the LCB began to recently require that TOTAL reflect the summation of both THCmax and CBDmax (the totally decarboxylated measure of CBD + .877*CBD)).
I’ll limit my comments to one overall and one for each labelled phase of the chart.
The basic trend displayed by Analytical 360 during this apples-to-apparently-apples comparison is one of gradually decelerating growth. The trend displayed by CONfidence is best described as cyclical. The low points in this almost-annual cycle correspond to the primary outdoor harvest season seen in October and November.
The OVERALL thing of interest is that Analytical 360 does not share the cyclical trend so clearly displayed by CONfidence.
It is reasonable to assume that CONfidence simply captures a higher share of the OUTDOOR harvests than does Analytical 360 (and that, in the fall, they represent a higher proportion of CONfidence’s testing than they do of Analytical 360’s). Analytical 360’s physical presence in Yakima suggests that they’d capture at least some of Eastern Washington’s outdoor grows.
Overall, the difference between the two seasonal patterns – while striking – is explainable.
Note that it took CONfidence about 6 weeks to come into compliance with the LCB’s May 11 guidance. All but one of the other “inflating” labs snapped into compliance within a week. That gained CONfidence a significant competitive advantage in a growing market rewarding higher cannabinoid levels.
The three months following the LCB guidance on reporting TOTAL as THCmax are the window from which I drew the data used to measure the “Friendlyness” of the labs. While the Cannabis Transparency Project had made some noise about their preliminary lab work earlier in 2015 (April and May), I did not publicize that I was performing a comprehensive comparative assessment of the labs until I published my first lab report in November.
During period B, PEAK Analytics opened for business and rapidly began to set new records for reported average potency. I also published the multi-article series that detailed differences in reporting across the labs. CONfidence hit a low-point at the peak of the fall harvest season (Nov., 2015) and then began showing a rapid increase in potency. Analytical 360 displayed fairly constant slow growth in average potency. That growth appears to have flattened a bit following period B.
During period C, characterized by media attention on the labs due to both my Friendlyness posts and to the Pesticide failures publicized in early 2016, CONfidence continued to grow their reported potency, while Analytical 360 reported fairly steady levels.
During period D, the Liquor and Cannabis Board initiated a workgroup looking into Laboratory Quality Assurance issues. I expressed concerns twice during that time to the LCB Examiner’s office. Once to express concern and caution regarding the appointment of two Friendly labs (CONfidence and Integrity) to the Lab QA Workgroup and once regarding the apparent re-emergence of inflationary potency reporting (I specifically called out PEAK as an obvious outlier).
In the 3 months following this increase in regulatory attention, CONfidence’s reported TOTAL average fell 2.5 percentage points — reaching a floor THREE MONTHS PRIOR to the peak of the fall harvest. I am not sure what might account for this. It certainly seems consistent with an entity capable of and willing to engineer numbers so as to “appear below suspicion” — particularly when compared to the relatively constant output reported by Analytical 360.
Also during period D, CONfidence Analytics created a supposed industry standards group which was said to hold the lofty goal of ensuring and promoting good lab practices – presumably without inflation. There is another story relating to this apparently sham outfit and how CONfidence has leveraged it and some of it’s other tricks to engineer a fairly prominent role in influencing regulatory submissions pertaining to the labs (and to packaging and to labeling and to pesticides and to traceability and to whatever). Perhaps I’ll share that at another time.
During period E, CONfidence maintained a “lower than you” level of reported potency which is noticeably lower than that of Analytical 360.
During period F, the Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah powers granted the industry a wish and potency once again began to increase.
Let’s thank the potency powers that smiled on the industry in December.
Something or things is different between these two labs.
It may be Friendlyness, it may be the avoidance of punishment, it may be a differential influx of outdoor harvests 3 months early.
Or it may be nothing
Best guess? You know my opinion and, for now, I’ll leave it at that.
Just know that my opinion has been shaped primarily by the two years during which I’ve spent a good deal of quality time with the data the labs are spewing out. Since I first published the lab Friendlyness series, the behavior of some of the Friendlies has reinforced that opinion.
I hope you take the time to leave your thoughts regarding this work in the comments section below.
The only other thing regarding labs that I MAY post in the next few weeks is a workup of how important (if at all) the size of a customer is in determining the results each lab reports.
I have put some thought into the patterns of reporting which a lab inclined to engineer it’s results and/or desiring to keep it’s most favored customers happy and/or not wanting to appear to be inflating potencies relative to it’s competitors (or failing to fail bad lots) might be expected to produce.
Those thoughts tend to paint an unpleasant picture for such a lab’s non-favored customers.
But all that is just speculation and theorizing right now.