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Not All Full Panels Are Created Equal. Learn the Differences From One Full Panel to the Next.

ByTrichome Team

November 7, 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Although there are several different meanings across the industry, for the most part, a full panel cannabis test is really a series of lab analyses that provide in-depth information about consumer safety concerns and the potency of the flower sample or cannabis-derived product. 

Full panel tests are generally catered to specific state regulations, so it’s important to keep in mind that lab’s “full panels” will vary: One lab’s full panel analysis may include pesticides and solvents on vapes, while another lab might only include pesticides. Regardless, a full panel test does far more than simply fill the need for a “pesticide” or “solvent residue” test. 

Analytes and Analyte Limits

Looking closer at state requirements, there are big differences in their lists of analytes, aka any measured substances such as cannabinoids, microbes, pesticides, heavy metals and more. Some analytes are Pass / Fail, where their presence would trigger a failing result, while others are measured against allowable limits set by the regulatory agency, which differ state to state.

For example, in New York, products in the edible category must be tested for Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella in the microbial pathogen panel, while in Maryland, cannabis testing labs must also test for Listeria Monocytogenes, Total Coliforms, and general E. coli. New York currently requires testing for 67 pesticide active ingredients, but New Jersey only requires 45. Both states require testing for the insecticide Acetamiprid, but the New York limit is 3 ug/g, while New Jersey’s limit is 0.2 ug/g.

State Testing Regulations Affect Pricing

The methods and instrumentation needed for specific compounds to meet different state regulations determine how much a full panel test will cost.

States do change their requirements to address various concerns. One such example is testing for vitamin E acetate (VEA). This substance, which came to prominence in 2019 after it was linked to numerous cases of lung injury from vape products sourced primarily in illicit markets, is now required to be tested in a handful of states, including New Jersey

Cannabis testing labs detect levels of VEA through high-performance liquid chromatography with ultraviolet detector over 0.1%, which is more than sensitive enough to detect a compound that is typically added to the product at levels of 20% to 50%. However, if the limit were set at 1ppm (or 0.0001%), the lab would need more sensitive and expensive detectors—like a mass spectrometer— to properly analyze the sample. The result is that a test that typically costs $50 quickly elevates into a $200 test. The knee-jerk reactions behind some regulations and limits like this example can drastically affect the end pricing on a panel, so it would behoove producers and manufacturers to pay attention to state rulemaking and engage with regulators appropriately on proposed rule changes.

What Panel is Necessary for New York Hemp Producers?

Trichome Analytical offers a New York Cannabinoid Hemp Program (NYCHP) Compliance Panel that covers all the requirements and analytes within the program. This is particularly important because New York’s pesticide list is unique from any other state; a “full panel” not specific to New York will not meet the state’s specific requirements. It also saves money and time by forgoing tests for additives like VEA. Unless mandated by the state, there is no point in a manufacturer testing for an additive it knows was not used in the product.

Depending on the state, terpene content may or may not be required on the compliance test. New York does not require testing for terpenes, but proceeding with a terpene profile might be worth it in order to give additional information to clients by providing a full chemovar (chemical profile) of the plant. 

Terpene profile panels can be combined with other tests to provide a more holistic view of the chemical composition of the product and serve as a brand differentiator as consumers compare products and make selections based on desired effect. If a consumer is looking for sedating effects, they might seek out products with higher myrcene content. A strain high in limonene could assist consumers with its anti-inflammatory properties

A terpene panel is currently required in New Jersey for inhalable products, but not in New York.

Panel Transfers and Pricing

Very few full panels are transferable from one state to another. Unless the lab has a custom full panel that adds on a certain pesticide or two that state regulators feel the need to tack on to another list, and ensures the sensitivity is low enough for the lowest acceptable limits, it is unlikely a full panel from one state could legally apply to another.

In terms of pricing, there is some give and take. The standard formula is the more pathogens and / or pesticides tested, the higher the cost. Unlike the New York program, New Jersey does not test for pesticides in edibles (yet), but it does have a larger required microbial panel. The NYCHP does not differentiate testing based on product type, so its regulations require everything to be tested for residual solvents, even raw flower.

The term “full panel” means different things in different states, so if you need your product tested, be sure to be aware of the specifics for your legal market. 

If you are a hemp producer in New York, get the right full panel test in order to be compliant and not come up short under NYCHP guidelines. Learn more about Trichome Analytical’s testing services here.