Robin Hackett, co-owner of BotanaCare in Northglenn, looks over the printed list of tests and ingredients on a an edible by Mountain High Suckers on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Edibles’ THC claims versus lab tests reveal big discrepancies

An independent Denver Post study shows marijuana-infused product labeling often doesn't match THC content

As one of the largest producers of marijuana-infused edibles in Colorado, Dr. J’s Hash Infusion makes chocolates, caramels and candies. But many of the company’s products contain only a minute fraction of the THC promised on Dr. J’s labels, according to independent tests organized by The Denver Post.

One Dr. J’s milk chocolate Star Barz labeled for 100 milligrams of THC had 0.37 milligrams of the valued psychoactive component, according to three tests conducted by Steep Hill Halent of Colorado, a state-licensed marijuana testing facility. Another popular Dr. J’s chocolate bar, the 100-milligram Winter Mint flavor, tested similarly in two experiments, showing 0.28 milligrams of THC.


Test results: View all 36 tests conducted by Steep Hill Halent of Colorado on behalf of The Denver Post and The Cannabist

Read the story behind the story: Cannabist editor Ricardo Baca talks about how this report came to be

Reaction to the report: How has Colorado’s marijuana industry reacted to The Post study? Plus, exclusive comments from the veteran chemist who conducted the THC tests

Editorial: Test results show reason why oversight is needed in Colorado’s marijuana industry, says The Denver Post’s Editorial Board.


“They need to work on their process,” said Joseph Evans, laboratory director at Steep Hill Halent. “I don’t know that it’s irresponsible, but it’s nonprofessional.”

Denver Post THC edibles tests
The results of The Denver Post study on THC content in edibles. (Click to enlarge)

The evolving marijuana industry is still finding its way in Colorado, and one of the evolving aspects is the testing — or lack thereof — of products. The state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division enacted new regulations last week, and more changes are to come in May, July and October.

But as the marijuana industry looks ahead to the potential of regular, mandatory testing, Dr. J’s problem seems deeper than a bad batch or two. The two bars that both tested for less than a half milligram of THC were purchased two months and 40 miles apart from each other, and they were separated by 282 batches — or roughly 70,000 units.

“I would be in shock (if those tests were accurate),” said Dr. J’s CEO Tom Sterlacci. “We’re one of the top businesses in Colorado. I wouldn’t be in business this long if we weren’t doing things right 99 percent of the time.”

Enter enforcement agency

Hundreds of customers have complained about Dr. J’s products. At least three recreational pot shops dropped the brand entirely; others said they won’t carry them. And the grousing has the attention of the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

An independent Post study of several products showed that THC levels in edibles are never exactly what the package reads. Mile High Candy’s watermelon drops are labeled at 100 milligrams of THC but actually contained 17. Incredibles’ Mile High Mint chocolate bar advertises 100 milligrams of THC but instead included 146. The Growing Kitchen’s chocolate chunk cookie tested at 101 milligrams on a product labeled for 100.

Colorado marijuana industry leader Dixie Elixirs tested at 60 milligrams of THC with its Dixie Rolls in The Post’s study, which are labeled at 100 milligrams.

“While we are disappointed to learn of The Post’s test results, we also know that testing can vary significantly from one lab to the next,” Dixie Elixirs CMO Joe Hodas said. “Regardless, we will continue to focus on our quality control to be sure all of our products, from edibles to tinctures and topicals, reflect the agreed-upon milligrams of THC.”

But of the 10 edibles tested in the exclusive Post report, no edible had the THC-level problems of Dr. J’s, Evans said.

Tests show THC content in marijuana edibles is inconsistent
Lab director Joseph Evans analyzes test results at Steep Hill Halent of Colorado on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post).

“You’re talking less than a milligram of THC in a product that says 100,” Evans said. “If people have no confidence in this industry, then there could be a sort of backlash against the whole legal marijuana movement.”

How can these numbers be so disparate? While there’s been much discussion over testing guidelines, it’s still a voluntary action for the growers and makers of marijuana-infused products, or MIPs.

Read the rest of the report on THC content in edibles

This story was first published on DenverPost.com