Beakers in a lab. The text reads "What Is a Certificate Of Analysis?"

If you’ve ever purchased CBD online, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen a certificate of analysis before. Sometimes, those in the cannabis and hemp industry shorten the name to “COA.” No matter what you call them, COAs are technical documents that inform you about CBD product’s potency and purity.

In this post, we’ll explore what COAs are, what kinds of information they contain, and where to get one.

What Is A Certificate Of Analysis? 

A “certificate of analysis” is the name we give technical documents that list a product’s specifications. In the hemp and cannabis industry, there are a few specifications that we value, like

Cannabinoid Potency

A cannabinoid potency test will tell you what cannabinoids are present in the product or flower. Tests will also list their concentrations and weights. These latter pieces of information are important as they tell us if a full-spectrum CBD product contains too much THC.

Cannabinoid potency testing also tells us how much CBD is present in a product. Compare this information to the advertised levels on the packaging. There shouldn’t be a discrepancy greater than 10% between the tested and advertised CBD levels.

The terpene profile of our hawaiian haze hemp flower
Example of terpene analysis from our Hawaiian Haze Hemp Flower

Presence Of Terpenes

Terpene tests are almost exclusively run on raw cannabis and hemp flower samples. Terpenes are hydrocarbons that give hemp its distinctive smell and effects.

Please see our terpene series here if you’re interested in terpenes and how they can change your smoking experience.

Moisture Content

Moisture content tells us how much water is in our samples. Your smokable flower should be retested if it contains more than 12% water by weight. If your flower sample contains more than 15% water by weight, you should dry it as soon as possible. Higher moisture content can turn your flower into a breeding ground for microbes.

Presence Of Contaminants

Labs will test your products for the presence of contaminants in more complete COAs, called full-panel certificates of analysis. These contaminants could range from heavy metals to pesticides to fungi.

Most farms complete full-panel comprehensive field tests rather than individual product tests to detect contaminants, saving time and money.

And More

Some states require additional testing on top of the tests listed above. While not technically considered dangerous, some states require specific testing for

  • Yeast
  • Solvents
  • Bacteria

Why Hemp COAs Are Important

COAs are important, especially in the hemp and cannabis space, because this industry exists in a legal gray area. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t want to regulate CBD products because of the headache it would create for them.

Third-party testing is important because

  1. There aren’t any state or federal agencies that are going to confirm product safety or purity.
  2. Your product’s quality and safety should be confirmed by a neutral third party.
  3. It helps build trust within the hemp and cannabis industry.

Most CBD vendors and cultivators willingly provide test results when asked. Online vendors keep it on their site, though you may need a batch number to access the relevant document.

Either way, don’t buy a hemp or CBD product online (especially on Amazon) without seeing a certificate of analysis first. We list Sunset Lake’s COAs on a page called “Quality Tests,” which you can find here.

Where Do You Get a Certificate of Analysis?

Most farms and cannabis cultivators will need to acquire COAs from third-party labs. CBD vendors, if not the original manufacturer, will need COAs from the businesses they source products from.

If you’re a potential customer, you should get your COA directly from the company or farm that you want to buy from. They should either be easily accessible on a business’s website or readily provided when asked for. If you’re given a hard time about asking for test results, move on. That farm is not worth your time.

Related: 5 Things To Do Before You Buy CBD Online

Wrapup: What Are COAs?

COAs are documents that certify the quality and safety of your hemp or cannabis product. They are effectively another form of quality assurance.

If you’re in the market for a CBD, you should know how to read your COA and what information you’re looking for. You can find all of Sunset Lake CBD’s certificates of analysis here. If you have any questions about our test results, please feel free to ask us for help. We’ll be more than happy to oblige.