Washington Lab Conducts Transparency Study

By Aaron G. Biros

Following a report indicating lab shopping and possible foul play, Capitol Analysis attempts to identify inconsistencies in lab results.

Earlier this week Capitol Analysis Group, a cannabis-testing laboratory based in Lacey, Washington, announced they are conducting a “data-driven Lab Transparency Project, an effort to improve accuracy of cannabis testing results in the state through transparency and a new third-party auditing process,” according to a press release. They plan to look through the state’s traceability data to find patterns of deviations and possible foul play.

The project launch comes after Straightline Analytics, a Washington cannabis industry data company, released a report indicating they found rampant laboratory shopping to be present in the state. Lab shopping is a less-than-ethical business practice where cannabis producers look for the lab that will give them the most favorable results, particularly with respect to higher potency figures and lower contamination fail rates.“Lab shopping shouldn’t exist, because it is a symptom of lab variability,”

According to the press release, their report “shows that businesses that pay for the highest number of lab tests achieve, on average, reported potency levels 2.71% higher than do those that pay for the lowest number of lab tests.” They also found labs that provide higher potency figures tend to have the largest market share.

The Lab Transparency Project logo
The Lab Transparency Project logo

The goal of The Lab Transparency Project is to provide summaries of lab data across the state, shining a light in particular on which labs provide the highest potency results. “Lab shopping shouldn’t exist, because it is a symptom of lab variability,” says Jeff Doughty, president of Capitol Analysis. “We already have standards that should prevent variations in lab results and proficiency testing that shows that the labs are capable of doing the testing.” The other piece to this project is independent third party auditing, where they hope other labs will collaborate in the name of transparency and honesty. “Problems arise when the auditors aren’t looking,” says Doughty. “Therefore, we’re creating the Lab Transparency Project to contribute to honesty and transparency in the testing industry.”

Dr. Jim McRae, founder of Straightline Analytics, and the author of that inflammatory report, has been a vocal critic of the Washington cannabis testing industry for years now. “I applaud Capitol Analysis for committing to this effort,” says McRae. “With the state’s new traceability system up and running following a 4-month breakdown, the time for openness and transparency is now.” Dr. McRae will be contributing to the summaries of lab data as part of the project.

According to Doughty, the project is designed to be a largely collaborative effort with other labs, dedicated to improving lab standards and transparency in the industry.


  1. Vince Kopec

    Just a note to understand this statement in context:
    “I applaud Capitol Analysis for committing to this effort,” says McRae. “With the state’s new traceability system up and running following a 4-month breakdown, the time for openness and transparency is now.”
    I know Jim McRae has contributed to the industry and his understanding and reporting is always important and thoughtful. And he is correct in hoping for openness and transparency in the testing segment. However, it is unfortunate to hear him indicate the new traceability is up and running. Up, yes, Running, not in any effective and consistent manner. People are losing revenue, jobs, and businesses due to the inept and inefficient system as it currently sits. Please do an article on the overall state of traceability with the old system vs. new system and all of the effects of poor planning and implementation that went into the new system.

  2. Steven Baugh

    Same old problems that plague all industries, especially dietary supplements. But here it is worse. The laboratories are forced into situations that leave them no choice but to yield to industry demands. Like the laboratory not correcting standards for water content, that makes the customer values higher. The good lab gets the low number, and loses market share…. Viscous cycle. I endured this at Chromadex, I used our own Chromadex standards, corrected for water and other impurities, and always got the lower number and criticism. My competitors bought their “standards” from sigma. Sigma tells you 99% pure, but if you read the label it is 5% water. They ignore water content and get 5% higher values….. This industry demands 99.5% pure ingredients? Most labs have variability in the single digits, and that makes any value relying on the decimal point questionable. And it takes special laboratory practices to perform in the high potency arena, just check out the multitude of calibration strategies, and monitoring for impurities by multiple techniques, to get confidence in that narrow range. And most labs aren’t even analyzing for water, which is invisible to most common laboratory methods…. Proper characterization at 99%+ potency costs thousands per batch. Been there done that. The inmates are running the asylum.

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