Labels like indica, sativa and hybrid—commonly used to distinguish one category of cannabis from another—tell consumers little about what’s in their product, and could be confusing or misleading, suggests a new study of nearly 90,000 samples across six states.
Published May 19 in the journal PLOS One, the research constitutes the largest analysis to date of the chemical composition of marijuana products. It finds that commercial labels “do not consistently align with the observed chemical diversity” of the product. The authors are now calling for a weedlabeling system akin to the Food and Drug Administration’s “nutrition facts panel” for food.
“Our findings suggest that the prevailing labeling system is not an effective or safe way to provide information about these products,” said co-author Brian Keegan, an assistant professor of Information Science at CU Boulder. “This is a real challenge for an industry that is trying to professionalize itself.”
The year 2022 marks the 10-year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the first two U.S. states to permit adult use. Over that time, the industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar one, in which sativa strains are generally associated with an energetic high while indica strains are associated with a relaxing effect.
Yet no standardized labeling system exists.