Potency Testing

cannabinoid potency samples in test tubes

Accurate determination of cannabinoid concentrations in cannabis and CBD samples is one of the important components of cannabis & CBD testing. ACS determines 22 different cannabinoids and quantifies the level to a specific amount. Our Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatographs deliver the highest accuracy that end users can depend on.


MATRIX: Flowers/Plants, Derivative Products and Edibles
ANALYTES: 11 – 22 count


Cannabis potency testing measures the cannabinoids present in your cannabis sample and measures the strength of those compounds. ACS Lab uses an Ultra High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), which is the preferred instrument for testing cannabis edibles and extracts due to its ability to test samples at room temperature without requiring a catalyst to produce a heat reaction. This method can also test for THC Acid (THCA) and CBD Acid (CBDA), which a gas chromatograph would not.



When deciding which cannabis strains best suit your consumer’s needs, it’s vital to consider the cannabinoids present in your products as well as their potency. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers that mimic the effects of endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced by the human body. Endocannabinoids interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps us maintain homeostasis. Thus, cannabinoids can be a vital part of human health and determine your product’s therapeutic value.


Cannabinoids occur mostly in the plant resin that’s produced by the structures known as trichomes. Trichomes help protect cannabis from insects, animals, fungi, light contaminators and other environmental attackers. The sticky resin is also rich in terpenes, which are responsible for the plant’s smell, taste and therapeutic effects.

To help influence your plant’s cannabinoid profile, the best method is to select a seed whose genes have the potential to produce the potency you desire. For example, if you live in the mountains, you may select a seed that was specially bred for high-altitude growth. But you may also influence how much resin a plant produces through its micronutrients, temperature exposure, humidity levels, harvest methods and water quality.

Heat, for example, can hinder resin formation, so you may want to keep temperatures as low as possible–especially in the late stages of the plant’s bloom cycle. You also want to pay close attention to trichome color throughout the harvest. When trichomes are clear and translucent, they’re not ready for processing yet. But as you notice the trichomes lose opacity and form an amber hue, you know that the plant has reached optimal levels of cannabinoids.


As laws continue to change in the U.S., the need for standardized and consistent potency testing is necessary to keep consumers safe from unwanted side effects. For hemp, potency testing is required to prove that it contains less than the maximum limit of THC (0.3%).

Potency testing also allows scientists to research how cannabinoids may work differently based on whether they are contained in flower, oils or topicals. This type of research can enhance the ability to market your product to the targeted customer that could benefit from its effects the most. 

It’s also important to understand your product’s potency to meet market demand for high THC or CBD levels. You can also utilize potency results to educate your customers with information they need to determine the proper dose for their specific symptoms. When a product’s cannabinoid profile is transparent and documented, customers can work with their dispensary professional to find the best strain for them.

For example, cannabinoids interact with the body’s ECS by connecting to various endocannabinoid receptors that are present in the brain (known as CB-1 receptors) and throughout the body (CB-2 receptors). Depending on which CB receptor the cannabinoid attaches to, the effects on the body can be significantly different, which can be important if you’re considering a cannabis strain that is needed for pain relief, for instance, as opposed to mood regulation. Cannabis plants can produce anywhere between 80-100 different types of cannabinoids that synergize to make up the therapeutic and cognitive effects of the strain. The two most in-demand cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), but other compounds such as cannabinol (CBN) are also starting to emerge. Customers understand these compounds at a basic level and expect to see potency levels that match their desired effects.


At ACS Laboratory, we currently test flower, edibles and extracts for 22 different cannabinoids, which can alleviate symptoms related to several common conditions: mood and behavior disorders, gastrointestinal and neurological ailments, and pain and sleep-related issues, to name a few. Refer to the FAQ section below that explains more about each cannabinoid as well as the importance of potency testing.


No. The two primary ways in which cannabis potency is tested is either by Gas Chromatography (GC) or High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). Some companies use GC due to its speed of analysis and simplicity in finding common cannabinoids like THC, CBD or cannabinol (CBN). This method imitates the process of heating the cannabis product, so if the product will be smoked, this method can provide insight on the potency of different cannabinoids in this form.

However, because heat is required in this process, acid forms of cannabinoids like THCA or CBDA cannot be identified. This is where HPLC becomes a favorable way to test cannabis potency because it can identify the acid molecules of major cannabinoids before they will convert to their corresponding compounds through the heat of smoking or baking. HPLC instruments use an ultraviolet wavelength detector to identify the cannabinoids, so it is much more inclusive of various forms of cannabinoids in their free form or acidic state. HPLC is often the preferred choice for potency testing.

Two issues that can affect a hemp plant’s cannabinoid profile are the time of year and the terrain in which it’s planted. Other factors include chemical exposure and environmental stress. That is why you may want to start potency testing during the plant’s vegetative state.

Through vegetative potency tests, laboratories like ACS can analyze plants early in their life cycles to identify the CBD and THC potency. This test helps you avoid the time-consuming process of raising up seedlings to maturity and waiting to test the flower after harvest. It helps enable more rapid development that provides patients and consumers with the quality and safety they expect. 

Finally, you’ll want to retest your cannabis post-harvest once your product has been manufactured. This will guarantee that the levels match what you expect.

ACS Lab currently tests for the 16 cannabinoids below, plus 4 new ones (ᐃ8-THCV, ᐃ10-THCV, EXO-THC, CBT)



·  ᐃ-THC


·  CBD

·  CBC

·  ᐃ8-THC



·  CBN


·  CBL

·  CBG




At ACS, we test for the 21 different cannabinoids that are most prevalent in cannabis plants. While THC and CBD are the most well-known cannabinoids, the remaining cannabis compounds also synergize to provide the plant’s therapeutic and cognitive effects. CBN and CBG, for example, are two cannabinoids that the market is starting to recognize. CBN is associated with relief from depression, neurological issues such as epilepsy, sleep disorders and pain. CBG exhibits similar effects while also associated with inflammation, OCD and glaucoma.

THCA is another valuable compound that does not produce psychoactive effects. THCA is known for its ability to support medical conditions like nausea, lupus or arthritis. It is more commonly ingested than smoked because heating THCA will ultimately turn it into THC, inadvertently increasing the overall THC content. 

THCV, or tetrahydrocannabivarin, is another chemical compound that research suggests can have varying effects on the body depending on the dose. THCV in conjunction with THC has been used for weight loss due to its ability to suppress appetite. In higher doses, it may also treat symptoms of anxiety and disorders like PTSD. 

Understanding the potency of each cannabinoid can help you market your product and empower your customers with the tools they need to make an informed decision.

First, you provide a sample of your cannabis or hemp product. Then we use an Ultra HPLC, the gold standard to conduct the potency tests on the cannabis flower, extract and edible. Our Ultra High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) testing protocol is 100% compliant with the USDA’s latest hemp-testing guidelines, which will ensure that your results are both accurate and compliant. Within 3-5 days, we’ll publish the results via a secure online portal and provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA) in paper and digital form. The COA is accessible via a QR code and is vital to prove that your product label matches the contents inside and that it doesn’t contain any harmful contaminants.

Contact us for more information about potency testing and contact us today to begin the process.


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