What is a COA?

If you consume cannabis or hemp products, checking the COA, or certificate of analysis, of the products you consume is crucial to determine you have purchased quality products. However, reading a COA can be confusing. We made this guide to simplify COA’s for you and help you learn exactly how to read them. Let’s take a deep dive into what exactly a COA is and why you need to know about them.

What is a COA? 

The term COA is short for Certificate of Analysis; it’s an important report for cannabis and hemp products. The COA reveals the chemical makeup of the different products and confirms the levels present of cannabinoids, microbial content, terpenes, and even chemicals like heavy metals and pesticides; some of these things we don’t want in our bodies.

For consumers, a COA is important because it tells them that the contents advertised within the product have been tested and verified by a third-party source and that the information on the labels of the products they consume is true. 

For manufacturers, having a COA helps their company build trust with consumers. Transparency is an important trait for companies to have because it shows they have nothing to hide.

How to Read a COA 

There is a lot of information contained within a COA, so understandably, it can be challenging to read. Knowing this, we’ve defined several of the terms for you.

A few terms to know within a COA are:

  • LoQ – Limit of Quantification. It is the smallest amount the test will quantify.
  • LoD – Level of Detection, the smallest amount the test can detect.
  • ND – None detected
  • NT – Not Tested
  • CFU – Colony-forming units (for microbes)

Parts of a COA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists the specific requirements for every COA document. Generally, there are five parts to every COA.

  • Supplier Information: Data about the company that supplies the materials.
  • Materials Identification: Identifies the materials being verified by the COA, usually containing lot numbers, descriptions, and product codes.
  • Transportation Data: Information about the purchase order and the customer’s name and information.
  • Evidence of Conformance: This section of the COA is the most important, as it holds test results and specifies the characteristics of the products in terms of industry standards and regulatory requirements.
  • Signature Date: This final section contains a signature from the product inspector.

How to Obtain a COA

For consumers, COAs can often be found on the company’s website or on the packaging itself. Some come in the form of a QR code, which can be scanned with a smartphone camera. If you can’t find a COA for a specific company, you can always reach out to them, but most cannabinoid-based product companies have their COA information readily accessible; if you can’t find the information, it probably doesn’t exist.

From manufacturers, there are many testing laboratories available for you to submit your products to receive a COA. Having a COA for your products shows your consumers that you are transparent and trustworthy.

US Laws Regarding COAs

When it comes to regulating cannabis products, the requirements differ from state to state. Most states that have legalized cannabis have some form of testing requirements; some are stricter than others.

The situation is different regarding hemp-based products. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is legal on the federal level as long as it contains 0.3% or less of Delta-9 THC. The FDA does not regulate the hemp industry, which means that there are no laws requiring processors of hemp to test their products. Because there are no laws or requirements regulating this industry, it’s not entirely known what manufacturers are putting into their products, which is what makes COA’s so important.