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A Bulletproof Checklist: Ensuring Your Cannabis Clears Tests

Keep your team on track from pre-harvest preparation, through cannabis decontamination.

Cannabis cultivation is tough, especially with safety and regulatory standards getting stricter every day. As the industry booms—and federal legalization seems inevitable—the call for clean, mold-free cannabis becomes louder and louder. Just look at what happened to The Flower Shop in Arizona: Their Onion Bhaji strain was recalled due to possible fungal contamination, affecting nearly 170 dispensaries. Don’t let this happen to your brand.

In this blog, we break down the 10 steps every cannabis cultivator needs to follow to pass safety tests and regulatory inspections. From pre-harvest preparation to continuous improvement of your operations, we cover everything you need to know to produce exceptional, contaminant-free cannabis.

Ready to elevate your cannabis cultivation game? Let’s get started.

Step 1: Pre-Harvest Preparation

Before you even think about harvesting, set the stage for a successful crop. Proper pre-harvest preparation ensures your cannabis will meet safety standards and pass regulatory tests. Here are the key checklist items to cover:

Inspect Growing Environment

  • Clean grow rooms and check for pests or mold. Sanitize equipment and check ventilation systems.

Test Soil and Water

  • Look for contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides. Adjust nutrients to keep plants healthy.

Monitor Plant Health

Review SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)

  • Update standard operating procedures to match the latest industry standards and regulations. Train your team on new procedures.

Tag and Track Plants

  • Use seed-to-sale tracking. Keep detailed records for traceability and cannabis industry compliance.

Prepare for Inspection

  • Do a pre-harvest inspection to spot and fix any issues. Create a detailed inspection checklist.

Plan Transportation

  • Arrange logistics for moving harvested cannabis. Ensure transportation methods follow safety and security regulations.

Step 2: Harvesting

This is it—your cultivators time to shine. You only have one shot per crop at harvesting the right way. Now is the time when a smart checklist comes in handy. 

Sanitize Tools

  • Clean all harvesting tools and equipment. Use sterilized gloves and clothing.

Harvest at Peak

  • Check trichomes and harvest plants at their peak for best potency and quality.

Handle with Care

  • Cut plants gently to avoid damaging buds. Minimize handling to reduce contamination risk.

Use Clean Workspaces

  • Keep the harvest area clean and organized. Minimize plant exposure to contaminants.

Document the Process

  • Keep detailed records of the harvesting process. Track each plant from harvest to drying for full traceability.

Step 3: Initial Quality Check

After harvesting, perform an initial quality check to catch any issues early. You only want the best, contaminant-free cannabis to move forward in the process. Here’s how to conduct a thorough quality check:

Test Moisture Levels

  • Use moisture meters to check the moisture content of the buds. Aim for the optimal range to prevent mold growth.

Sample Testing

  • Take random samples from different batches for laboratory testing. Check for mold and test for contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and microbial impurities.

Visual Inspection

  • Check the appearance of the buds, looking for any discoloration, inconsistencies, or physical damage.

Smell Test

  • Conduct a smell test to detect any off-putting odors that could indicate contamination or poor quality.

Document Findings

  • Record the results of your initial quality checks. Keep detailed logs for traceability and regulatory compliance.

Step 4: Drying and Curing

Once you’ve processed the raw plant material, prepare the buds for retail. That means drying and curing. Follow these steps:

Drying Environment

  • Hang plants in a dark, well-ventilated room. Maintain a temperature of 60–70°F (15-21°C) and a humidity level of 45–55%.

Monitor Progress

  • Check plants daily for dryness and signs of mold. Adjust temperature and humidity as needed.

Trim Buds

  • Once buds are dry to the touch but still slightly pliable, trim excess leaves.

Curing Process

  • Place dried buds in airtight containers. Store in a cool, dark place with temperatures around 60–70°F (15–21°C).

Burp Containers

  • Open containers daily for the first week to release moisture and gases, then reduce to weekly.

Check for Quality

  • Inspect buds regularly for aroma and texture. They should feel dry, but not crumbly.

Document Each Step

  • Keep detailed records of drying and curing conditions and progress.

Step 5: Using XRpure’s Cannabis Decontamination Machines

Implementing the right decontamination solution into your SOPs can protect your brand from costly product recalls, unwanted attention from regulators, and the reputation damage that comes with failing regulatory compliance. Here’s your checklist for using XRpure’s cannabis decontamination machines:

Review Facility and Cultivation Details

Install Machine

  • Install the XR16 or XR12 with the help of your XRpure representative. Equip all team members with a thorough understanding of the setup process.

Designate a Representative

  • Partner with an XRpure representative who will be your guide and service technician, providing ongoing support and addressing any questions or concerns.

Train Your Team

  • Train your team on how to use the machine, interpret data, and adjust treatment doses to match each strain’s microbial count and water content.

Run Autonomous Cycles

  • Utilize the machine’s autonomous cycles to safely decontaminate your cannabis with minimal impact on cannabinoids and terpenes.

Monitor Data

  • Collect operational and diagnostic data to monitor batch runs, compare compliance reports, and fine-tune treatment dosages.

XRpure XR16: X-ray Cannabis Decontamination System

Meet the XR16

  • Fastest X-ray decontamination machine in the industry
  • Utilizes a single, powerful X-ray tube with no moving parts
  • Features XRpure’s patented XReflect© technology
  • Processes higher volumes at faster speeds
  • Minimal impact on cannabinoids and terpenes
  • Chemical-free solution
  • Autonomous cycles
  • Can treat product in final packaging
  • Decontaminates 1.5–3x faster than other X-ray solutions
  • In-plant solution
  • Cleans trimmed and milled flower
  • Up to 3 log microbial pathogen reduction

XRpure XR12: X-ray Cannabis Decontamination System

Meet the XR12

  • Same unmatched hardware and design as the XR16
  • Ideal for lower volume operations
  • Processes similar volumes simultaneously
  • Minimal impact on cannabinoids and terpenes
  • Chemical-free solution
  • Autonomous cycles
  • Treats product in final packaging
  • In-plant solution
  • Cleans trimmed and milled flower
  • Up to 3 log microbial pathogen reduction

Step 6: Post-Decontamination Quality Assurance

After decontamination, verify that your cannabis meets all safety and quality standards. This step confirms the cannabis decontamination process was effective and that your product is market-ready. Here’s how to do it:

Conduct Lab Tests

  • Send samples to a certified lab to test for any remaining contaminants, including pesticides, heavy metals, and microbial impurities.

Verify Test Results

  • Check that all lab results meet safety and quality standards. Look for any discrepancies or issues.

Document Everything

  • Record all test results, batch numbers, and relevant details. Keep detailed logs for regulatory compliance and traceability.

Check Cannabinoid and Terpene Profiles

  • Verify that the decontamination process hasn’t altered the cannabinoid and terpene profiles of your product.

Perform Visual Inspection

  • Look for any signs of mold, discoloration, or physical damage. The buds should appear clean and healthy.

Smell and Taste Test

  • Conduct smell and taste tests to confirm the product’s quality and ensure that no off-putting odors or flavors are present.

Review Data with XRpure Rep

  • Review the data collected by your XRpure machine with your designated representative to confirm everything is in order.

Step 7: Packaging

Proper packaging maintains the quality and safety of your cannabis. It also plays a key role in branding and cannabis industry compliance. Here’s how to package your product effectively:

Choose Quality Packaging

  • Select high-quality, airtight containers that protect against contamination and preserve freshness.

Label Correctly

  • Include all required information on labels, such as strain name, THC/CBD content, and batch number. Make sure labels are clear and compliant with regulations.

Use Tamper-Evident Seals

  • Apply tamper-evident seals to packaging to guarantee product integrity and build consumer trust.

Store Properly

  • Keep packaged products in a controlled environment, away from light, heat, and moisture, to maintain quality.

Document Packaging Details

  • Record packaging dates, batch numbers, and any other relevant information for traceability and compliance.

Step 8: Review and Utilization of COA

The certificate of analysis (COA) is your proof of product quality and compliance. Properly reviewing and utilizing the COA can boost your cannabis brand’s credibility and market trust. Here’s how to make the most of it:

Analyze COA Details

  • Carefully review the COA for potency, contaminants, and microbial counts. Verify that all values meet the required standards.

Share with Stakeholders

  • Distribute the COA to key stakeholders, including buyers, retailers, and quality assurance teams. Transparency builds trust.

Highlight Key Data

  • Use COA data in your marketing materials to emphasize product quality and safety. Showcase your commitment to excellence.

Incorporate COA Results into Sales Strategy

  • Leverage COA results in sales pitches and customer communications to demonstrate compliance and product superiority.

Archive COAs

  • Store COAs securely for future reference and compliance audits. Keep them organized and easily accessible.

Step 9: Record Keeping and Traceability

Accurate record keeping and traceability are the backbone of cannabis industry compliance, quality control, and operational efficiency. Here’s how to stay on top of your documentation:

Maintain Detailed Logs

  • Document every step of cultivation, harvesting, decontamination, and packaging. Include dates, batch numbers, and relevant notes.

Use Digital Tracking Systems

  • Implement digital systems for tracking and storing data. This simplifies organization and retrieval.

Update Regularly

  • Regularly update records to reflect current operations and changes. Keep information accurate and current.

Ensure Accessibility

  • Make records easily accessible to authorized personnel for audits, inspections, and internal reviews.

Review and Audit

  • Conduct regular internal audits to verify the accuracy and completeness of records. Address any discrepancies immediately.

Step 10: Continuous Improvement

Staying competitive in the cannabis industry means always looking for ways to improve. Continuous improvement helps you maintain high standards and adapt to changing regulations. Here’s how to keep advancing:

Evaluate Performance

  • Regularly assess your processes and outcomes. Identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments.

Gather Feedback

  • Collect feedback from your team, customers, and partners. Use this input to refine your operations and products.

Stay Updated

  • Keep up with industry trends, new technologies, and regulatory changes. Adapt your practices accordingly.

Implement Training Programs

  • Offer your team ongoing training to enhance their skills and knowledge. Focus on best practices and new developments.

Set Goals

  • Establish clear, measurable goals for quality, efficiency, and compliance. Track progress and celebrate achievements.

Document Changes

  • Keep detailed records of all improvements and adjustments. Monitor their impact on your operations.

Deliver Quality Cannabis!

Pure, unadulterated cannabis builds loyalty and repeat business. Contact XRpure for a demo and start delivering clean, high-quality cannabis today.

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