Cannabis plant (Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)How strong is the legal pot Alaskans buy over the counter? That’s a question that’s been raised in a dispute about potency levels among various cannabis businesses. Now, the state’s regulatory body is considering extra steps.Listen nowIn her report during the November 14th meeting of the Marijuana Control Board, Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office Director Erika McConnell announced it was time examine how businesses are testing legally grown cannabis.“Testing is the foundation of the regulated industry and it is what allows consumers to have confidences that they’re getting safe and uncontaminated product at a potency level that they’re comfortable with,” McConnell said Thursday in an interview.“Potency level” refers to how much THC is in a cannabis strain or product, similar to the percentage of alcohol per volume listed on a bottle of beer, wine or liquor. Generally more potent products command a higher price. Which can create a profit incentive for growers, who may get a benefit from higher potency results returned by the testing labs they send samples to. And, some allege that also gives testing labs an incentive to return more favorable results in pursuit of more clients. In a report by KTVA News, one business owner documented discrepancies between the same cannabis strains evaluated at Anchorage’s two licensed testing facilities.As the relatively new industry continues taking shape, regulators say that’s a problem that needs to be fixed.“Testing can deviate, and so we’re looking to our processes to make sure they’re as standard and consistent as possible so that there aren’t deviations when the same product is tested by various labs,” McConnell said.To do that, the Marijuana Control Board is convening a working group made up of stakeholders from public health, the sciences and businesses in different sectors of the cannabis industry. The goal is that by the summer of 2018, there will be more consistent protocols for how to test cannabis. Under the existing regulations, there aren’t clear rules dictating consistent methods for evaluating samples. In fact, according to McConnell, AMCO isn’t aware if there’s even a scientific consensus or set of industry best-practices over the best evaluative techniques in a laboratory setting for determining potency.That might explain why two different businesses could return different results from similar samples.