Trichome Institute's TAG System Puts a Grade on the Quality of Your Weed

The TAG program tests marijuana for things like fungus and mildew.
The TAG program tests marijuana for things like fungus and mildew.
Kate McKee Simmons

Starting today, you can purchase weed that's been given a quality-assurance grade.

Created by the Trichome Institute, a Colorado-based company dedicated to science, education and certification, the Trichome Assurance Grade (TAG) system analyzes potentially unhealthy, even dangerous, parts of marijuana for which the government doesn't require testing.

Currently Colorado only compels growers and dispensaries to test products for E.coli and salmonella, since those tests are the ones required by the state for food. But what cannabis should be tested for, according to Trichome president Max Montrose, are things like fungus and mildew.

Max Montrose, founder and CEO of Trichome.EXPAND
Max Montrose, founder and CEO of Trichome.
Kate McKee Simmons

So the TAG system looks at each strain microscopically and grades the weed based on look and smell, while also checking it for such blights as mites, spider webs and spider eggs. "Fungus attacks cannabis every single day," says Montrose. "You don't know how much [powdery mildew] bud I see for sale because nobody has to get that type of fungus checked." 

Trichome employs level-three certified interpeners who analyze the weed, applying mathematical values to visual points. They also employ a testing method using their olfactory system, inhaling the weed in a "micropuff" — in much the same way that a sommelier takes a sip of wine and spits it out.

"We're the only lab in the state that consumes cannabis as part of our testing process," Montrose says. "We don't consume it to grade if we get high or not; we don't care about that. We look for burnability, because if your bud starts crackling, it's sprayed. And if it's not flushed, if the grower didn't extract the salted minerals out of the plant before he cut it down, you're smoking salt. That's why when you smoke and it's hot and burns in your throat, that's not good."

Trichome has used the TAG system to analyze over 180 buds for thirty different dispensaries. The three dispensary groups currently selling buds that have a TAG-certified shield are B-GoodSilver Stem and Northern Lights.

Current TAG strains in stores.
Current TAG strains in stores.

Dispensaries who have had all their employees go through Trichome's state-certified responsible vendor program will receive a "Responsible Vendor Sticker" that they can put on their door. Green-shield labels go on the strains themselves. This ensures customers are being assisted by highly educated sales people.

Montrose predicts that customers will one day be able to search for the most responsible dispensaries simply with an app on their phone that determines which stores have been licensed and TAG-certified. The app will reveal the dispensary's score, as well. As testing expands and becomes more sophisticated, Montrose hopes that Trichome will revolutionize the industry, making the smoking experience more healthy and safe.

"We're forcing the industry to grow better weed," Montrose concludes.

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