TAG™: Trichome Assurance Grade

The world's first and only cannabis quality certification

TAG: Trichome Assurance Grade


TAG standardizes quality evaluation and ensures the consistency of parameters for testing and rating cannabis products, which all starts with our certified technicians and interpeners.

Trichome Institute’s TAG program has a world-class standard operating procedure that weighs three classes of quality values. The three value categories have a total of 12 inputs, rated numerically and weighed in order of importance, based on interpening methodology.

In the cannabis industry, it is widely believed that lab testing alone is what determines the quality of cannabis products, but that’s not the case at all. As important as lab testing is to determine a flower’s chemotype and if it contains pesticides, microbials, or any residual solvents for extracts, there are many other factors that aren’t included that, when combined, ultimately determine quality. Lab tests don’t test for insects, nutrient lock, trichome ripeness and density, degree of flush, age, pungency, psychotropic effects, and countless other things that an interpener can identify. Fortunately, the TAG report includes the best of both worlds—a full lab test and the expertly judged quality based on a standardized and accurate numerical scale from a certified technician.



TAG reports include:

  • TAG Approved Lab Testing
    • Cannabinoids
    • Terpenes
    • Pesticides
    • Microbials
    • Residual Solvents
  • Twelve-point Qualitative Assessment
  • Three-tiered Consumption Analysis
  • Inter-rater Reliability of Multiple Interpeners
  • Macro and Microscopic Photography
  • Visual and Aroma Perception Evaluation
  • Psychotropic Effects Classification within the BLM / NLM Spectrum

Judging Cannabis Cups

All products are internally coded by the Cannabis Cups themselves, so TAG judges have no idea what company submitted each product. This is a competition based on product quality not the popularity of the contestants. Due to the strain name dilemma, Indica/Sativa speciation quagmire, and the inability to verify strain lineage; these factors are not graded, judged, or monitored by cannabis cups, Trichome Institute, or third-party labs.

Flower Evaluations are based on the same Interpening methodology that Trichome Institute teaches and are judged by certified interpeners.  

Flower Structure
Broad to Narrow Leaf Spectrum
Pistil Health & Ripeness



Quality of inhalation

Faulty Characteristics
Interior Flaws
Premature harvests
Nutrient deficiency / lock
Mold & Mildew
Seeds & micro-seeds

Lab Test

Hash & Concentrates

Hash and Concentrates are extremely diverse between each category and also within the same category. Trichome Institute relies heavily on the lab results to assist the judging process with these product categories. Through TAG, the quality of these products are determined by taking into account the lab results as well as the color, consistency, stability, aromatic potency, and consumption of the product.  Product samples are graded lower when pesticides, fungicides, heavy metals, microbial, and residual solvents are present. TAG judges do not judge the subjectivity of inebriation due to the inconsistency of judge’s tolerances and sample inhalation separation.

Ultimately, the quality of the product is what determines the majority of the TAG score with hash and concentrates, the potency is considered but is not the deciding factor. For example, Live Resin is a product that stands apart due to it’s living terpene profile. If a Live Resin product has a higher potency but has initiated the chemical nucleation process (moisture molecules fracturing the product’s bond) rendering a crystalline state (sugar), it would then promote terpene oxidation and dispersal. This is defeating the purpose of the Live Resin product, which is to maintain the living terpenes within the product via its bond and stability. A Live Resin with a complete bond, golden color, massive pungency, clean inhalation and taste with a high chemotype lab test would win over a watery live resin in a crystalline state even if it has more THC.

Shatter must be rigid to semi-flexible and cannot crumble or be viscous

Distillate / Isolate can be either a liquid or a crystal solid

Oil cannot be solid, must be viscous

Wax cannot be a liquid or rigid or solid, must be semi-flexible

Rosin must be extracted with heat and pressure only

Live Resin cannot be a runny liquid

Solventless, Hashish, Bubble, Temple Balls can only be extracted with hands, screens, and water. No chemical solvents can be used.

Edibles, Topicals, Transdermals, and Sublinguals

Edibles, Topicals, Sublinguals, and Transdermals are all graded in the same way but not against each other. Since TAG judges don’t have the ability to evaluate the qualitative features of the cannabis extract used in these products, we must rely on the lab results and evaluate these products from a different perspective.

TAG judges take into account lab results including cannabinoid and terpene profiles, and also consider microbes and pesticides from a purity standpoint. The collective team of judges debate things like each product’s packaging, design, whether the print is easy to understand, truth in labeling, child resistance, aroma, form and consistency, flavor, texture, creativity and uniqueness, and which we feel is the best within each category and why.

Edibles must be completely swallowed like consuming traditional foods and beverages. Sweets must have the intention of being a sweet or be dessert food item. Savory edibles cannot have sweets associated with them, unless it’s a beef jerky or nut product that has a sweetener as an accent, but not the primary flavor.  Edibles are not judged based on their potency.

Topicals must be a skin or hair product like a cream, salve, lotion, lip balm, bath product etc. with no transdermal applications or chemistry.

Sublinguals must be a tincture, mouth spray, strips, gum, or other products meant to stay predominantly in the mouth and not to be swallowed.

Transdermals must have the intent and chemical ability to pass the epidermis. This includes gels, sprays, creams, salves, rubs, compounds, patches, etc.

Standard State Lab Test

Potency Indications
Cannabinoid & Terpene Levels

Microbial Tests
E. coli and Salmonella (rarely occurs on flower)

Contaminant Tests
Metals: Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury


Potency Indications
Trichome Integrity & Terpene Strength

Microbial Tests
Powdery Mildew and Botrytis cinerea (occurs on flower often)

Nutrient Burn/Overdose, Un-flushed Product, Light Burn, Insects, Webs, Eggs, Exoskeletons, Hair, Dirt, Other filth, Hermaphrodites, seeds, and more.

Bud structure and Trim Quality

Cannabis Variety Type-Designation
Overall Bud Health