Commercial scales are critical to cannabis cultivation, processing, and retail businesses. However, when shopping for scales and balances, you quickly find there are a dizzying number of choices.
- What is the maximum weight and capacity of your product?
- What’s the minimum readability you need?
- Does your scale need to be “Legal for Trade” and NTEP certified?
If you’ve asked yourself any of the questions listed above, you are not alone. In this article, we’ll review the science of scales and try to answer most, if not all of your burning questions surrounding scales and balances. And then we will look at examples of how each type of scale can be used in your cannabis operation.
Table Of Contents
- Scales & Balances Basics
- What Does NTEP Certification Mean?
- (d) vs (e) Values
- Scales For Cultivators
- Processing Scales
- Scales For Dispensaries
How do Scales Work?
And as we’ve mentioned, commercial scales play a pivotal role in the processes and procedures surrounding cannabis manufacturing and sales. Scales allow their users to collect data and are absolutely critical in creating processes and SOPs that can be reliably duplicated.
Further below, we’ll discuss examples of how you will use scales in your grow room, lab, and dispensary. First, let’s take a look at how scales work so we can better understand how to find the best product for your cannabis operation.
Do I Need a Scale or a Balance?
Technology has blurred the lines between scales and balances. Although there are differences between the two instruments, the terms are often used interchangeably. Here are the primary differences between scales and balances:
- Scales measure weight. Weight measures the pull of gravity on an object. [Weight = Mass x Gravity]
- Balances measure mass and are often called an “analytical balance.” Mass is defined as how much matter an object is made of.
Using today’s technology, a properly calibrated scale or analytical balance can often calculate both weight and mass. So rather than focusing on which you need, it is better to focus on the application for which they will be used.
For example, analytical balances often have higher readability and resolution. This makes them perfect for a laboratory setting where you may need to test samples of flower, extracts, or solvent concentrations.
Scales, on the other hand, are often capable of higher capacity use cases. If you are a cannabis cultivator, you can use commercial scales to weigh bulk flower and trim prior to drying or decarboxylation. And dispensaries use scales that are NTEP certified at the point of sale.
When using either device, don’t forget to calibrate when you move to a new location. Calibration is recommended each time because gravity, air pressure, and the environment can impact analytical balances or scales with high readability.
Capacity (or Max. Capacity)
The capacity of a scale or balance is equal to the max amount of weight or mass that can be accurately determined by the unit. In addition, as a scale’s capacity increases, the readability of that unit generally decreases.
In some instances, maxing out or surpassing capacity can exceed the unit’s tolerances, damaging its delicate internal components. As such, it’s important to always choose a scale that has a capacity greater than your largest expected weight or mass, without going overboard, which sacrifices readability.
What is Readability?
Readability is the smallest change in weight or mass that can be displayed on the scale or balance. When looking at a scale’s display, readability is the number of digits after the decimal point. Generally speaking, scales with greater capacity have lower readability.
When it comes to NTEP certified scales and balances, there are two readability digits. You use one digit when weighing products to be sold, and use the other digit for increased accuracy when used in lab applications. See more under “NTEP and Readability” below.
The Classification of Scales for Cannabis
As you search for the best scale for cannabis applications, it’s a fair bet you’ve noticed scales labeled with a class designation. The class identifier attributed to a scale, it is considered it’s “Accuracy Class.”
Understanding Cannabis Scale Classifications
As the class number increases, so does the scale’s capacity. As we’ve mentioned, as the capacity increases, the accuracy decreases. So one can safely assume that a Class I scale will be far more accurate than a Class IV scale.
Here is some basic information for each accuracy class for scales and balances:
- Class I – High-Precision Analytical weighing in cannabis laboratories and testing samples. Very high readability, low capacity. Verification divisions are equal to or greater than 1mg.
- Class II – Lab and dispensary applications. Perfect for weighing cannabis or precious metals. High readability, low capacity. Verification divisions are equal to or greater than 1 to 50mg.
- Class III – Commercial and industrial applications. Great for use cases that require more capacity. Verification divisions are equal to or greater than 0.1 to 2 grams.
- Class IV – Used in highway weight-stations to ensure transport vehicles maintain and are traveling within legal weight limits. Very high capacity, low readability. Verification divisions are greater than 5 grams.
What Does “NTEP” Certification Mean?
NTEP has defined scales that are “Legal for Trade” as,
This term [Legal for Trade] refers to devices that are used for selling, purchasing, exchanging, custody transfer, or establishing the cost for services or hire on the basis of a measurement.https://www.ncwm.com/ntep-faqs
NCWM (National Conference on Weights and Measures) is a non profit organization whose goal is to promote fair business practices, protect consumers and build confidence in marketplace transactions.
The National Conference on Weights and Measures
The NCWM also manages and is responsible for the National Type Evaluation Program, NTEP. This program allows a very wide range of measuring devices to be certified for the trade and sale of goods. Scales that have been NTEP certified are in compliance with the NIST Handbook 44 standards published each year by the conference.
As you can imagine, the cannabis industry has great use for NTEP certified scales. Cultivators who sell flower and buds for resale are required to use NTEP scales. And they are also used for the sale of isolate powders and extracts sold by weight to cannabis kitchens and processors.
NCWM has even created Cannabis Task Group for creating uniform guidance for states that have legalized cannabis products.
NTEP and Readability: (d) vs (e) Values
As it pertains to Legal for Trade scales (NTEP), there are two readability values. The (d) value indicates the last digit of the scale’s readout display, while the (e) value is the verified value. The (d) value may be more accurate, however, the (e) value provides the most consistent reading and is the certified weight for the sale of products. For example, here is an image of an NTEP certified Schuler A-Series scale display:
If you are using the scale to measure buds for resale, then you use the verified (e) value. However, if you use the scale to weigh flower before it is decarboxylated, then you use the more accurate (d) value found to the right of the bracket. In other words, in the example above, the (d) value is 0.001 grams and the (e) value is 0.01 grams.
Scales For Cannabis Cultivators
Cannabis buds and extracts are weighed at each step of the cultivation process. And this is true especially when first developing operating procedures and yield projections. It’s important for cannabis cultivators to know how much product will be available prior to harvest. This allows you to negotiate the sale of your buds while they are curing.
Using Scales for Cannabis Cultivation
The type of scale you need is dependent on what you are weighing, as well as how the product will be used. For example, you don’t need an NTEP certified scale if you plan to:
- Weigh harvested cannabis to determine it’s relative humidity
- Are measuring the difference in weight of the cured product to your original harvest
- Weighing your soil or nutrients to reproduce successful supplement-to-medium ratios
If you’re not preparing a product for resale, then it is not necessary to use a legal for trade scale. However, if you package buds for medicinal or retail sale, then you want to ensure your cannabis scale is NTEP certified. And it’s worth noting, that many NTEP scales excel in typical day to day measuring.
Introducing the Schuler SW Series Scale (non-NTEP)
Some cultivators estimate dry, cured flower weight using the square footage of their canopy. And others make calculations using the number of flowering plants in their grow room. In either case, using commercial scales for weighing cannabis before and after drying comes into play.
The Schuler Scientific SW-Series is the workhorse for cannabis cultivators. The waterproof and dustproof design makes it perfect for cultivators that need quick, consistent measurements after harvest. The Schuler SW series scales are available in various sizes with weight capacities to fit your business needs.
Schuler Scales: SW-Series Highlights
- 3 Year Warranty
- Heavy-duty stainless steel platform
- Internal, rechargeable battery
- 45 hour operation time on battery
- LCD display
- IP-67 rated – dust & waterproof
The SW series scales are also perfect for measuring nutrient solutions and fertilizers. Their waterproof and dustproof design protects them from liquids and nutrient powders that would otherwise damage a standard scale. There are instances where a cultivator may also need an NTEP scale, much like those used in a dispensary.
Balances For Cannabis Processors
Balances are used continuously when processing cannabis. For example, moisture analyzers are scales that play an important role in day-to-day cannabis testing and weighing. Cannabis processors and lab sites will need to be sure they have the best scales for the tasks they are performing.
Optimizing Your Yields to Increase Revenue
One of the benefits of measuring your product along each step of a given process is that it allows a cannabis manufacturer to identify ways to improve process efficiency.
For example, if you press flower into rosin, you want to measure your flower before it is placed in a rosin filter. Next, you will measure how much oil you extracted. And then you measure the left-over plant material to determine waste. A few benefits to meticulous measuring include:
- Identifying yield issues, suggesting that you need to adjust your rosin press bag micron size
- Projecting product output based on the cured weight of your flower prior to being pressed
- Adjusting and updating processes for denser strains between extraction cycles
Preparing Product for Testing
Lab scales have high readability and provide manufacturers with consistent results when preparing test samples. NTEP certification is not required.
A couple examples of how cannabis processors use lab scales include:
- Weighing samples prior to sending them to be 3rd-party tested
- Filling vape cartridges where high readability is needed
- In-house testing for THC concentration and potency
- Weighing the mass of a concentrate
- Used when experimenting with a new solvent
- Creating repeatable operating procedures to achieve consistent results
Introducing the Schuler TD-Series Scale
The TD-series scale by Schuler Scientific offers cannabis processors the same level of measuring accuracy and readability available in laboratories. The TD series are also NTEP certified, resulting in a highly versatile measuring solution.
Even a breeze caused by the lab coat on a technician walking by your sample can impact the reading. TD balances offer draft shields on select models for additional accuracy protection in a busy lab environment. This makes the SAS-225T.N perfect for weighing HPLC samples, vap cartridge filling, and extraction labs.
From weighing samples for testing to verifying the fill of vape cartridges, the Schuler TD scale provides peace of mind through consistent, accurate results.
Schuler Scales: TD-Series Highlights
- Model SAS-225T.N
- NTEP certified
- Class I
- d = 0.01 / 0.1 mg
- e= 1 mg
- Internally Calibrated
- Color capacitive touch-screen
- IR Proximity Sensors for hands-free operation
The TD Series is considered an ideal measuring solution for cannabis processors. Whether you are looking for a highly accurate lab balance or need an NTEP legal for trade scale, check out the TD series line of scales.
Scales For Dispensaries
When you operate a medical or recreational dispensary, it’s absolutely necessary to have NTEP certified scales. Whether you sell buds deli-style or pre-packaged cannabis flower, scales help to control and verify inventory.
Inventory In, Inventory Out
Scales are often integrated into a dispensary point-of-sale system (POS.) This helps automate and track cannabis products being sold so it can be balanced against remaining inventory.
Cannabis products are weighed when they are added to a dispensary’s inventory. Combined with the scales used at the time of sale, these processes help identify lost product or theft. These processes also help ensure your dispensary is compliant with state laws.
The SH-Series scale by Schuler Scientific is a portable, convenient measuring solution for use in a cannabis dispensary or recreational re-sale business. These scales provide consistent readings in a busy environment and can withstand years of use in a commercial environment.
Schuler Scales: SH-Series Highlights
- Model SSH-6001.CN
- NTEP certified
- Class II
- Readability – 6,000 grams, d value = 0.1 grams, e value = 1 gram
- Backlit LCD display for easy viewing
- Convenient internal calibration feature
- 5 year warranty
Weighing Your Options
Whether you’re preparing extract samples, weighing your dank buds for resale, or measuring out 10 pounds of flour for a batch of edibles – scales and balances allow you to turn “best guesses” in the lab or kitchen into empirical data and iron-clad SOP’s. (Standard Operating Procedures)
It’s always best to find the scale or balance that pairs well with how you intend to use it. If you have any questions about which scale is the best solution for you, feel free to reach out to our team. We’re happy to help and provide additional resources and answer any other questions you may have.