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Cannabis Testing Restrictions in Ohio: Too controlling or a well-considered move?

by Mike May
Published: Sep 28, 2017   
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On September 8, 2016, Ohio Bill 523 made medical marijuana legal in Ohio. The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) oversees the application of this legislation, and many moving parts remain to be determined. One of those is who tests the cannabis that’s to be sold in the state.

For the first year, the testing will be done entirely by Ohio’s institutions of higher education—in short, state universities. Although there have been some suggestions earlier this year that no institution appeared interested, that’s not quite the case. When asked late in August if any institution had applied, Kerry Francis, Director of Communications for the Ohio Department of Commerce, replied: “No institution of higher education has agreed to perform testing, but it’s important to note that they haven’t been able to do that yet because the application period hasn’t opened.” Later she added, “We will know if there is interest when the application period opens.” Fair enough!

What is known so far is that only competent labs will be considered. The wording from Ohio’s government also limits applicants to those state-affiliate institutions in Ohio that “have the resources and facilities necessary to conduct testing in accordance with the rules.”

The limitation to state institutions only lasts a year. As the details for testing note: “After this one-year period, the Department will issue licenses to qualified private testing labs.” Public or private, however, everyone must pay, and keep paying. The MMCP website adds: “The laboratory application fee is $2,000 and the certificate of operation fee is $18,000; a laboratory annual license renewal fee is $20,000.” In addition, the number of approved labs is not limited, at least not by the state. The market itself will surely determine the number of labs that survive based on demand.

At the time of writing this article, the application period was ongoing. Nonetheless, Tom Brunicardi, Executive Director of Marketing, Public and Community Relations at Hocking College, confirmed that this institution would be submitting an application.

Undoubtedly, this approach appears quite controlling to some, especially those private labs that want to get a jump on testing in Ohio. Nonetheless, with so many details that remain to be resolved around medicinal marijuana use in Ohio, this gives the government leaders time to adjust any testing methods and requirements.

With so many ongoing issues in the U.S. about cannabis testing, Ohio might be making one of the best, most-considered moves. Given the immaturity of the cannabis industry, it takes time to arrange a testing industry. So far, that consists of the complete spectrum in some states from expert analytical chemists with sophisticated equipment to amateurs trying it out with used lab equipment. Such a breadth of experience—or lack of it—makes it complicated to ensure the safety, authenticity, and consistency of cannabis-based products. That could be a problem that Ohio’s approach might solve, or at least reduce.


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