Riding the Cannabis Regulation Waves in Oregon
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The regulations for testing cannabis continue to change in Oregon. This state’s “testing regulations have gone through substantial evolution during just the past two years,” says Lori Glauser, Chief Operating Officer at EVIO labs, a company with five labs in Oregon and California. “We anticipate it will continue to evolve in coming years.”
Before October 1, 2016, Oregon required cannabis products to be tested for potency, mildew, mold, yeast and four categories of pesticides. “Testing labs at that time were not highly regulated. Growers and processors could bring their own samples to the lab for testing,” Glauser says. “That meant growers and producers could bring in a sample of product, in some cases cherry picked from the batch of product that they claimed would be representative of, or in some cases, not at all linked to the product for sale.” As a result, the analysis didn’t mean much.
This all changed in October 2016. “New rules required that labs become accredited with the state’s lab accreditation body,” Glauser explains. “And that meant demonstrating that labs could produce highly accurate results, performed within stringent procedures and operating protocols. The labs are also now subject to regular quality and proficiency audits.”
The types of analysis also changed, including more stringent pesticide testing and the use of more specialized equipment. But that was just the start. “Tests for water activity and moisture content were in, while mold counts were out,” Glauser says. “Also tests for a long list of residual solvents were required for concentrates and extracts.”
The changes involved not just what was tested, but how. A sample’s chain of custody must now be tracked and tied to the product. “Another substantial change to testing was the requirement for batch testing,” Glauser points out. “Initially set at ten pounds of flower, each batch of flower, edibles and oils must be uniquely tested.”
Assessing the impact
The changes shook up Oregon’s cannabis-testing industry. “It was a perfect storm of huge volume due to recently legalized adult use, along with expanded regulatory oversight from both the liquor control commission and the health authority,” Glauser notes. The requirement for labs to demonstrate proficiency caused a slow start in the number of qualified labs. “This year, there are 40% more labs than there were last year, and the regulators increased batch size from 10 to 15 pounds. Now there is sufficient lab capacity to serve the state, even during busy times,” Glauser states.
During 2016, though, Oregon’s government relaxed some rules, presumably due to industry’s outcry over the increase in the cost of testing cost. For example, it reduced the required pesticide testing.
Ongoing changes make it hard to run an analytical industry. “While the frequently changing rules were helpful to some in the industry, the labs need to modify their procedures with each rule change,” Glauser notes. She predicts that the changes in the testing rules will slow down, but she says, “more changes are likely to come.” She adds, “Here at EVIO labs, we believe mold should be tested once again, and we believe heavy metals, such as lead, should also be tested.” Only time will tell about testing in Oregon.