Why SC Labs and ACT Laboratories Teamed Up to Create a Cannabis Testing Certificate
Image credit: Trust in Testing/ACT Laboratories and SC Labs
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The cannabis testing sector can be a competitive place. Clients can be hard to come by and even harder to keep. In this fight to snag and secure cannabis companies, certain labs have even been known to play dirty and tweak their testing standards to offer (artificially) higher THC potency results.
So it might come as a surprise, then, given this cut-throat climate, that two cannabis labs have recently joined forces.
Earlier this month, SC Labs and ACT Laboratories – two of the biggest cannabis testing companies in the US – announced that they had teamed up to launch a new cannabis lab accreditation scheme. Why? How? When? The news of the collaboration certainly raised a few questions. So Analytical Cannabis spoke to the people behind both labs to get some answers.
The Why and the How
“We saw there was a real need to raise the standards,” Bob Miller, chief operating officer at ACT Laboratories, told Analytical Cannabis.
“What we’re seeing in the states is routine THC inflation, and we felt there was a need to do something about that.”
Miller’s not wrong about the THC inflation issue. At this point, there have been reports of fraudulent cannabis testing in almost every state with legal access. Why? Well, the product on the shelf with the most THC is often the product that sells best. So, to retain clients, cannabis labs are incentivized to display higher potency results from product tests. The practice is known as lab shopping. And only recently have some lab shoppers faced consequences; lawsuits against manufacturers and labs accused of THC inflation are beginning to pile up, particularly in California. For the most part, however, lab shopping is effectively tolerated.
So, to help weed out lab shopping from the sector and “raise the standards” of their fellow labs, Miller and the SC Labs team have devised the Trust in Testing Certification, a new accreditation program based around four pillars of good lab practice.
“One is, how do we ensure accurate, reliable data?” Miller explained. “A second one relates to trying to define the requirements of a robust and rigorous quality management system. A third one really gets into this space of ethics and overall general compliance. And then the fourth one is the customer experience.”
In practice, any lab joining the Trust in Testing program will be submitting their facility and data to a number of assessments.
“We’re expecting everybody, to be considered for the certification, to have an ethics program, to have an internal periodic data integrity program, whereby you do data review at least quarterly by the QA [quality assurance] team,” Miller added.
To help inform these data reviews, the ACT and SC teams have sought the assistance of some professional lab reviewers.
“We’re going to enlist the help of third-party accreditors, both to oversee the final development of the trust mark, as well as help us then going forward to accredit new labs,” Josh Wurzer, president of SC Labs, told Analytical Cannabis.
But this partnership won’t just be one-way, according to Miller; ACT and SC plan to inform the accreditors just as much as the accreditors inform them.
“We’re partnering with some of the ISO 17O25 certifiers in the states to actually raise their game,” Miller said.
“What we see, when I look at ISO 17O25 certifiers, for the most part, it’s an in-place assessment; it’s a paper exercise,” he continued. “What I really want to [do] is move to an in-use [assessment]. What that means is, ‘I have an SOP [standard operating procedures], but am I following the SOP?’ Now you have to prove to me that you’re actually using it.”
As one final piece of accountability, Miller and the team plan to create a committee to help manage the whole accreditation process.
“We’re also creating an oversight committee, which will have a single member from one of the founding labs, but then have people that are outside the testing laboratory, but who are experts, nonetheless,” Miller said. “And that oversight committee would then be responsible for evaluating specific laboratories.”
The When (and some more of the Why)
The Trust in Testing program is set to fully launch within the next few months – “I’d say probably in about 60 days we should be up and running,” Miller told Analytical Cannabis.
In the meantime, any company interested in the scheme can register their curiosity at the initiative’s website. And plenty have done so.
“I was a little bit surprised by the interest,” Wurzer admitted. “We’ve definitely had interest from customers, but we’ve had maybe even more interest from laboratories. There’s a ton of laboratories that have reached out and say, ‘Hey, we like this idea. How can we be involved?’”
Indeed, the interest has been so great that ACT and SC may have bitten off more than they can chew. So, to keep up with demand, Miller says the two companies are preparing to hire staff solely to manage the new accreditation scheme.
“We’ve actually talked about [how] maybe we need some full-time employees that just do this program,” he said.
With or without these dedicated administrators, the Trust in Testing initiative is primed to be a colossal undertaking. But both Miller and Wurzer are convinced it’s worth the effort.
“We want all the labs to join because, at the end of the day, we’re only as good as the worst laboratory,” Miller said. “When you hear of some bad action, some lawsuit somewhere, it’s a reflection on all laboratories. So there’s a motivation to raise the standard for all of us.”
“It benefits both of our companies,” Wurzer concurs, “if our competitors are adhering to the same standards we are.”
“[By] getting all the labs up to the correct level, we’re not competing on the results of our tests, but we're competing on the quality of our service,” he added.