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ASTM Holds Its Second Global Workshop on Cannabis Standardization

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Dec 14, 2021   
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Even with 2022 around the corner, stories of unreliable testing methods and poor standards still dog the legal cannabis industry.

In recent weeks, regulators in Nevada voted unanimously to remove the license of a cannabis producer after declaring it a threat to public health and safety. Over half of CBG products tested in an independent investigation didn’t contain the advertised amounts of CBG claimed on their label. A recall in Michigan over dubious testing practices caused an estimated $229 million disruption to the state’s cannabis industry. And these are just a few stories from the past month.

So, while plenty of cannabis companies and labs do stick to good practices and regulations, it’s clear that some actors in the industry might benefit from higher standards. And that’s just what ASTM International would like to introduce.

The leading US testing standards organization has been hard at work over the past few years proposing and publishing new standards for cannabis testing, processing, cleaning, and transporting. As of October 2021, its main committee on cannabis, its D37 committee, had published over 25 standards for the cannabis and hemp industries, and was developing at least 70 more.

To showcase some of these ongoing initiatives and highlight other industry issues, ASTM’s D37 committee has brought together a stellar line-up of speakers for its second Global Workshop on Advancing the Field of Cannabis Through Standardization, which will run virtually from December 14 to December 15.

To learn more about what attendees can expect from the workshop, Analytical Cannabis spoke to its chair, Scheril Murray Powell, Esq., a Florida-based cannabis and dietary supplement attorney.

The workshop's cannabis testing presentations 

“When it comes to the global workshop, an objective of ours was to make sure that we had representation across the globe, both in the speakers and also as far as the attendees,” Murray Powell said. “Diversity and equity inclusion [are] very important to us here at ASTM.”

Murray and her team have certainly met their diversity criteria. Over its two-day itinerary, the ASTM workshop boasts presentations on delta-8 THC, hemp building materials, Hawaii’s medical cannabis sector, testing standards, and whether cannabis can be considered kosher or not – just to name a few.

Given this great roster of talks, it might be hard to know which ones a cannabis analyst should bookmark. Luckily, Murray Powell gave the Analytical Cannabis the highlight tour.

“One of our more popular standards that has been approved has to do with the universal symbol,” she said. “And there’s going to be two talks about the universal symbol – we’re very, very excited about that.”

“A lot of times in legislation, a jurisdiction will mandate some type of symbol for packaging, and ASTM, led by Martha Bajec, [is] leading that effort.”

Bajec, of Bajec Senseworks Consulting HCD Research, will give her talk Development of the ‘Specification for an International Symbol for Identifying Consumer Products Containing Intoxicating Cannabinoids’ at 10:50 EST on Tuesday, December 14.

“We [ASTM] actually have created a universal symbol that we’re hoping to get adopted all around the world,” Murray Powell continued. “And we’re seeing great momentum there.”

Away from universal symbols for cannabinoids, many of those attending ASTM’s workshop will be wondering what it has to say on the great cannabinoid issue of 2021: delta-8 THC. Well, for such attendees, the next talk after Bajec’s won’t be one to miss.

“There are some controversies with regards to [delta-8’s] intoxication levels and whether it should be sold over the counter or it should be restricted to the dispensaries,” Murray Powell said.

“So the attempt [with the next presentation] is to pull back the veil on those controversies and have a hearty discussion about it. David Vaillencourt and Nandakumara Sarma are the co-authors and they’re leading the effort.”

Vaillencourt (of the GMP Group) and Sarma (of the US Pharmacopeia) will give their presentation D8 -THC: Perspectives from ASTM and US Pharmacopeia expert panel and the role of standards to address the latest public health risks at 11:10 EST on Tuesday, December 14.

“I definitely want to highlight our keynote speakers, too,” Murray Powell added. “So, Dr Arno HazeKamp has done great work writing about the standardization of cannabis and profiling cannabis. So that’s going to be a really great talk.”

Dr Arno Hazekamp of HazeKemp Herbal Consulting will give their keynote talk prior to Bajec’s and Vaillencourt and Sarma’s, at 10:10 EST on Tuesday, December 14.

“The next keynote speaker is Cecilia Johnson,” Murray Powell said. “She is with the Bureau of Standards for the country of Jamaica. And I think it’ll be really intriguing and insightful because they have adopted a number of the ASTM standards in how they’re going to approach cannabis and cannabis safety in the country of Jamaica. So I’m really excited about that talk.”

Cecilia Johnson’s keynote presentation will begin at 14:25 EST on Tuesday, December 14.

“And the last keynote is [from] Walter Brent Wilson, from NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” Murray Powell added. “So that’s a huge recognition for our committee, for NIST to even be presenting to our audience.”

NIST launched its Cannabis Quality Assurance Program (CannaQAP) last year. Speaking to Analytical Cannabis at the time, Wilson remarked that, “the goal is to improve the analytical measurements that are being done in cannabis laboratories and forensic laboratories, to where we’re promoting good manufacturing practices and encouraging safe products.”

And much, much more!

Although presentations on how to standardize cannabis testing and packaging will be enough for some attendees, ASTM’s workshop has gone one better to include several talks on more novel cannabis industry issues.

“From a faith-based perspective, we have some really good submissions,” Murray Powell told Analytical Cannabis. “There’s a submission about kosher cannabis by Ralph Paroli. I think that’s going to be really, really interesting. There’s kosher cigars, there’s kosher food, cannabis shouldn’t be different.”

“From that same perspective, there’s a talk given by Joan Webley on Rastafari and cannabis,” she added. “And the Rastafari community has been persecuted for the fact that they use a ganja as a sacrament, even though the United Nations has protections with regards to culture and religion. So this will be a bit of an introduction to the conversation about Rastafari and cannabis.”

This kind of diverse line-up may be rare for attendees that only frequent conferences and webinars strictly on the scientific testing standards of cannabis. But, for Murray Powell and the ASTM team, that’s exactly the point: cannabis conventions benefit from more diversity.

“Unanimously, ASTM membership voted that diversity, equity, and inclusion was very important to them,” she said. “So that’s a great accomplishment of ASTM D37 – really being unified around that objective of diversity. And I’m proud to lead the group that's championing that cause.”

“When we talk about diversity, we’re not just talking about ethnicity, we’re talking from a language perspective [and] from a professional standpoint,” she said. “We have lawyers, we have scientists, we have researchers, we have academics, we have industry people all together on one virtual platform. Also, faith-based diversity and geographic diversity – all those things are really important for the future of cannabis. And all those things are really important with regards to making sure that everyone feels like they have a place in this industry. And that’s what we're super passionate about.”

“So, everyone’s excited: speakers, attendees, and the organizers. I can’t say enough about the ASTM staff and their support of this event.”

More information on the 2nd Global Workshop on Advancing the Field of Cannabis through Standardization can be found here.


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