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Colorado to Require Cannabis Vapor Testing by 2022

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Oct 13, 2020   
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Cannabis labs in Colorado will one day be required to test the actual vapor of cannabis oils and concentrates for heavy metals.

The new rule won’t take effect until January 1, 2022, giving state labs sufficient time to adjust their testing methods.

Terms and emissions

The new rule was proposed by the testing subcommittee of the Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (CMED), and formally added to the state’s list of cannabis regulations on Wednesday, October 7.

Its phrasing states that “Each Harvest Batch and Production Batch of Regulated Marijuana Concentrate in a Vaporized Delivery Device must be tested for metals contamination via emissions testing by a Regulated Marijuana Testing Facility.”

“The metals contamination test must include, but need not be limited to, testing to determine the presence and amounts of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.”

It’s already a requirement to test legal cannabis products for these four heavy metals in Colorado, but the new rule will make it mandatory to test for them in the products’ vapors, too.

Given the health risks these metals can pose, and the increased scrutiny vaping devices have been under since the EVALI outbreak last year, Colorado’s new rule has been welcomed by many in the state’s cannabis testing sector.

“It was the consensus of the [CMED’s] work group that the emission produced by vaporizer cartridges is much more relevant to consumer and public health than the current model of testing the raw oil contained within the cartridge,” Alena Rodriguez, managing director of Rm3 Labs and chair of the CMED’s sampling subcommittee, told Analytical Cannabis.

“Since the consumer inhales the vapor emissions from a vaporizer rather than consuming the raw oil, this change will better align us with practices from other industries and provide consumers and patients a safer product that is tested more appropriately,” she added.

But the new testing requirement won’t be a simple addition for state cannabis labs. According to Rodriquez, the emissions test will necessitate new instruments and protocols, which can take time to acquire and develop. As such, it was decided that the new rule should only come into effect on January 1, 2022, so labs have enough notice to accommodate themselves.

“There would be no way labs could purchase instruments, validate methods, and then have the CDPHE [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] come in to audit/recommend certification by [the] year’s end,” Rodriguez told Analytical Cannabis.

More than metal

Of course, cannabis labs are required to screen for contaminants other than heavy metals. Pesticides, microbes, and residual solvents are all regularly tested for in physical cannabis samples.

And, according to Rodriguez, the testing of these other pollutants in cannabis vapor may also become mandatory in Colorado.

“In future rulemaking sessions, which typically happen in the summer in Colorado, the Testing Subcommittee and work group as a whole will consider transitioning other tests on vaporizer delivery devices to emissions testing rather than testing the raw oil (e.g. potency, residual solvents, etc.),” she said.

In addition to the new emissions rule, the CMED also added new sampling and packaging requirements to Colorado’s list of cannabis regulations. State-licensed cannabis labs will also soon be required to digitally photograph each product batch they receive for recordkeeping purposes. 

These adopted rules will take effect on January 1, 2021.  


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