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Standards for Cannabis Testing Laboratories

Apr 28, 2017 | By the Cannabis Safety Institute

Standards for Cannabis Testing Laboratories

Prior to the legalization of recreational Cannabis in Washington and Colorado, a number of Cannabis testing laboratories were already in operation in those and several other states. These laboratories primarily served the market for potency testing of medical marijuana, although they had begun to offer such services as microbiology testing. They were entirely unregulated, and in some states even their legality was unclear. As Washington and Colorado began structuring their legal recreational Cannabis programs, these states included rules requiring safety testing of Cannabis. Oregon added similar rules to its medical marijuana program. In the absence of traditional analytical chemistry laboratories able or willing to test Cannabis, these states have turned to the existing Cannabis testing industry to meet their mandated testing requirements.  In response to this increase in demand, roughly 30 new Cannabis testing laboratories have opened in 2014. Washington and Colorado have introduced programs to inspect and certify these laboratories, but there has been a good deal of confusion over what tests the laboratories should perform and what standards they should be held to. No other state has put an oversight program into place. Oregon recently began to require that all medical Cannabis be tested, yet has failed to address the legality of the laboratories performing this work.  Faced with regulating an entirely new large-scale agricultural product in the absence of any guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many state regulatory agencies have determined that some safety testing is better than no safety-testing whatsoever. This assessment is misguided. In fact, inadequate testing is less safe than no testing. A laboratory that performs analytical chemistry and microbiology testing

In response to this increase in demand, roughly 30 new Cannabis testing laboratories have opened in 2014. Washington and Colorado have introduced programs to inspect and certify these laboratories, but there has been a good deal of confusion over what tests the laboratories should perform and what standards they should be held to. No other state has put an oversight program into place. Oregon recently began to require that all medical Cannabis be tested, yet has failed to address the legality of the laboratories performing this work.  Faced with regulating an entirely new large-scale agricultural product in the absence of any guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many state regulatory agencies have determined that some safety testing is better than no safety-testing whatsoever. This assessment is misguided. In fact, inadequate testing is less safe than no testing. A laboratory that performs analytical chemistry and microbiology testing

Faced with regulating an entirely new large-scale agricultural product in the absence of any guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many state regulatory agencies have determined that some safety testing is better than no safety-testing whatsoever. This assessment is misguided. In fact, inadequate testing is less safe than no testing. A laboratory that performs analytical chemistry and microbiology testing is an extraordinarily difficult business to design, equip and operate properly. There are clear and internationally accepted standards for proper laboratory operation, but none of the Cannabis testing laboratories that have opened in the last year currently meet these standards. Many are run by inexperienced analytical chemists, or by non-scientists. Many of them purport to offer tests that are known to be expensive and time-consuming, for far less than the cost of the materials required to perform them. These testing laboratories frequently return only pass/fail information, rather than quantitative results. Most concerning, many reports indicate that when the majority of these laboratories are given identical samples, they return results with very little correlation. 

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