California To Standardize Cannabis Testing

California To Standardize Cannabis Testing - Marijuana Packaging

Signed in October by Governor Gavin Newsom, California Senate Bill 544 requires the Department of Cannabis Control to establish firm criteria and guidelines for testing cannabis compounds (also dozens of pesticides, microbiological contaminants, and residual solvents). Now California regulators are pushing to standardize cannabis testing to eliminate inconsistencies among 41 marijuana labs. The result will be improved quality and reliability while discouraging “lab shopping” and other questionable practices that can produce dubious, tailor-made results.

A lack of consistency and standards throughout the marijuana industry threatens to undermine consumer confidence in the product available in the marketplace.

“With a standardized method, laboratories can more easily identify and correct problems, and it will serve as an additional mechanism to ensure integrity,” said Department of Cannabis Control spokeswoman Christina Dempsey.

The Department of Cannabis Control’s Laboratory Services Division has a staff of roughly two dozen who run the Cannabis Testing Laboratory and regulate the state’s labs through licensing and inspections. The division will partner with the University of California, San Diego, to establish a new reference lab. One of two state-run labs, staffers will spot-check products to verify accurate testing. The two labs will establish operating procedures to serve as the model for every marijuana testing lab in California.

The bill stipulates that the DCC must create standardized testing methods, transportation for testing, and operating procedures. Additionally, labs will have the flexibility to correct minor administrative errors which create inventory losses.

Producers would have to dispose of the “tainted” product. Losses at that level could decimate a small business. Compounding the problem, labs frequently would refuse to notify regulators of their errors, fearing regulatory scrutiny, penalties, or retribution.

“It’s an unfortunate situation where the brands and the manufacturer know they’re getting less-than-accurate service,” said Kenny Morrison, the founder of VCC Brands and president of the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association.

Morrison wants to see further legislative changes requiring testing and sampling higher up the supply chain where the product is produced instead of current requirements at wholesale distribution sites. One benefit would be reduced transportation costs.

“That needs to change because we’re forced to move pallets of products around, racking up trucking and freight charges,” Morrison added.

Currently mandated as liaisons between cultivators and dispensaries, distributors must arrange testing and hold inventory until testing is completed. Other industry leaders worry that more requirements will drive up costs and inhibit competition and services.

“When delta-8 hit the market, we quickly added it to our cannabinoids panel,” said Josh Wurzer, president and co-founder of Santa Cruz-based SC Labs. “Mandating a reference method would stifle that innovation, which is fostered through competition in a free market.”

A decade ago, organic chemist Jeffrey Raber launched one of the first cannabis testing labs in California. He believes the development of standardized methodologies and cross-validation will help clean up lab results and root out bad actors. Now CEO of The Werc Shop, Raber left the testing lab industry years ago to focus on consulting and formulation development.

“The lab game still needs so much help,” said Raber. “I don’t think we’re fully there yet, but we’re on the right path.

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