Safety for consumers is at a crossroads in the rapidly evolving world of legalized marijuana. State regulators, cannabis producers, and other stakeholders are jostling to establish the best approach to safeguard consumers amidst disparate lab-testing requisites, large-scale recalls, and the ever-present question of uniformity in regulations.
A Patchwork of Regulations
Each state forges its own path when it comes to lab testing marijuana products, from potency assessment to contamination checks, leading to a mosaic of regulations within the sector. Steph Sherer, founder of the medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), considers this inconsistent regulation a result of federal prohibition. If marijuana were a legal commodity, “it would be subject to standard testing,” Sherer stated.
Recent decisions have underscored the regulatory divide. For instance, the Liquor and Cannabis Commission in Oregon allowed the sale of products that tested positive for Aspergillus mold despite prior product recalls linked to this contaminant. Meanwhile, despite evidence suggesting contamination in a significant portion of samples in Maine, medical cannabis producers remain resistant to mandatory testing.
Challenges and Advocacy for Standardization
Arizona has also faced its share of challenges, with experts calling for enhanced cannabis testing regulations after a slew of recalls due to potential Aspergillus and Salmonella contamination. Improving lab standards and introducing methods such as the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) could be ideal solutions.
Industry insiders are keenly awaiting potential federal intervention. If the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reclassifies marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to Schedule 3, it could pave the way for federal oversight. Sherer and ASA advocate for the establishment of an Office of Medical Cannabis under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This office would harmonize state-level marijuana testing requirements, creating a more unified approach.
However, the road to unified regulations seems like a long journey. This is evident from the slow progression of federal oversight of CBD since the 2018 Farm Bill was enacted.
Safety First: The Oregon Controversy
Aspergillus has emerged as a significant concern. Sherer has criticized Oregon’s decision to permit the sale of marijuana products containing Aspergillus mold. Despite stringent cannabis laws within the state, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission recently decided to allow the sale of 2,500 pounds of cannabis and 65,000 infused pre-roll units that were being held due to contamination. While the mold might be harmless to many, it poses severe risks to individuals with compromised immunity.
Supporters of rigorous testing of cannabis products and other dispensary supplies, like Marianne Cursetjee, co-founder of Alibi Cannabis, stress that the entire industry shouldn’t be penalized due to a few vulnerable patients. Potential solutions to the Aspergillus issue include irradiation, but there are concerns about compromising product quality.
Maine’s Medical Marijuana Debate
In Maine, a lack of mandatory testing for medical marijuana has led to serious concerns. Recent analyses revealed that a significant portion of medical samples contained contaminants and pesticides. Despite these findings, mandatory testing remains a debated issue.
Recall Situations in Arizona
Arizona has seen numerous recalls tied to potential contaminations. However, many of these recalls were lifted after further testing. Industry experts like Kim Stuck, CEO of Allay Consulting, suggest that adopting GMP standards could be an antidote to such recall scenarios. These standards emphasize consumer safety before cannabis products reach the market.
The marijuana industry is at a critical juncture. To ensure consumer safety and industry credibility, a harmonized approach to cannabis testing and regulation is vital. As states grapple with their individual challenges, the call for a unified regulatory framework grows louder. Whether through state initiatives or federal oversight, the industry’s future hinges on establishing trustworthy, consistent standards.