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California House Passes Historic Bill to Mandate Lab Testing of Medical Cannabis

By CannaSafe 2 years ago

By: Chuck Epstein

In an effort to standardize quality and safety standards for medical cannabis, the California House passed a bill on Friday, September 11, to mandate that all medical cannabis be laboratory tested.

California bill (AB 266) requires medical cannabis to be lab tested for regulatory purposes on or before July 1, 2017. Specifically, the bill mandates the following:

• The issuance, renewal, suspension, denial, and revocation of conditional licenses;

• Procedures for appealing fines and the appeal of denial, suspension, or revocation of conditional licenses;

• The application, licensing, and renewal forms and fees;

• A time period in which the bureau shall approve or deny applications for a conditional license;

• Qualifications for licensees;

• Set standards for certification of testing laboratories to perform random sample testing of all medical marijuana.

To establish and maintain state standards, the bill would make all companies connected with the sale and production of medical cannabis subject to the International Organization for Standardization, ISO/IEC 17025. These requirements would apply to all entities, including third-party laboratories, engaged in the testing of medical marijuana. Meeting these ISO requirements would mean that all affected parties meet standards similar to state statutory environmental, agricultural, consumer protection, and food and product safety requirements, including sanitation standards, according to language in the bill.

“Passing this bill is a major advance for the state and the nation,” according to Matt Haskins, CEO of CannaSafe Analytics. “This bill will help protect the health and safety of medical marijuana patients that purchase from licensed dispensaries throughout California by requiring all medical cannabis to undergo quality and safety testing by accredited laboratories. This means patients can rely on receiving medical-grade products that are free of any pesticides, harmful microbiological contaminants and accurately labeled for dosing “Haskin said. “Bill AB 266 now makes this a reality.”

Both Nevada and Washington already have similar regulations to California AB 266 in place. California’s regulations require all medical marijuana testing labs hold an ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation as a prerequisite to state licensure. California has an estimated medical cannabis patient population of 575,000, according to GreenWave Advisors of New York.

The Importance of ISO Standards

Lab testing follows rigorous standards. In a 2013 white paper, “Cannabis Testing Labs: Standards and Accreditation,” prepared by Botec Analysis Corporation, William Anderson, PhD, noted that no state or industry standards existed then, but that “existing industry participants indicate the need for significant improvement in testing quality and a strong desire for clear testing standards.”

The paper was written when the Washington State Liquor Control Board was mandated to act due to the passage of state bill I-502 which called for the state to develop a plan for the regulation of cannabis testing labs. Since no such regulations existed, the state needed a framework to meet the bill’s legislative mandate. Anderson’s 2013 paper addressed that the industry needed to develop a basic protocol of testing requirements, lab accreditation, proficiency testing, and lab infrastructure development.

While most of these issues could be done in a realistic time frame, Anderson noted that there was one exception: getting the needed ISO certification that meets regulatory and industry quality standards. ISO is a quality certification that give the “provision by an independent body of written assurance (a certificate) that the product, service or system in question meets specific requirements.”

“There are certain standards of performance and certification that cannot be realistically met by any lab in Washington, such as the ISO-17025 accreditation. The State [of Washington] must expect it to take some time, perhaps 2 to 3 years, for the cannabis lab infrastructure to develop capabilities matching those seen in some other testing industries.”

Anderson’s prediction happened sooner than he predicted. By 2015, the ISO-17025 standard was being met by labs, such as CannaSafe Analytics in Pullman, Washington. CannaSafe Analytics inspects for potency, terpene profiling, foreign matter inspection, moisture and water activity, residual solvent analysis, and microbial limit tests, according to the company’s web site.
Cannabis Testing to Become Big Business

While meeting clinical testing standards will benefit California consumers, it will also propel the emerging cannabis testing sector. Cannabis testing is projected to be a $800 million industry if national legalization happens, according to Greenwave. In Nevada, where testing is already mandatory, state law mandates that every five pounds of medical marijuana be tested. Nevada is setting a national standard on medical marijuana quality by mandating that each dispensed product is tested for eight specific impurities, including microbials, heavy metals and pesticides. Each test costs between $500 and $1,000, according to Todd Denkin, CEO and president of Digipath, Inc., a sophisticated cannabis testing company.

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