A few years ago, when the legalization of medical & recreational marijuana was just taking off, we wrote a blog about the growth of medical marijuana testing labs. Now, as they continue to become more and more common, we’re revisiting the topic to discuss the importance of cannabis quality control and compliance.
In order for cannabis to be legally distributed by licensed medical professionals and licensed businesses, it must be properly tested. Some cannabis labs have taken the initiative to seek ISO 17025 accreditation, like TEQ Analytical Laboratory located in Aurora, CO. Seth Wong, President of TEQ Analytical Laboratories, shared:
By achieving ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation, TEQ Analytical Labs believes that we can address the concerns throughout the cannabis industry regarding insufficient and unreliable scientific analysis by providing our clients with State required tests that are accredited by an international standard.
While labs like TEQ are opting to pursue ISO 17025 accreditation of their own volition, some states– such as Ohio–have announced mandatory accreditation for all cannabis testing labs. Because legalization is currently decided by state governments, however, there are no overarching policies regarding mandatory lab accreditations. As this industry evolves, it can be expected that increased compliance expectations will evolve in tandem.
There are key reasons why accreditation in cannabis labs is paramount. First and foremost, cannabis is a consumable product. Like with all our fruits & vegetables, it’s prone to pesticides, fungi, and contaminants. Putting a potentially hazardous material on the market without proper accreditation and hard data to support it could lead to a public health crisis. An accredited testing lab, however, will ensure that their cannabis products are free from any harmful contaminants. Producers and consumers want to be guaranteed that they will be safe when ingesting a drug.
For medical marijuana, accredited testing facilities are especially important. Because many consumers of medicinal cannabis are immuno-compromised (such as chemotherapy patients), making sure the products are free from any and all contaminants is critical. Further, in order to accurately determine short- and long-term effects of prescribed cannabis consumption, accredited & compliant labs are necessary.
It isn’t enough to analyze cannabis products–there must be confidence that the testing is completed properly. Instead of returning “pass/fail” rating on products, the Cannabis Safety Institute reports that an ISO 17025 lab is required to produce numerical accuracy percentages in testing for “at a minimum, cannabinoids, pesticides, microbiology, residual solvents, and water activity.” Having reliable data sets that can be reviewed by both accreditors and the public allows for transparency and trust between producers and consumers.
Further, having ISO 17025 accreditation demonstrates that a lab has proper staffing and documented training of that staff. The Cannabis Safety Institute’s “Standards for Cannabis Testing Laboratories” explains that conducting proper analytical chemistry on cannabinoids (the chemical compounds extracted from cannabis that alter the brain’s neurotransmitter release) requires personnel who have met specific academic and training credentials. A system to monitor, manage, demonstrate proficiency is necessary achieve and maintain accreditation. With systems in place this management and documentation minimizes risk and also minimizes administrative time tracking & maintaining training records.
A comprehensive software solution for cannabis testing labs are critical to this process for the emerging industry. Following the proper steps of a standardized process will be key to improving and growing the cannabis industry in coming years– which means utilizing technology tools such a workflows to ensure proper process controls. Using automation, process controls, document management functions, and documented training procedures are steps in the right direction. With the proper software tools in place, cannabis testing labs can achieve compliance goals and demonstrate reliable and relevant results.