Hannah Izer   |   January 13, 2022

How Testing Mandates Improve Cannabis

As the industry continues to advance in the U.S., improving testing mandates has created higher quality cannabis across the country.
Freelance writer with a specialization in the cannabis industry including strains, products, technology, education, and everything else connecting to the green plant. Her work has been featured in Thrillist.

When it comes to specifying the level of THC, CBD, terpenes, or other components in cannabis, there is a laundry list of rules and regulations that vary state by state.

Each state has its own set of rules to govern maximum residual limits (MRLs) of heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides, and bacteria in cannabis products. Lack of consistency in testing has been the bane of legal cannabis producers.

Consumers and businesses alike may not expect a lot to change until the federal government removes cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Then, the FDA takes over standardizing MRLs of toxins and establishing purity and dosing levels of THC.

However, increasing testing standards and mandates uncover previously unknown pain points and lead to better, cleaner cannabis products.

California Testing is Evolving

Regulators in California are beginning a new push to standardize testing for cannabis to eliminate inconsistencies throughout the state’s operational marijuana labs. Supporters of this initiative say mandates by the state law will improve the reliability and quality of cannabis while discouraging shopping around for labs that bring out bogus results for the benefit of the brand.

Industry officials across the country, alleging that some cannabis businesses such as growers, processors, manufacturers, or distributors - shop for labs that will give them the results that they want to see in the way of THC potency and contaminants.

The DCC (Department of Cannabis Control) has designated two state-rub labs to establish operating procedures that will serve as a blueprint for every marijuana testing lab in the state.

This direction is promoted by a new state law that mandates that the cannabis regulator validates testing and procedures. This law ensures that labs produce accurate results and are transparent about testing operations.

California now joins a group of other states with standardized cannabis testing, including New York and New Jersey. In addition, Senate Bill 544, signed in October by Gov. Gavin Newsom, requires the DCC to establish firm criteria and guidelines for testing dozens of pesticides, contaminants, residual solvents, and cannabis compounds.

The signing of this bill means that by Jan. 1, 2023, the DCC needs to establish standardized cannabinoid operating procedures and test methods that labs will be required to use. In addition, labs will require every lab in California to implement the DCC’s operating systems, which advocates say will help lab shopping within the state.

Safety Issues Driving Change in the Cannabis Mandates

There has been little movement throughout the years into the current day at the federal level. However, the 2018 Farm Bill allows the production and marketing of industrial hemp products and derivatives as long as they contain no more than 0.3 percent of THC on a dry-weight basis.

These new regulations include removing these products from the CSA, which means that cannabis plants and derivatives that contain less than 0.3 percent of THC by weight are no longer controlled substances under federal law.

Cannabis regulations in the U.S. differ from state to state, and local governments are consistently writing and rewriting cannabis legislation, making it a big challenge for product testing labs to meet these changes as they occur.

Each U.S. state that has passed legislation for medicinal or recreational cannabis use has defined safety and quality testing requirements to mitigate consumer exposure to toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, and residual manufacturing solvents. Cannabis journalist Ricardo Baca did the infamous investigation for the Denver Post that discovered pesticides in cannabis products by in 2015. This article shook up the cannabis industry and began a movement for better testing of cannabis products, banning pesticides, and concern for the consumer.

Colorado is still ahead of the curve when it comes to increased testing mandates. In January 2022, “each harvest batch and production batch of regulated marijuana concentrate in a vaporized delivery device must be tested for metals contamination via emissions testing” by an accredited lab. However, a recent announcement declared that the Department of Public Health wasn’t ready to implement these mandates, so full implementation has been delayed until later this year.

Synthetic Cannabinoids Lack Transparency

All across the country, products like Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC, and HHC are being labeled as ‘hemp-derived’ and ‘natural’ when they are anything but. Producers and retailers are spraying synthetically-derived, lab-made cannabinoid formulas onto CBD hemp flower and calling it “Delta-8 Flower” – which doesn’t even exist in the real world.

However, recent headlines and research studies indicate that hemp producers and the labs that are making these compounds will likely have much more regulation to contend with. In a report published in December of 2021 in Chemical Research in Toxicology, Delta-8 vaporizers tested positive for cutting agents, heavy metals, and contained reaction byproducts.

In much the same way that journalists and investigative research have done with the cannabis industry, one can only assume that it is just a matter of time before hemp producers have a few testing mandates of their own. Some even speculate that all THC-based products, regardless of where they’re sourced, will have to adhere to the same seed-to-sale tracking as other legal cannabis products.

Rules and Regulations for High-Quality Cannabis Products

As more states begin the legalization process, there will be a continuous demand to ensure that testing mandates are being controlled and upheld to keep quality cannabis on shelves for consumers.

What would the cannabis industry be like if states did not set strict standards to ensure that testing is done ethically and open for the consumers to fully understand the cannabis products they are choosing to consume entirely.

It’s such a vital part of being a cannabis consumer to know that products do not contain harmful contaminants or moldy growth forming. How else can consumers get a clear picture? Testing mandates have been put into place to prevent toxic elements and promote healthy cannabis.

 

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