By Cindy Orser, PhD, Chief Science Officer of Digipath Labs
The news of Oregon’s cannabis market coming to its knees because of strict testing requirements casts a long shadow on those states faced with rolling out newly voter-approved MMJ or retail cannabis programs. One can easily conclude from the rising national awareness of the prevalence of tainted cannabis product on the market, from either unregulated state MMJ programs or the black market that the days of little regard for either quality or safety, is on its dying legs. We should be celebrating; but instead we must look for solutions to the evident bottleneck that exists within highly regulated cannabis marketplaces like Oregon.
Under individual State’s efforts, we have been witness to the highs and lows of mandatory cannabis testing regulations, from stipulating zero tolerance for pesticide residue on cannabis in Colorado, where no pesticide testing program was in place and still struggles to be stood up, yet alone enforced for a handful of pesticides to Oregon’s nearly 100 pesticide screening list with such high standards of accreditation that few labs have been able to achieve.
There are many factors at play here that can be analyzed to sort out the points of constriction in the process from cultivation to production to dispensary shelves; but, the testing lab appears to be the sweet spot where products flow in for testing and certificates of analyses out the other side. In a perfect world, States would have the wherewithal to adequately staff cannabis regulatory programs so that all involved know the rules on day one; where cultivators know the list of chemicals that will not be tolerated so that producers do not end up with both a highly concentrated cannabinoid product but also a highly enriched poisonous legacy. Where cannabis testing labs are prepared to scale the heights of accreditation through adequate funding to acquire the high-priced instrumentation and have the largesse to validate standard operating procedures to achieve the levels of discrimination that this industry now demands to ensure the quality and safety of cannabis reaching the public and patient.
The irony in all of this confusion and frustration is that while most States have the right intention, the spotlighted missteps are adding up to a chaotic front rather than one united in standardization that is manageable for both the regulators, the growers, producers and the testing labs. Once again it would appear that the State of Nevada has uniquely chosen a balance that is both manageable and successful, resulting in the safest cannabis products currently available.