DigiPath Labs very own Dr. Cindy Oser discusses how the rules and regulations of marijuana testing labs are extremely important. Each state seems to be making up rules as they go and it is causing major issues. Check out what is happening in Massachusetts due to the lack of cannabis testing facilities.
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SEATTLE, WA / ACCESSWIRE / June 9, 2015 / The cannabis industry could reach $35 billion by 2020, according to GreenWave Advisors, if all 50 states legalize marijuana and the federal government ends prohibition. In a less optimistic scenario, the research group still expects revenue to reach about $21 billion assuming 12 states legalize recreational marijuana and 37 legalize medical marijuana. Despite the industry’s enormous size and growth, the legal framework for the industry is patchy and disjointed.
In this article, we’ll take a look at various states’ testing standards, and the effects of these standards on companies and customers within the industry.
Strict Testing Standards
The regulatory framework from assorted states and what they require for cannabis testing varies enormously, with some requirements having been set by scientists and others determined by politicians and regulators with no scientific training.
As an example, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health stipulates that lead levels in cannabis flowers can be no greater than 212 parts per billion, which is so strict that growers will not be able to meet them, essentially eliminating the sale of budding flowers (the part that is smokable) in the state. By contrast, Colorado’s law allows up to 10,000 parts per billion and is considered to be safe, while Nevada comes in at 1,200 ppb as the legal limit. One of the strangest aspects is that while Massachusetts has a stricter standard for lead, they are more lenient than Nevada with respect to arsenic, cadmium, and mercury.
Among the biggest discrepancies is in the daily dosage each state is using to determine its standards. In the above example for lead, Massachusetts is basing its safety levels off of someone using 10 ounces of marijuana a day, while Nevada’s standard of 1,200 ppb is based on a much more realistic dosage of 5 grams a day. That is a difference of over 5800% in daily personal usage, not exactly consistent.
Dr. Cindy Orser, Chief Science Officer for DigiPath Inc. (DIGPD), who recently opened their first testing lab in Las Vegas, was kind enough to share her thoughts on the individual states and their ability for each to set its own testing standards:
Dr. Orser: “One of the confounding dilemmas in cannabis testing is defining what is a ‘dose’ for the purpose of determining acceptable exposure levels to heavy metals. While pesticide residues are defined as a permissible concentration [PPB] in the dried cannabis plant material, heavy metal exposure is defined by ‘how much’ or the concentration [PPB] multiplied by the frequency of use, and further multiplied by the duration of use! And the only objectively knowable component of that equation is the concentration, which is the only standard used to determine pesticide risk. With that said, each individual state’s attempt to tackle this metric has ironically arrived at disparate values, no doubt because of what was assumed to be a daily dose and ignoring frequency. Clearly, we need to consider a more cohesive, nationally vetted accord on how to best arrive at a reasonable threshold for patient safety.”
Root of the Problem
These strict regulations may be unfair given that many prescription drugs and alcohol products don’t operate under the same assumptions. Pharmacists don’t dispense a single Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) made Xanax pill at a time, and hard alcohol such as the Brown-Forman’s Corp.’s (NYSE:BF.B) Jack Daniel bourbon isn’t required to be sold in shot-sized containers. According to some marijuana proponents, these strict regulations are simply hidden measures designed to derail the implementation of voter-approved legalization efforts
Many dispensaries have thus far resorted to bypassing these laws by only selling edible products, which contain extracts that can meet practically any standards. Unfortunately, these dispensaries won’t be able to sell flower products until marijuana-testing regulations have evolved to reflect the true risks associated with smoking them. Many experts don’t expect to see any changes in these standards until toxic levels of these substances are better understood.
Developing National Standards
The best solution to the problem would be the development of nationwide standards governing the testing of marijuana and other aspects of recreational or medical legalization. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sets many standards governing the safety of pharmaceutical drugs, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture sets standards governing the contaminants found in a variety of commonly grown foods.
With the federal government quietly abandoning its enforcement of the prohibition of medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized back in December of 2014, deep within a 1,603-page federal spending measure, many marijuana advocates are hoping that they will step up to the plate and ultimately institute rules governing the production, testing, and sale of marijuana in order to create a more consistent framework throughout all states in the U.S. where the drug has been legalized.
A national standard would also help many companies operating within the industry by establishing clear and reasonable requirements. Currently, many dispensaries that have invested tens of thousands of dollars into their business have been patiently waiting on the sidelines for the regulators to approve their ability to sell. The FDA has also issued a number of warnings to cannabinoid manufacturers, despite the lack of federal rules governing the drug.
Massachusetts and several other U.S. states implementing marijuana-testing requirements have made it difficult for growers and dispensaries to operate. Without clear standards between states, the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon, which could limit access to medicine for medical marijuana patients and reduce tax revenue in the form of lower sales of both medical and recreational marijuana in states where it’s approved.
A company like DigiPath Inc. is well suited to not only be at the forefront of testing, but also be leaders in helping to create and set nationwide industry testing standards.
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SOURCE: Cannabis Financial Network