Retail sales of legal marijuana have been underway in Washington state for more than four years—and state regulators in charge of quality control still aren’t sure what good cannabis is, or how to test for it.
All product sold in stores is supposed to be tested for mold, pesticides and other contaminants by labs evaluated and accredited by a private company under contract.
That will change sometime soon. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, which regulates marijuana sales, has until January 15 to come up with recommendations for how the state should begin accrediting testing labs.
But in order to do that, regulators—or state lawmakers, or both—have to decide what, exactly, makes good weed. And nobody—not in Washington state, nor elsewhere in the U.S. where marijuana is legal—can seem to agree what that is, according to a draft government report posted online Thursday.
“Current quality standards… are insufficient to support a robust, science-based cannabis laboratory accreditation program,” the Washington Department of Ecology document says.
A “Cannabis Science Workgroup” comprised of experts in chemistry, biology, medicine and other fields to determine minimum standards for cannabis quality should be formed, wrote Sara Sekerak, a senior chemist and project manager at the department.
To reach this determination, researchers with the agency reviewed quality-control standards in four states. They found that “[w]idely accepted quality standards for testing cannabis and cannabis products do not yet exist.”
“Accreditation does not designate product standards or quality standards,” the report adds. “However, these are necessary to support meaningful accreditation.”
Eventually, testing labs in Washington will be accredited by a state agency. Until that happens, quality may remain erratic.
Because of weak or nonexistent state rules, labs “are allowed to design their own levels” of quality control and quality assurance. There are no readily available samples of agreed-upon “quality” cannabis to set a basic standard by, as there is for drinking water and other consumer goods.
Untrained workers collecting samples for testing may taint the samples. And current accreditation standards applied by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are not sufficient, the report found.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Washington Still Doesn’t Know What Good Marijuana Is (Or How To Test For It)
Marijuana regulators in Washington State will entertain sweeping changes to how marijuana is tested, processed, packaged and sold in one of the U.S.’s oldest recreational marijuana markets, officials announced late Wednesday.
Recreational cannabis has been sold in regulated retail outlets in Washington since 2014. Consumers there pay one of the country’s highest tax burdens, generating nearly $400 million in revenue through the first three years of legalization, as the Stranger reported in late 2017.
But medical marijuana patients have long complained about limited product availability. And a recent string of testing labs suspended for erratic results that allowed unsafe product to reach retail shelves has shaken confidence in product safety.
“Requests from the industry have…been received regarding testing requirements, and changes in testing requirements in other states have prompted further review of WSLCB rules for potential adjustment,” the new notice from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board said. “Additionally, the WSLCB has heard from the medical marijuana patient community that they would like to see additional product types or levels of potency that are not currently supported by the regulatory structure.”
“For these reasons, changes to products, serving amounts in packaging, and other related requirements may be considered,” the regulators announced Wednesday.
Wednesday evening’s notice is the initial notification of potential rulemaking, and “no rule language is offered at this stage of the process.”
Members of the public can submit comments or proposals until October 24. No proposed rules changes are expected to be filed until “on or after October 31,” the notice said.
“Following the comment period, the agency will send out and publish the proposed rules, establish a comment period on the proposed rules, and hold a public hearing before the rules are adopted,” according to the agency.
Until then, the agency “will consider the following topics for potential rulemaking changes,” according to Wednesday’s notice:
- Lot and batch sizes;
- Fields of testing and pass/fail level adjustments;
- Potency testing requirements;
- Pesticide testing requirements for all cannabis products;
- Heavy metals testing requirements;
- Sample deduction requirements;
- General testing rule adjustments;
- Product, THC serving limits, and packaging requirements; and
- “Other related rule changes that may be necessary or advisable,” according to the notice.
Whatever “further adjustments” the agency will propose are meant to “increase efficiencies in testing” and “increase the availability of compliant [cannabis] products,” the notice said.
Anyone interested in submitting comments or proposed rules can contact Joanna Eide, Policy and Rules Coordinator, at [email protected].
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Washington State Prepares To Rewrite Marijuana Testing And Packaging Rules
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash
On Monday, June 15, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-0 decision, that it is legal in the state for a company to fire any employee that tests positive for marijuana. The irony of the situation is obviously that Colorado has had legal medical cannabis since 2000 and has allowed recreational cultivation, possession, and consumption since January of 2014.
The Court justified its decision with the definition of the term “lawful” under Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. According to the justices, the existing state law refers to activities lawful under both state and federal law.
In his opinion, Justice Allison H. Eid wrote:
“Therefore, employees who engage in an activity, such as medical marijuana use, that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute.”
In the big picture, this is simply another case of outdated federal law trumping the more progressive policies of states like Colorado, California, and Oregon. In its decision — because there was no existing statute regarding the subject — the Colorado Supreme Court relied upon federal law. Cannabis is considered a dangerous drug with absolutely no medical value under the Controlled Substances Act, a legacy of the Nixon administration in the early 1970s.
Quadriplegic Patient Brandon Coats
In Colorado, Brandon Coats, an employee of Dish Network who is also a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, was fully compliant with state law when he used marijuana to treat muscle spasms during his off hours at home. However, the state also enables companies to make — and enforce — their own drug policies. Unfortunately, Dish Network has a zero tolerance policy for drug use that resulted in Coats being fired in 2010.
The Coats case slowly navigated the court system, each time losing. It finally resulted in the Colorado Supreme Court’s recent decision. The Court’s reliance on federal law to interpret a case in a legal marijuana state is striking because of its sheer lack of logic and compassion. In a somewhat libertarian state that embraces medical cannabis, gay marriage, and the plight of the small businessperson, a company’s ability to fire employees for doing what is legal under state law is more than slightly ironic.
The case of Coats exemplifies how progressive states like Colorado and Oregon truly are ahead of antiquated federal laws and policies. This case goes beyond the issue of medical marijuana to expose the struggle of states to exercise autonomy and reflect the will of their citizens. The topic of state’s rights and the ability of a state or commonwealth to go counter to federal policy is the underlying legal framework of this issue. Until the federal government either reclassifies cannabis to Schedule II or passes at least limited legislation recognizing national medical or recreational use, cases like that of Coats will become increasingly common as more states adopt legalization that goes counter to federal prohibition.
Don’t Blame the Feds
The feds can’t be blamed for everything, though. In all fairness, it is Colorado that allows employers to establish their own drug policies. Instead of whining about federal policy and the fact that Coats was unfairly fired — and his state’s Supreme Court just told his employer that they were in the right — citizens of Colorado should petition their representatives to make employee drug testing for cannabis illegal. Simply prohibiting companies from testing for a legal substance under state law prevents future toking employees from being detected in the first place, let alone dismissed.
The Coats case also illustrates the fact that some employers are pushing drug testing even harder. In light of medical and recreational laws across the nation, companies and executives that are opposed to legalization are using more robust testing to “weed out” employees who have lifestyles that, while they may be legal, don’t comply with the company’s moral highground. Those living in states with any level of legal cannabis who consume, but also value their job, must make some tough decisions regarding their lifestyle.
Until Colorado steps up to the plate and prohibits companies from testing employees for cannabis, a substance that is fully legal to grow and consume in the state for any citizen 21 or older (the vast majority of the workforce), breadwinners will live in a world of fear and confusion. Otherwise happy Colorado cannabis consumers will be asking themselves: “I’m allowed to do this, but my boss can fire me for it just because the company doesn’t like it? But it’s legal!”
Photo credit: The Denver Post
The growth of the marijuana industry has spurred the growth of private testing labs in states like Colorado and Washington. These labs are testing for potency of THC and CBD to measure the potency and medicinal value of today’s legal cannabis. The labs are also looking for contaminants such as bacteria, fungi, and leftover pesticides that can sometimes reside in flowers, edibles, and concentrates. These tests are often mandated to ensure safe products are sold to consumers in a flourishing and ever-expanding legal cannabis market. Before flowers and edibles hit the dispensary shelves, each batch is carefully tested for contaminants and common bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella.
One lab in Colorado, Charas Scientific, has tested over 600 strains and have found the THC potency in some to be as high as 30 percent, markedly higher than 30 years ago. The high levels of THC are more desirable for consumers as it gives a more intense and gratifying high. With the majority of growers gunning for increasingly high THC levels, the medicinal properties of CBD in plants has been largely neglected other than a few choice strains. The high THC level is what gets users high, but the CBD level is what gives users medical relief from a range of ills.
Charas Scientific’s findings of CBD levels were close to non-existent in many of the strains that passed through. The consequence of low CBD levels leaves some medical marijuana patients missing out on the comforting effects for their burdensome aliments. The importance of cannabis testing is to correctly lead their consumers to the right purchase with accurate information of each product and the effects intended for consumer use. Previous to the required testing, sellers have been unknowingly misleading buyers about CBD levels.
Marijuana contains bacteria and fungus just like any other living organism. It’s to be expected that a natural product has microbes, but scientists are concerned with the question of how much is too much in terms of consuming microbes, especially if smoked. Bacteria and fungus, however, are not the only contaminants found among marijuana buds. Charas Scientific has also found small traces of butane, a toxic gas that is used to extract THC from cannabis for making various products like wax.
The future of cannabis testing could look very similar to practices currently being used by the FDA. As testing for quality becomes more widespread, scientists will be able to gauge the safe threshold of contaminants as well as look at the effects of smoking versus ingesting cannabis.
Tighter testing regulation are likely to improve the industry with more accurate testing information and safer products on store shelves. The states of Colorado and Washington are the self-designated guinea pigs for industry regulations and standards and are leading the newly legal industry in the right direction for safer consumption practices.