Monday, August 12, 2019

New task force to set standards for cannabis testing labs

Thanks to a new law intended to improve cannabis product testing, state agencies are forming a Cannabis Science Task Force that will be led by Ecology. The Task Force will develop standards that ensure cannabis labs can produce reliable results when testing consumer and medical products.
Close up of a marijuana vape pens in a jar on a table. Plants in the background. Photo courtesy of @StayRegularMedia.
Vape pens are a popular recreational cannabis-based product available in Washington.*

Since cannabis was legalized in Washington, a number of consumer and medical products have been made available in the state. Not surprisingly, the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board and the Department of Health require products to be tested by an accredited laboratory. This testing is meant to ensure consumers are using products that are clean, free of harmful substances and are purchasing what was advertised. Medical and recreational cannabis products are tested for a variety of issues including potency, pesticides, and metals.

Cannabis products create a new paradigm

Close up of CBD products in small glass jars with black lids. Label says CBD rocks. Photo courtesy of @StayRegularMedia.
Cannabinoid products are required to be tested by accredited labs.*
Washington’s laws were developed in the early stages of legalization and gaps exist in the lab accreditation program. The gaps that exist today largely stem from the lack of a federal framework.

States typically rely on federal laws and rules as a regulatory framework for lab testing and accreditation programs. These frameworks exist for labs testing drinking water, food and health care samples and took years to develop. Standardized testing practices have not been established for cannabis and the result is a patchwork of regulatory practices that vary from state to state.

Laboratory test results impact many areas of our daily lives. The assurance of safe drinking water, food safety, and health care all rely on the competency of labs. Government agencies also rely on lab results to inform policy decisions. Bottom line – reliable testing practices are important to everyone.
Labs test both consumer and medical grade cannabis products.*

State agencies support improving cannabis testing

We’ve been working with the state Legislature and the Liquor and Cannabis Board over the last two legislative sessions to identify improvements and a path forward for Washington.

Because we already administer an environmental and drinking water accreditation program for 500 laboratories in Washington and throughout the nation, the Legislature has looked to us forexpert recommendations. In a report to the Legislature, we shared our evaluation of the existing cannabis lab accreditation program and options for improving the program.  

Multiple state agencies supported our recommendations and House Bill 2052, which transfers lab accreditation to Ecology and creates the Cannabis Science Task Force.

Washington’s Cannabis Science Task Force

Labs that test products – cannabis or any other product – rely on established methods, protocols, and standards among other requirements. Those practices do not exist for cannabis labs in Washington. That’s where the Cannabis Science Task Force comes in.

Washington’s departments of Agriculture, Health, and the Liquor and Cannabis Board will join us, along with interested tribes and industry partners, to establish standards for the state.

Liquor and Cannabis Board’s role

While the Task Force establishes standards, the Liquor and Cannabis Board will continue its oversight of accreditation. In addition to accreditation, the agency licenses growers, producers, and retailers. All of these regulatory activities are part of the Liquor and Cannabis Board’s seed to sale traceability system.   

Cannabis listen & learn forum

The Cannabis Science Task Force will meet for the first time on Aug. 21. This first meeting is designed to be a forum to listen and learn. Members of the public can attend and will have an opportunity to share feedback with the Task Force. 

When: Aug. 21, 2019, from 9 a.m. – noon
Where: Lacey Library 500 College St SE, Lacey WA 

To stay informed on the progress of the Cannabis Science Task Force, visit our website and signup to receive emails.

By Camille St. Onge, communications 
* Photos courtesy of Wikimedia and Stay Regular Media. 

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