Setting the Standard
Lack of Federal Guidance Leads Washington State to Regulate Cannabis Testing
Without guidelines for cannabis testing at the federal level, the Washington State legislature has taken matters into its own hands. Determined to provide safe products to consumers, the government body has decided to create its own uniform standards for testing and labeling products within cannabis labs.
These labs exist to ensure cannabis products are free from harmful materials, safe to sell and are safe for consumption. Cannabis labs also test the potency of cannabis products by measuring the THC content. Testing THC levels helps to guarantee that the information placed on labels is accurate for proper dosing by the consumer, caretakers and healthcare professionals. Yet, because there is still no universal set of rules to operate by, requirements and guidelines often vary between different cannabis labs.
Co-founder of the Confidence Analytics lab in Redmond, Nick Mosely, explained the complexities of a system without official guidelines to Crosscut. “Basically, each lab has to individually develop and validate their own method for each of the tests they’re responsible for,” he shared. “They’ve done this independently, largely in a vacuum, without a lot of coordinated communication between them.”
More importantly, without the oversight of one authority, labs aren’t held accountable to accuracy with labeling and testing their products. This type of inconsistently leaves room for important information and safety standards to fall through the cracks. Without an authoritative body checking to make sure rules are followed, the consumer may be misinformed.
To combat this issue, the Washington State Legislature introduced and passed House Bill 2052. The bill establishes clarification for cannabis testing, “by revising provisions concerning marijuana testing laboratory accreditation and establishing a cannabis science task force,” stated on the legislature’s website. In the year 2024, the responsibility of giving a laboratory accreditation will be transferred over from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to the Department of Ecology.
“Lab accreditation is an important piece in the puzzle in making sure that when folks go out and purchase this product, they’re purchasing what it says they’re purchasing on the product label,” Jessica Archer, the statewide coordination manager stated to Crosscut.
“Lab accreditation is an important piece in the puzzle in making sure that when folks go out and purchase this product, they’re purchasing what it says they’re purchasing on the product label.”
The bill also details that the department must arrange a cannabis task force whose duty will be to develop the new guidelines and deliver to the Washington State Legislature in June of next year. Usually, the state has a foundation of federal guidelines to work from when creating their own. Since no such thing exists for cannabis testing labs, officials instead must start from scratch.
The examiner manager of the LCB, Kendra Hodgson, shared that creating new guidelines isn’t the first time that Washington State has had to oversee cannabis regulation without federal guidance. The arrival of recreational cannabis meant that the state had to determine how to oversee the newly legalized industry. “We were breaking new ground as we did this,” she shared.
The process of delegating responsibilities for cannabis regulation even varies by state. Colorado gave some accreditation tasks to its Department of Public Health and Environment. No matter how it’s done, establishing a comprehensive set of guidelines for cannabis testing is the only way to give consumers safe and trustworthy products.
Manns, Kiara. “Setting the Standard.” Culture Magazine, 2 Oct. 2019, culturemagazine.com/setting-the-standard/.