The California Bureau of Marijuana Control released the long-awaited proposed text of regulations for medical cannabis testing laboratories last week. The proposed California medical cannabis testing regulations surpass the previously perceived stringent cannabis testing regulations in place in Nevada and Oregon. The regulations’ thoroughness is the result of two years of extensive work by three […]

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The California Bureau of Marijuana Control released the long-awaited proposed text of regulations for medical cannabis testing laboratories last week. The proposed California medical cannabis testing regulations surpass the previously perceived stringent cannabis testing regulations in place in Nevada and Oregon. The regulations’ thoroughness is the result of two years of extensive work by three State agencies. There is a digestible, yet dense 46-pg abridged version and a more reasoned 294-page document that contains much more than testing lab regulations. This document also contains proposed regulations for other cannabis businesses and the rules for their operation and what reaches the dispensary shelves. Although local municipalities could decide on further rules.

Altogether, it is evident that the State of California aims to reign in the medical cannabis industry with patient safety foremost in their deliberations. Significant effort was made to define terms and provide impressive detail across all topics from how an accredited testing lab should perform its internal quality control (QC) program to what type of container and cold storage conditions should be used to transport samples to the lab. I was appeased to read that test results are to be presented in terms of dry weight, something that the State of Nevada was never successful in adopting. Homogeneity testing will also be required.

There is a lot of superb guidance in the proposed medical cannabis regulations especially for sampling, method validation, quality management and the QC requirements that laboratories will need to institute. However, if the proposed regulations advance, there will be very real challenges ahead for California medical cannabis testing labs in terms of documentation requirements under ISO17025 accreditation, expanded testing methods and adulterant lists to be monitored. In addition, a new breakout of action limits based on the cannabis product category for solvents, pesticides and heavy metals. The categories vary by adulterant, but in general there is a distinction made between products to be inhaled versus eaten or transdermal.

Challenges will also exist for cannabis growers and producers who will have a substantially higher adulterant-free bar to clear their flower and products through to the dispensary. More of their products will be diverted to testing with mandatory 0.5% per batch with sample duplicates also required at time of sampling.

Yet there is more to come as both California and Nevada are in the final throes of settling on temporary regulations for recreational cannabis, including the pass/fail test criteria. While the similarities between medical and retail are obvious, the same safety concerns should exist for patients as well as for consumer public health. Exacting the same stringent medical marijuana testing requirements onto the retail market appears to be the only option.

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