As marijuana legalization moves further into the American mainstream, states coming online are looking to established protocols and best practices in the industry after which to model new regulations. The Oregon Marijuana Business Conference (OMBC), in addition to updating attendees on all things related to the industry, is soon hosting a very timely “Oregon Testing Update” presentation, to provide the latest on Oregon’s testing law, as the state is taking public comment until the 30th on new proposed rules.
Indeed, it appears the Beaver State has garnered a national reputation with our aggressive standards and approach to consumer safety. By comparison, California currently has no established state-regulated medical testing program, leaving little doubt that giant swaths of cannabis producers in that state would fail to meet Oregon’s standards. One recent study found 93 percent of marijuana samples in southern California failed lab tests for pesticides. However, by 2018, California will be required to have testing standards in place. California regulators are surely keeping a sharp eye on the evolution of Oregon’s laws.
In balancing consumer safety, with the needs of the burgeoning marijuana industry, Oregon is still trying to figure out what makes most sense in setting its own cannabis testing policy, and no political change is without controversy. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) recently suggested a significant overhaul in cannabis testing rules in an attempt to address problems with the current set of procedures. Lawmakers are tasked with protecting public health and ensuring reasonable quality control. On the other hand, legislators must also be cautious of creating unreasonable burdens to businesses navigating the new terrain of a legal cannabis industry. Stakeholders on all sides of the issue are clamoring over the proposed changes.
One of the reasons compelling changes in testing rules has been industry reports of slow turnaround in laboratory testing, which has been particularly problematic for edibles. Some labs have faced a backlog of products to be tested, especially when lab regulations initially went into effect last October, which means foods, concentrates and flowers must sit on a shelf awaiting approval, sometimes for weeks. Obviously this was devastating for producers of foods that can expire in the short-term. However, labs have adjusted to market demand, and the backlog appears to be much less of an issue, somewhat lessening the urgency to force the nascent industry into another set of regulatory changes. Still, it is clear that Oregon hasn’t quite figured out yet the right formula for balancing the needs of consumers and producers.
According to Keith Mansur of the Oregon Cannabis Connection, the OHA currently requires one-third of product be tested for contaminants, costing roughly $350-$400 a pop. While the OHA is reporting a failure rate of 26 percent for marijuana concentrate samples, some labs suggest the failure rate is somewhere between 50 and 70 percent. Suggested changes would lower the amount required to be tested to 20 percent, which is still substantially more than what is required for other agricultural food products.