The marijuana industry is getting ready to take a step forward in its venture for validity and long-term stability. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International) recently announced that it will put a committee of industry representatives and experts together to create a set of guidelines in six technical areas: Indoor and outdoor horticulture and agriculture, Quality management systems, Laboratory standards, Processing and handling, Security and transportation, Personal training/ assessment and credentialing.
ASTM International’s announcement is welcome news to an industry that operates with no federal oversight. Uniform standards should provide additional assurance to insurance carriers, the medical community, and the federal government as the pathway to full legalization continues. There are definite benefits to the marijuana industry from the creation of published standards, which should assist manufacturers and distributors in establishing baselines for testing and quality control, provide practitioners and dispensaries a standard by which to prescribe and dispense, and allow insurers to better underwrite the risks being covered.
The advancement and stability of the marijuana market stands to improve when insurers are more confident in the ability to use objective risk management metrics through accepted practices and standards for analysis, manufacturing, and transportation of these products. This should encourage more carriers to write policies for the cannabis industry.
Pesticides – Distributors, prescribers, users, and insurers want to be assured their product is free of toxic sprays and treatments.
Contaminates – Distributors, prescribers, users, and insurers need assurance that the products are free of contamination, such as mold, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms. There is growing demand from medical cannabis patients for higher-quality packaging that either displays an expiration date or provides greater protection from oxidation and degradation over time.
Potency – Not all marijuana plants, products, and derivatives are the same. They differ in their pharmacology, potency and appearance. They also can be distinguished by variables such as whether they are farmed outdoors or indoors, or grown organically. Distributors, prescribers, users, and insurers need to know that the potency is accurate.
Worker Safety – A 2017 study by New Frontier Data anticipates that marijuana industry hiring will eclipse manufacturing hiring by the year 2020. Inherent in this growth is an increased potential for workplace injuries and the risks related to marijuana businesses and their carriers. The U.S. market needs to know that employees are receiving the necessary training, instruction, education and protection in the cultivation, transporting, packaging, extracting and sales operations. ASTM International is expected to produce standards, ranging from best manufacturing practices to protective equipment and proper ventilation, that address workplace dangers.
Labeling – Every marijuana-legal state currently has, or is drafting, its own labeling requirements. A uniform labeling standard will give distributors, prescribers, and insurers confidence that the product is labeled consistently with a national standard. Quality-Control Testing – Ensuring a relatively uniform method of testing from state to state, and facility to facility, should improve product quality and consistency, and reduce the exposure from product liability and contamination claims along with the potential for product recalls. Reliably consistent testing also will allow patient-users to evaluate levels of all known useful cannabinoids, including levels of THC, CBD, and CBN, to help them choose strains or products better suited to their needs.
Twenty-eight states have regulated or decriminalized marijuana and/or its derivatives. The marijuana market cannot reach its full potential, however, without widespread acceptance from the medical community and the insurance industry. As Corey Tobin of Bolton & Company, a full-service insurance brokerage, explains, “Insurers usually move slowly, although ASTM International’s creation of a set of standards will help the insurers get a better understanding of the needs of these corporations.” While drawing up and examining the guidelines will take time, the design of uniform standards will be an important step forward for the industry in terms of its its long-term stability and validity.