Should you trust the labels at cannabis dispensaries?
Government regulations are meant to be an effective shield against blatant contamination. Products, particularly consumable ones, are supposed to meet high safety standards before they can be sold in the U.S.
Cannabis, however, is in a unique position. Blossoming recreational and medical laws have created an urgent need for independent testing facilities yet the FDA can’t get involved. The discrepancy has created a mess.
There’s no federal policy dictating accreditation requirements for cannabis testing laboratories. The lack of government oversight has resulted in a hodgepodge of different laws. In an attempt to introduce rigorous standards to the industry, some states require all cannabis labs to meet ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation standards.
“By achieving ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation… we can address the concerns throughout the cannabis industry regarding insufficient and unreliable scientific analysis by providing our clients with state required tests that are accredited by an international standard,” Seth Wong, President of TEQ Analytics Laboratories, said in a press release.
Accreditation is critical. Cannabis products are consumed, and contaminants and infectants in the flower or oil can easily make their way into your body. For medical patients who might be immunocompromised, this is a big risk. Their cannabis needs to be free of dangerous foreign particles.
What is ISO/IEC 17025 Accreditation?
A lot of cannabis consumers put faith in ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation. The International Organization for Standardization is an independent, international body. People believe testing results from a properly accredited lab can be trusted.
ISO/IEC 17025 labs test for cannabinoids, pesticides, and contaminants. Staff members are required to meet basic training standards. Stringent accreditation requirements are a good first step toward ensuring only quality cannabis is sold. Without the weight of the federal government behind the regulations, however, enforcement is lax. Since federal involvement in the cannabis industry is not a reality, some states, have turned to independent, third-party auditing bodies, in addition to ISO 17025 accreditation, to help ensure labs are compliant with state regulations.
Some cannabis testing labs have been suspected of fudging their numbers. “The problem is these… testing companies rely totally on (cannabis) income,” Patrick Griffith, the founder of XO Cannabis, said. “So if you’re not happy and you leave, where else are they going to get business from?”
Cannabis growers only have to submit a small sample of each batch to be tested. An unscrupulous grower might submit strain A to be tested only to turn around and start selling strain B.
“There is no assurance that what the lab tested and what they are now selling to someone else is the same product,” Dylan Hirsch, executive vice president of Diagnostic Lab Corporation, said.
The cannabis industry is evolving rapidly. A lot of states are trying to implement strict quality standards. Requiring ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for cannabis testing labs helps better ensure that consumers are likely purchasing high-quality, safe products. However, the accreditation hasn’t been enough to guarantee product safety. Scheming labs and greedy growers can still trick the system.