When Washington put its framework for legal cannabis together, there was a large emphasis on enforcement and regulation of those growing and selling rather than what was in the actual products.
Since that time, consumers and even the industry have asked the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board and other state agencies to focus more developing better standards for its cannabis testing laboratories and general quality control. This could provide more consumer confidence, reduce risks, and let consumers have a good idea of what’s in the cannabis they’re eating or smoking.
To address this, Washington’s Legislature passed House Bill 2052 in 2019, which clarified marijuana product testing by revising provisions concerning marijuana testing laboratory accreditation. It also established a state cannabis science task force and transferred official authority and responsibility for marijuana testing and testing rules from the WSLCB to the Washington State Department of Ecology by July 1, 2024 .
The DOE has already begun taken steps to get ready for this, including launching the task force at the end of 2019.
It also began conducting research to provide preliminary recommendations for protocols and accreditation standards for cannabis testing laboratories. Accreditation is the formal recognition that a laboratory has the technical competence and the systems in place to perform the scope of work, defined by regulation, and declared capable of producing accurate and defensible analytical data.
The DOE has identified critical gaps and challenges in the current laboratory quality standards, discovering that the current method validation protocols and performance criteria were insufficient to support a robust, science-based cannabis laboratory accreditation program. In other words, the laboratory quality standards for testing cannabis and cannabis products simply did not yet exist.
The department has worked with more than 500 labs through Washington and U.S., so was familiar with the process of creating and continuing accreditation.
The Cannabis Science Task Force is charged with recommending science-based analytical methods, method validation protocols, performance criteria, proficiency testing, and homogenization procedures for testing cannabis and cannabis products.
Washington’s new law requires cooperation and communication between multiple agencies: the Departments of Agriculture, Ecology, Health, and Liquor and Cannabis Board plus various tribes and active cannabis industry participants.
These will all be represented on the task force, along with experts in chemistry, microbiology, and food and agricultural testing methods. The Department of Agriculture will head up the analytical testing efforts, and the DOE will head up the proficiency testing. The Task Force also includes a steering committee and workgroups with members from the state agencies and cannabis labs.
The group’s first priority is testing for the use of pesticides. The workgroups will use a phased approach to develop recommendations regarding proficiency testing and analytical quality standards for pesticides in plants, which will include sampling and homogenization procedures for testing all cannabis and cannabis products. The defined lab quality standards, including approved testing methods and sampling protocol, is due by July 2020.
“The Cannabis Science Task Force is working hard to define lab quality standards for Washington’s cannabis laboratories,” said Jessica Archer, coordinator for the Cannabis Science Task Force, “which will ultimately improve consumer confidence.”
As identified in the DOE’s report to the Legislature, cannabis laboratory standards simply do not exist. The goal of the Task Force and its workgroups is to develop those standards or adapt appropriate science-based analytical methods, method validation protocols, performance criteria, proficiency testing, and homogenization procedures for testing all cannabis and cannabis products.
The steering committee meetings for the Cannabis Science Task Force are held monthly and are open to the public. Learn more on the DOE website at ecology.wa.gov/. You can also sign-up to receive email updates, read meeting agendas and notes, or watch a posted webinar.
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