The safety of cannabis products is a valid concern among consumers because of possible contamination from pesticides and other factors. The recall of several products in the recent past testifies to this fact and validates the need for testing. But how can users be sure that the products they are consuming are safe for human consumption? The answer to this question lies in one thing—lab testing.  

Cannabis Lab Testing

The need for safety has given rise to a vibrant sub-sector within the cannabis industry. Just as the young cannabis industry still faces teething problems, testing labs, too, face their own bottlenecks. In this post, I will discuss the three main challenges facing this critical wing of the cannabis industry.

No National and Industry-Wide Standards 

National standards are critical to the success of cannabis lab testing. Without them, it becomes difficult to have a uniformed point of reference for investors. However, this challenge affects testing labs at the national level because up to date, several states have tried their best to implement laws that regulate and standardize marijuana testing. For example, Colorado passed a bill that requires lab testing of all medical cannabis for contaminants that are “deemed to be public health hazards by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment based on medical reports and published scientific literature.”  

So far, these attempts have registered mixed results and degrees of success. However, they are inadequate since we are still one nation with industry players and consumers scattered across all our states. This means that testing lab investors across various states will also incur different compliance costs, a memorable example being when Oregon in October 2016 issued cannabis testing and lab accreditation standards. Unfortunately, they produced backlogs at labs and product shortages on dispensary shelves. In response, regulators issued fresh regulations two months later to reduce the number of times a product needs to undergo testing. 

But why do we still need national and industry-wide standards for all testing lab owners? Because state regulation alone is inadequate owing to the variations arising from individual state standardization. This makes it difficult for investors to expand across states since they will need to comply with varying standards and requirements localized in those states. However, we are still optimistic that the legalization of the industry by the feds will pave the way for national and industry-wide standards that will steer cannabis lab testing to greater harmonization levels. 

No Federal Oversight 

The lack of federal oversight is another challenge marijuana America’s testing labs face. The lack of such an oversight exposes testing labs to different legal and financial threats at the state and national level. So far, our state regulators don’t have the necessary guidelines from the federal bodies that set health and safety standards for other sectors such as medicine and agriculture. Why is that? Because the federal government still considers cannabis an illegal and “very dangerous drug.” Consequently, we have minimal objective research, if any at all, showing how contaminated cannabis can harm consumers. Such a sorry state of affairs makes it difficult for players in cannabis lab testing to formulate effective guidelines and policies. 

Cost-Related Challenges  

The last challenge facing this critical wing of the cannabis industry relates to cost. First, setting up a testing lab is costly because of the expensive machinery one needs to buy. Consequently, some potential investors are unwilling to pay the cost because they are unsure about the kind of results they will get or their reliability. In addition, some fear investing their money to get certification from a standards program that lacks nationwide adoption.  

Second, cost is still a challenge in the lab testing space because we lack a consensus on who should pay for laboratory testing. Stakeholders don’t agree on whether the farmer, retailer, or product manufacturer should bear this cost. Consequently, players who produce, process, and sell their products end up paying three times for testing. With such conditions in place, cost remains a challenge for many potential and existing cannabis testing lab owners. 

Despite playing a critical role in ascertaining cannabis product safety and purity, lab testing still faces several challenges. The lack of national and industry-wide standards, inhibiting costs, and the lack of federal oversight are the three leading ones facing this young industry. However, we still hope that with time, concerted industry efforts, and the feds legalizing the industry, we will find lasting solutions to them.