MJBizMag April 2022 - 45

Susan Audino, a chemist, consultant
and chair of the Cannabis Working
Group at AOAC International, a
Maryland-based standards body.
AOAC International is a standards
organization for agricultural
commodities. It has published a handful
of standards since developing a cannabis
program and has more in the pipeline,
Audino told MJBizMagazine via email.
She added that several states now
require laboratories to either use a
published AOAC method or develop
methods that meet the organization's
performance requirements.
Other groups involved in cannabis
standard test methods development
include the U.S. Pharmacopeia in
Maryland and the International
Standards Organization, or
ISO, a nongovernmental group
headquartered in Geneva.
" These are the main groups that are
working on standards for the cannabis
industry ... that have credibility and
transparent process that get some
global recognition, " Vaillencourt said.
" Although organizations are
answering the call to develop testing
standards, good science takes time,
and only a handful of methods have
gone through the respective 'vetting'
processes and are available as
'standards,' " Audino said.
RIGOROUS VETTING
Under this rubric, multiple testing
methods can be approved for
standardization. In other words, there is
rarely just one correct testing method.
That means that if a homogenized
sample of cannabis is sent to multiple
laboratories that use different
testing methods, their results should
" in theory be able to get the same
value, " barring human error or other
unforeseen circumstances, Wilson said.
Standard test methods go through a
very rigorous process to get approval,
he added.
Different labs or practice groups try
testing methods, and if they work, they
are submitted to groups such as ASTM
or the AOAC for more testing, according
to Wilson. If the groups' testing
confirms successful results, then the
methods will be voted on for approval.
The Cannabis Regulators Association
is a new, nonpartisan educational
organization composed of government
officials. As of February, at least
40 states and U.S. territories were
engaged with the Cannabis Regulators
Association.
" I am hopeful this organization, which
is limited to government regulators, will
gather data and chart a direction toward
a more unified approach to cannabis
regulations, " Audino said.
FRAUD, ENFORCEMENT
AND STANDARDS LIMITS
Standardizing test methods would
go a long way to advancing quality
control, but it can't eliminate
fraudulent testing results if cannabis
companies submit misleading samples
or labs inflate THC levels or pass
contaminated products.
" When the labs are competing with
other labs for a relatively
small, defined market
of tests, behaviors tend
to emerge. Some labs
start reporting generally
higher cannabinoid, core
cannabinoid numbers, "
said James MacRae,
founder of Straight Line
Analytics in Seattle,
a cannabis-focused
data-analytics firm.
" These labs often start
demonstrating lower
failure rates on the safety assessments
within the product and microbials and
things like that. "
MacRae, who has written
about fraudulent lab practices in
Washington state, argued that labs
are more than capable of delivering
accurate results, but many don't. " The
issue is what they actually do in the
market, " he said.
And while MacRae agrees with
harmonizing test method standards, he
said " they are irrelevant if, downstream,
the enforcement environment is such
that this fraudulent lab behavior is
allowed to go on. "
However, cheating can be monitored
and enforced by regulators.
" You put consequences on the labs,
and you start assessing, " he said. " This
is something that can be done fairly
inexpensively and involves random offthe-shelf
testing. "
Vaillencourt agreed. " It's an
imperfect process ... but you do
what the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug
Administration) would do-audits and
random inspections. "
THE FUTURE
Despite the challenges, experts are
hopeful that the cannabis industry will
eventually have a standardized testing
regime of its own.
" It's definitely not going to be
overnight, " Vaillencourt said. " But
it will be a framework that's similar
enough to show that we're more
standardized and
harmonized and can
reliably confirm 21% THC
is 21% THC, no matter in
what market it's tested. "
Standards development
is ongoing in other
industries, too, including
chemicals, metals, food
and alcohol.
As for federal
legalization, it will
have little impact
on standardization,
James
MacRae
according to Audino.
" I think federal legalization
will not necessarily affect testing
requirements, " she said. " The industry
will continue its development of
standard test methods. We hope the
specification levels will be associated
with appropriate rules and, more
importantly, be based upon sound
scientific principles. "
mjbizdaily.com | April 2022 45
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MJBizMag April 2022

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