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How State Regulators Monitor Legal Cannabis for Quality Control

State regulators monitor legal cannabis for Quality Control to keep consumers safe and help the cannabis industry establish legitimacy.
The legal cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing markets in the United States, with sales expected to reach $47 billion by 2025. As more states legalize both medical and recreational cannabis, regulators are tasked with developing effective quality control standards to ensure product safety and consistency. Proper quality control is essential for building trust with consumers, ensuring fair practices among cannabis businesses, and helping the industry as a whole establish legitimacy. Just as regulations exist around alcohol and tobacco, cannabis needs oversight to protect public health. This article will examine the various ways state regulators monitor legal cannabis for quality control.

Cannabis Testing Regulations Vary By State

There is no federal regulation of cannabis quality control, so standards are set at the state level. Testing requirements can vary widely based on different state laws. For example, California requires testing for potency, pesticides, residual solvents, terpenes, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and microbiological contaminants. Colorado, on the other hand, only requires potency testing and screening for solvents and mold. States also differ in terms of allowable testing laboratories, sampling procedures, and action limits. However, most regulate key aspects like THC and CBD potency, contaminants, and proper labeling.

Mandatory Lab Testing for Potency and Contaminants

The core of cannabis quality control is mandatory testing by certified third-party laboratories. Samples from cannabis harvest batches or production runs must be analyzed to verify potency and screen for contaminants before products can be sold to consumers. Potency testing determines levels of key cannabinoids like THC and CBD, usually using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) or Gas Chromatography (GC) analytical methods. This ensures proper labeling of potency on the packaging. Testing for contaminants like pesticides, mold, heavy metals, and microbes protects consumer safety. State-of-the-art instrumentation like mass spectrometers and microbiological plating are used to detect dangerous contaminants down to parts per billion sensitivity.

Oversight of Cannabis Testing Facilities

Cannabis testing laboratories must meet certification requirements set by state regulators. This ensures proper methodology, equipment, quality control, and standard operating procedures are followed during sample analysis. Laboratories are subject to inspections and ongoing proficiency testing to maintain accredited status. Certified reference materials must be analyzed to demonstrate continued accuracy. Labs that fail to meet standards can have their license suspended or revoked. Auditing laboratories is crucial for generating trusted cannabis testing data. Valid results underpin all product safety, potency labeling, and regulatory compliance.

Randomized Product Sampling by Regulators

In addition to requiring testing by cannabis businesses, some states perform their own product sampling. Regulators obtain samples of flower, concentrates, and infused products at random from dispensaries and producers. These samples are then analyzed by certified labs to verify results match what is reported by companies on labels and certificates of analysis. Out-of-specification results can trigger recalls, investigations, or penalties depending on the severity of the issue. Random sampling provides oversight of laboratory and manufacturing procedures, functioning as an independent verification of quality control claims. It bolsters accountability in meeting state standards.

Facility Inspections for Good Manufacturing Practices

State cannabis regulatory departments are also responsible for inspecting product manufacturing facilities. Inspectors examine elements like employee training, sanitation, standard operating procedures, batch tracking, and quality control documentation. This ensures companies follow good manufacturing practices (GMPs) for safety and consistency. Facilities that fail to meet GMP standards can have their operational licenses suspended until deficiencies are corrected. Well-designed facilities, trained staff, and rigorous protocols are foundational to quality control. Regulatory inspections provide third-party validation that sound manufacturing practices are being followed.

Opportunities for Improvement Remain

While great strides have been made, experts argue there are still opportunities to improve cannabis quality control. Wider contaminant testing, standardized methods across states, increased product sampling, and more resources for regulators have all been proposed. As the legal cannabis market matures, regulators continue refining policies. Dispensaries and producers interested in upholding quality standards also implement robust in-house quality control programs and seek reliable partners.

Cannabis Quality Control – Get in Qredible

Qredible provides cannabis businesses with end-to-end compliance management software and services. Their tools enable teams to digitally track required quality control testing, certificates of analysis (CoAs), other documentation, and facility/staff inspections. Centralized data aids transparency for regulators and gives businesses integrated oversight of manufacturing workflows. Qredible offers compliance confidence and support as cannabis quality control regulations evolve. Learn more about Qredible’s cannabis compliance tools to add potent layers of quality management and oversight to your operation. An organized, auditable approach to GMPs differentiates your brand.
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