Although last year was riddled with disheartening news, 2020 did deliver one definitive upside: resounding wins for cannabis. Cannabis prevailed in voter support not only for state recreational and medical legalization but also in attitudes toward general consumption, solidifying the perception people want it. In addition, governments are champing at the bit to get their hands on new sources of tax revenue.
With adult-use legalization in Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, and South Dakota bringing the U.S. recreational market to fifteen states, one in three Americans now has access to recreational cannabis. The medical market is even larger with the addition of South Dakota and Mississippi to the thirty-three previously legalized states plus the District of Columbia. Considering the imminent increase in cannabis use, ensuring consumer-safe products and accurate labeling through thorough testing is imperative. Legislators in each new state must draft their own testing regulations for producers and third-party laboratories with the primary purpose of protecting consumers—and, unfortunately, without any knowledge or much guidance for how to do so properly.
As the freshly minted cannabis-friendly states dot their bureaucratic I’s while preparing for rollouts, there’s no gold standard in testing regulations among the currently legal states upon which new states may model theirs. Federal prohibition created an environment in which states go it alone when determining regulatory and testing structures, often leading to lenience regarding what’s acceptable as safe for consumers.
This has led to some testing labs inflating potency by as much as 30 percent or allowing bud contaminated with high levels of heavy metals, pesticides, and other harmful impurities to pass through. In some cases, such situations resulted from inexperienced or ethically compromised laboratory operators pursuing a low-price strategy in order to attract business. That kind of malfeasance wouldn’t go unnoticed in other industries, but