As a healthcare administrator, I manage risk. So, as I look at new "medications" using cannabinoids, I of course wonder about testing and how providers and patients will know the medication is safe. My latest guest post answers the question of why testing cannabinoid medications is important - especially since we expect other medications or medical products to undergo testing.
Guest Post By William Waldrop
Cannabis lab testing, as a practice, is vitally important to the health of the cannabis industry and the patients it serves. Like any other agricultural product, cannabis can be susceptible to anything from mold to pests, and it’s extremely important that consumers (be it for medical or recreational purposes) are able to have access to the substance without fear of ingesting a toxic byproduct or chemical. Some dispensaries choose not to test their products, much to the detriment of the customers they serve, and despite proper federal regulations, the onus is on growers, processors and dispensary owners to frequently and thoroughly test their products.
Consumer Demand for Safe Products They Can Trust
Whether we’re addressing a patient, an adult relaxing on a Friday evening, or a medical professional, most people consuming or prescribing cannabis will want to know how strong it is. If someone chooses to purchase an edible, for example, they’ll find it’s packaged with 10 snap-off pieces, and its label states the total milligrams of THC in the package (or, alternatively, total milligrams per piece). Your ability to know with a high degree of certainty that the package contains as many milligrams of THC as labeled is a direct result of the work of trained scientists at an independent, accredited, professional laboratory testing facility.
In order for consumers to obtain the exact amount of THC:CBD that they’re looking for, they’ll need to know what the finished product contains. Providing a medical patient with an insufficient dosage could have deadly results; and on the other hand providing any user with excessive THC content could lead to paranoia, anxiety, agitation, and so on.
Potential Cannabis Contaminants
Not only does lab testing provide information on the THC:CBD ratio in cannabis, but can also inform the scientist of what shouldn’t be in the product. Whether we’re looking at pesticides, mold and mildews or any number of naturally occurring contaminants.
Established agricultural industries like strawberries or beef or lentils, test their products and move them through a series of steps before placing them in the hands of consumers. The idea of avoiding vitally important best practices such as these for the sake of convenience or “adding a couple of dollars to the bottom line” is not only irresponsible and dangerous to the customer but almost as importantly; the credibility and sustainable growth of the cannabis industry itself is at stake.
Cannabis Should be as Safe as Any Other Consumer Product
Medical patients often have compromised immune systems that make them particularly susceptible to environmental factors. Concerning the wellbeing of patients that are consuming cannabis for health purposes, there’s no question that we need to ensure that they’re able to take their medicine with the same degree of safety as other treatments.
Beyond medical patients, however, it should go without saying that everyone that wishes to consume cannabis should be safe from pesticides or other carcinogens, much like they would be when eating a cheeseburger or a quinoa salad. There’s a reasonable expectation of patients and consumers alike that the product they’re receiving is safe, and correctly labeled, and the only way to ensure that their confidence isn’t misplaced is through independent scientific lab testing.
Responsibility of the Cannabis Industry
Cannabis lab testing regulations vary greatly from state to state, and with cannabis remaining on the federal drug schedule, it can be difficult to develop an overarching umbrella of regulations that each state can follow to the tee. As a result, business owners get away with sub-par results and infrequent testing without penalty.
The existence of independent, accredited labs operated by professional scientists who are held accountable for their results is crucial to the success and health of the cannabis industry nationwide. Serving as a tester holds a tremendous amount of responsibility to the public’s trust, just like with any other sector. If the cannabis space is to be elevated to the status of other established industries, it will need to have similar regulations and responsibilities to the public it serves.
William Waldrop is the CEO of Signal Bay, Inc. (OTCMKTS: SGBY), a cannabis biotech company providing research, analysis and consulting services to the medical marijuana industry through its subsidiaries.