Ubiquitous cannabis legalization in countries around the world is forcing the need for new standardization guidelines and practices. Companies that participate in the development of standards will help move this process forward and in so doing will allow businesses to access international markets. A Canadian organization, the Standards Council of Canada (https://www.scc.ca/), is working with various other organizations that are developing standards for the cannabis industry. This push for standard development will ultimately lead to the much needed standardization methods in areas like cultivation, processing, packaging, quality testing, analytical methods, equipment, production practices, quality assurance, and more.
One of the simplest and most obvious ways for the cannabis industry to implement standardized quality control methods is to hire employees that have backgrounds in the food or pharmaceutical industries. People in these industries have much of the knowledge and training required for the cannabis industry in terms of quality control. They have already experienced the culture of working towards producing a very safe, high quality product. Walking through a cannabis facility should be no different than walking through a facility that produces food or any consumer-packaged goods, and this mindset of a consumer-packaged goods company is one that cannabis companies need to adopt because that’s exactly the type of company they are.
Health Canada as well as the Food and Drug Administration (USA) have previously defined what ingredients and what quantities of those ingredients are acceptable for use in consumable products. Adopting these type of standards in the production of cannabis infused consumables will greatly increase the safety and quality of the products. Companies also need to follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Production Practices (GPP) outlined by Health Canada and the FDA to ensure the safe production of edible products. Companies that produce food and pharmaceutical products ensure the entire production process from start to finish strictly follows GMP requirements which are defined in preapproved protocols and standard operating procedures. Any variation from these practices is a serious risk to the product and is treated as such. The cannabis industry needs to follow these already standardized control methods in order to produce a safe and consistent product.
Testing methods in the cannabis industry need to be more standardized. Organizations need to develop standard, internationally recognized testing methods for the cannabis industry as well as working on standardized quality control procedures and GMPs/GPPs. Some companies have implemented International Organization for Standardization (ISO) guidelines. This is a step in the right direction. Right now, many cannabis companies must rely on third-party laboratories for testing, and much of these laboratories use their own, non-standardized methods. This is problematic as it creates a large amount of inconsistency and takes away from the goal of moving towards an industry that emphasizes importance in standardized methods. ISO is a universal organization that sets strong guidelines for how testing labs should operate. Provinces and states where cannabis is legal should make mandatory some sort of standard for how laboratories should operate. Standards provided by ISO are a good example, and a good start.
Adopting standardized control methods does not have to be a major task. Much of the work has already been done by other industries, the cannabis industry just needs to follow their steps and, with the help of government and Health Canada or the FDA or equivalent, continue the development and implementation of standardized methods. Applying standardized practices will improve product safety and quality within the cannabis industry, but also ensure consistency and predictability of the processes and products.
At NACPT Pharma College, we have worked with both the Canadian government and cannabis industry experts to fill the needs of educating those who wish to have successful careers as cannabis Quality Assurance Person (QAP).