Certifications for Cannabis

Owning a cannabis license is an important step in becoming an industry participant. But it’s just a step, and to maintain it you need to meet the minimum standards required by the issuing authority. In jurisdictions outside the USA these are federal. In the US, cannabis licenses are state issued, and the minimum standards vary.

There are many certifications available to cannabis operators. These certifications include GACP; GMP; EU-GMP; cGMP; ISO-9001; ISO-13485; ISO-14001; HACCP, and others. While some, such as GACP and GMP are key, and others like EU-GMP open global markets, not all are necessary, nor are all of them required in every jurisdiction. Some operators with a food production backgroud have opted to follow Global G.A.P. procedures, but this is not something that we recommend. One day, FDA certification will become a requirement. If you plan ahead, FDA certification will be easily achieved by your adherence to existing standards. If you just trust the existing state guidelines, you are putting your business at risk.

No legislator or regulator is going to intentionally put in place lowered standards, but the highest standards will result in greater profits, lowered liability, a better corporate culture, and greater satisfaction on the part of everyone producing or consuming. To rise above the competition, you need to put in place a great training program that involves the entire organization. Everyone should have the same basic knowledge with regards to how the plant is grown, processed, and the final product delivered. This does not mean that everyone becomes a master grower, or a PhD chemist, but it does mean that there’s standardized knowledge in the organization, and a global adherence to standards.

The standards your firm operates to may be mandated by law, or you might choose to exceed the minimum standards for a variety of reasons. The obvious reasons to exceed standards include:

  • Higher quality products
  • Increased consumer satisfaction
  • Increased product safety
  • Improved corporate culture
  • Simplified staff training
  • Increased production
    • Increased yields
  • Access to additional markets
  • Risk reduction
  • Improved profits, and more…

Getting an independent body to audit your cannabis business systems and processes and recognize that your business has achieved a standardized level of certification helps you ensure you achieve all of the above benefits.

Protecting your cannabis business via certifications

Certifications alone can always be circumvented. However, if you work to earn a comprehensive certification, the reality is your staff are trained on what to do and know what not to do, and there’s an accountability system that’s put in place. Interestingly, your cannabis production yields and profits will also increase as will the purity and quality of the product. Various certifications can come into play, but the process of being certified, and the process of snap inspections to ensure ongoing compliance has the effect of ‘professionalizing’ your production standards and the standards your team holds itself to.

If you are thinking ahead, these certifications will also help your business be ‘market ready’ whenever legalization happens. If you hold to inadequate standards, you’ll fail and your business will go up in smoke, pun intended.

No operator should be arrogant enough to blindly believe that that the FDA or EPA will lower their standards and use state standards as guidelines.

Being prepared and properly getting the appropriate certifications in place will also have the effect of lowering your costs, and making your business more successful!

The Cannabis Certification Process

The Certification application process involves a review of your firm’s eligibility and performance to determine if you, your staff, and your whole organization meet the standards and requirements for approval. Eligibility standards and requirements are stringent as the issuing organization’s credibility is at stake with every certification issued. Receiving a certification is not just about your firm receiving approval, it’s about your company culture continuously adhering to a the same high standard as every other certified company, and to the highest standards globally.

The process begins with preparing to apply. That’s where groups like ours come into play. We can assess your current state of preparedness, make recommendations, and even provided a dedicated compliance officer who will guide you through each step of the process, from becoming ready to apply to obtaining your certifications.

The goal of achieving a certification is to obtain recignition that your firm follows a standard that is designed to ensure the best quality and consistency in the production of the product. Achieving this standard goes beyond product handling and management as it involves your whole company in a training process, and instills a corporate culture focused around quality, consistency, and team support.

As a consequence of the growing number of countries that have implemented legal frameworks for the cultivation and use of medical cannabis, the market in most jurisdictions requires a strict adherence to quality systems and standardized cultivation procedures such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) Good Agricultural & Collection Practices (GACP). While government regulators set the standards, in many jurisdictions and for most cross-border trade in the cannabis industry, independent verification for compliance by third parties is becoming common practice in the industry. These standards provide for Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) standards for medical cannabis anywhere in the worldm, allowing for the objective auditing. But of course cannabis can be brought to market as a recreational product, as a wellness product, and as a medical product. Accordingly, there are certifications for the processing and handling of the product post-harvest that govern the allowable uses in most jurisdictions.

Today the most relevant certifications include:

  • Cannabis Industry Certifications
    • Good Agricultural Collection Practice – GACP
    • Good Manufacturing Practice – GMP
    • Current Good Manufacturing practice – cGMP
    • European Good Manufacturing Practice – EU-GMP

Other certifications that would be helpful, and whose processes definitely should be considered are:

  • Global Certifications of relevance:
    • ISO Certifications: ISO-9001; ISO-13485; ISO-14001;

The scope of a complete set of standards for a vertical operator in the industry covers medical Cannabis propagation, cultivation and post-harvest processes and is fully compliant with both the WHO and EMA GACP guidelines, through to the applicable standards for the final consumer products they are making available. Certified organizations will at the minimum hold an internationaly recognized GACP compliance certificate for both the WHO as well as EMA GACP guidelines. While not required in the USA today, the rest of the world is putting in place standards that American cannabis companies will eventually need to meet to be competitive.

The world is putting in place rigorous standards, and to be competitive every firm needs to comply.

Let’s talk about Certifications for your Cannabis Business