Product Standards for the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry is seeing trade barriers drop and product standards increase around the world as markets legalize.

If you are an operator in the USA, or internationally, the compliance standards your business operates are quite different. As the market continues to develop, and whenever federal legalization occurs in the US, regulators’ expectations will become more uniform globally, and stronger standards will become the norm.

Don’t be fooled into listening to anyone arrogant enough to say that the FDA or EPA will lower their standards to meet state levels, or that’s what in place today is ‘good enough.’ You need to be prepared, and the need may come much sooner than we expect.

Cannabis businesses globally are addressing compliance issues and seeking out certifications to build for the future. In European and many other international markets, EU-GMP certification is a key, must-have certification for any cannabis business. But, EU-GMP is not just for the Europeans, it’s for anyone exporting to Europe, and to other jurisdictions that follow similar requirements. In the US, we use CGMP and if your business achieves this level of certification, it will be prepared to meet the most stringent FDA standards. Being prepared will make all the difference between surviving legalization, or disappearing.

Surviving federal legalization will require a lot more work than was put into meeting state standards.

Cannabis Standards

In many regions of the world, medical cannabis and recreational cannabis products have to be grown to meet national health standards. In Canada’s case, medical cannabis has to be grown indoors in Health Canada-certified facilities with rigorous compliance standards and testing. These grow facilities are hermetically sealed boxes that while nice in theory, this system is neither optimal nor effective. It is incredibly costly and it results in too much avoidable spoilage. BUT, the system has guaranteed product safety.

Initially, the government focus was on where cannabis was produced. Today, this is shifting from where cannabis is grown to how it is produced, and accordingly, the focus is on better compliance standards. Governments will set the minimum standards, but if you want your business to thrive, be recognized for quality, and make a larger profit, you’ll want to ensure your business’ standards exceed those minimums.

While recreational or adult-use cannabis may not be of the same quality (internationally) as medical cannabis, it still needs to be pure and untainted. Implementing a program to obtain an independent certification for the growing, processing and packaging of cannabis should be front of mind for any operator. The certification process has innumerable benefits for your business and your customers. These include, but are not limited to superior staff training, confidence, scalability, consumer confidence and trust, increased profits, and a lowered risk of liability to anyone handling the plant. Implementing a system of this nature, and enforcing it will help your firm avoid product-related issues. Adhering to the system will set your business apart and above others.

If you do not put your cannabis business through an independent certification process, you are providing a disservice to your customers. We all know what shortcuts people can take to increase yields, and as a result, we wouldn’t touch those products; So why would you or your consumers?

Examining Cannabis Industry Standards

There are various areas to consider when discussing cannabis industry standards. Anytime people discuss these matters, they should have some common ground in terms of definitions, and understanding of the challenges. To simplify the question of definitions and matters to be considered at the outset, these include, but are not limited to the following:

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

  • Related Global Certifications:
    • ISO Certifications: ISO-9001; ISO-13485; ISO-14001;

Finally, there are differentiations to be made between Hemp, Medical Cannabis and Recreational Cannabis (Marijuana) when discussing industry activity.

Discuss Cannabis Standards with an Expert: