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Washington State Adds Authority to Accredit Cannabis Laboratories

Cannabis laboratories have been scrutinized at times due to concerns about “THC inflation” and “lab shopping.”

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iStock/Marcus Millo

Starting July 1, 2024, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) will have the regulatory authority to accredit cannabis laboratories.

For over five years, WSDA has been engaged in a process to improve the integrity and oversight of the laboratories that test cannabis destined to be processed and sold in the state. Laboratories test cannabis for pesticides, heavy metals and cannabinoid concentration, serving as a valuable public health safeguard for Washington consumers.

Improving the integrity of the cannabis industry

Cannabis laboratories have been scrutinized at times due to concerns about “THC inflation” and “lab shopping” — a practice where businesses seek out laboratories that will provide higher THC numbers in hopes of attracting more customers. But regulators, legislators and laboratories have worked to improve the reputation and integrity of regulated cannabis by creating stronger standards and oversight. For example, in 2019, the Legislature passed HB 2052, directing the Department of Ecology (ECY) to steer a Cannabis Science Task Force to develop recommendations for laboratory quality standards. The task force worked to create recommendations for the testing of potency, pesticides, residual solvents and heavy metals in cannabis. Testing methods and standards were developed to meet the needs of the regulatory framework governing cannabis in Washington.

New laboratory standards

Another recommendation from the task force was to create an interagency team (ICT), that included WSDA, to develop new laboratory standards. In response, the Legislature passed HB 1859, which required WSDA to serve as the lead agency of the ICT responsible for and maintaining quality standards for cannabis testing laboratories. Today, the ICT has a new, more descriptive name: Cannabis Lab Accreditation Standards Program (CLASP) and is intended to foster a cohesive collaboration for cannabis science in Washington. The program lives up to its name by partnering with other state government agencies, while also listening to and integrating feedback from private cannabis labs, cannabis licensees, and the greater I-502 community.

WSDA’s evolving role

Originally, the intent was for WSDA to lead the development of the new laboratory standards, while ECY, which audits drinking water and soil laboratories, would begin to accredit cannabis labs. However, seeing an opportunity to streamline the process, WSDA submitted a request for legislation, HB 2151, that would allow the agency to take on accreditation of laboratories in addition to their role of developing the new standards.

Starting July 1st, WSDA will have the regulatory authority to accredit laboratories. At that time, laboratories will have a six-month grace period to make the necessary updates to comply with the new, more stringent standards. By having a cohesive local team of chemists and microbiologists, WSDA can provide a continuous service and support laboratories seeking accreditation, emphasizing compliance and heightened integrity.

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