Tag Archives: medicine

Ask the Experts: Ensuring the Validity of Cannabis Lab Testing

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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Cannabis testing laboratories are one of the major players in the industry for protecting public health. Ensuring that laboratory test results are reliable and valid requires a multipronged approach involving method validation, proficiency testing and performing frequent reviews of equipment and processes.

Cannabis testing laboratories often use a variety of different methods to conduct proficiency testing. Laboratories can either participate in programs run by ISO/IEC 17043-accedited proficiency testing providers or through intralaboratory comparison. Comparing different instruments, methods, technologies against pre-defined criteria is a must when validating methods for a specific type of test and ensuring the competence of the laboratory.

Beyond proficiency testing, there are a number of other stopgaps at a laboratory’s disposal for ensuring valid results, like using accredited certified reference materials, performing checks on measuring equipment frequently, reviewing reported results and retesting retained items. All of that and more is outlined in the ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard, section 7.7.

labsphoto
What good is a test result if you cannot attest to its validity?

There’s a lot that goes into making sure laboratories provide valid results, much of which is detailed in the accreditation process. For more information, we sit down with Keith Klemm, senior accreditation manager for ANSI National Accreditation Board to learn about laboratory accreditation, method validation and other certifications and credentialing available in the cannabis industry.

Q: Why is method validation important for cannabis test methods? 

Keith Klemm: Because cannabis production, testing, and sales is regulated by each individual state, there are very few standard methods for testing cannabis and cannabis-derived products. Non-standard methods or methods developed by the laboratory must be validated to ensure the methods are fit for their intended purpose. What good is a test result if you cannot attest to its validity? There would be no confidence that the results are accurate. Additionally, while organizations such as ISO, AOAC and ASTM are developing standard methods for use in the laboratory, the wide range of products and matrices being tested require modifications to standard methods. Standard methods used outside their intended scope must also be validated, again to ensure the method remains fit for the intended purpose.

Q: We’re pretty familiar with laboratory accreditation. What other accreditations are available in the cannabis industry?

Klemm: Accreditation programs are available for product certification and personnel credentialing, in addition to laboratory accreditation. ANAB’s product certification program was launched in 2020 and is based on the requirements of ISO/IEC 17065. The program combines the requirements of this standard with specific scheme requirements to attest to the competency of certification bodies who then certify products within the scheme. Two schemes are in development specific to the cannabis industry: Cannabis Safety and Quality (CSQ) and PurityIQ. For personnel credentialing, a new Cannabis Certificate Accreditation Program (C-CAP) was developed and is based on ASTM D8403, Standard Practice for Certificate Programs within the Cannabis and Hemp Industries. It also includes any additional state Responsible Vendor Training requirements.

Q: What are the steps to becoming an accredited cannabis testing laboratory, product certification body, or C-CAP organization?

Klemm: The process begins with a request for quote. The organization prepares for the initial assessment by implementing the requirements of the applicable standards, regulatory requirements, and scheme requirements. ANAB believes in a partnership approach to accreditation with a focus on customer needs while ensuring accreditation requirements are met. Once the organization is ready, an initial document review is performed. The accreditation assessment is then performed on-site by technically skilled and knowledgeable assessors. If any nonconformities are encountered, the organization provides a response with cause and corrective actions. Once all nonconformities are resolved and technical review is completed, a scope of accreditation and certificate are provided to the organization. The technical review may vary depending on the accreditation that is being sought, but the general process of accreditation is the same. After accreditation is achieved, the organization moves into a cycle of surveillance and reassessment as defined by the accreditation program and any scheme requirements.

About Keith Klemm

Keith Klemm is a graduate of Manchester University with a B.S. in Biology.  Keith is an experience laboratory director and operations manager with 30 years’ experience in the laboratory environment and has worked as a senior accreditation manager for ANSI National Accreditation Board for the past five years.

Keith’s areas of expertise include:

  • Microbiological assays for food, medical device, and environmental test matrixes.
  • Environmental chemistry of water and wastewater.
  • Biocompatibility testing of medical devices.
  • ISO/IEC 17025:2017
  • AOAC International – guidelines for food laboratories program requirements
  • 21 CFR Part 58, GLP program requirements
  • EPA NLLAP program requirements
  • AAFCO program requirements
  • FDA ASCA Pilot program for Biocompatibility
  • Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency program requirements
  • ISO 20387 Biobanking

Bad Actors in CBD: How to Distinguish Quality Products From the Rest

By Joseph Dowling
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The success of reputable cannabis and CBD brands has inspired an influx of inexperienced and disreputable competitors in the market. These so-called “bad actors” in CBD advertise products that are not manufactured under current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), which help to ensure that all products are consistently produced and controlled according to specified quality standards. cGMP helps guard against risks of adulteration, cross-contamination and mislabeling to guarantee product quality, safety and efficacy.

Joseph Dowling, Author & CEO of CV Sciences

CBD products without cGMP regulations are often inaccurately labeled and deceiving to consumers. In fact, in a test of over 100 CBD products available online and at retail locations, Johns Hopkins Medicine found significant evidence of inaccurate, misleading labeling of CBD content. The prevalence of such brands not only reduces consumer confidence in CBD but also limits the growth of the sector as a whole. Fortunately, CBD consumers and retailers can easily discriminate between a well-tested, reputable brand and inferior bad actors with a few straightforward, minimum requirements to look out for when selecting a product.

Why are “bad actors” a problem for consumers and the industry?

Bad actors in CBD sell products that are not produced under cGMP conditions and are typically not tested by third-party laboratories to ensure identity, purity, quality, strength and composition. This means they are not verified for contaminants, impurities, label claims and product specifications. This frequently results in misleading advertising with inaccurate levels of cannabinoids or traces of compounds not found on the label, like THC. To combat this, the FDA issues warning letters to actors that market products allegedly containing CBD—many of which are found not to contain the claimed levels of CBD and are not approved for the treatment of any medical condition. Still, bad actors manage to slip through the cracks and deceive consumers.

The structure of cannabidiol (CBD), one of 400 active compounds found in cannabis.

Bad actors that put anything in a bottle and make unsubstantiated medical claims hurt the reputable operators that strive to create safe and high-quality products. It is easy for consumers to be drawn to CBD products with big medical claims and lower prices, only to be disappointed when the product does not produce the advertised results. Inaccurately labeled products may contain unexpected levels of cannabinoids, including ingredients that consumers may not intend to ingest, like Delta-9 or Delta-8 THC. Along with unexpected levels of THC, many CBD products available now are not as pure as advertised, with one in four products going untested for contaminants like microbial content, pesticides, or heavy metals.

Further, inaccurate labeling of products and their compounds also prevents consumers from establishing a baseline impact of CBD on their bodies, leaving them vulnerable to inconsistent future experiences. Such a poor experience can turn consumers off to the category as a whole, drawing their trust away from not only the bad actors but also the reliable, reputable brands on the market. The saturation of the market with these disreputable brands delegitimizes a category that has only just begun to break down the stigmas, creating stagnation rather than growth as consumers remain wary of low-quality products.

How can consumers identify bad actors in CBD?

There are several simple ways to identify a bad actor among CBD products and make certain that both consumers and retailers purchase quality, reliable and safe brands in legitimate sales channels. To start, consumers should avoid all CBD products that are marketed with unsubstantiated medical claims. This is a significant area of abuse, as brands that relate any form of CBD product to a disease state, like cancer, should not be trusted. The science to support such medical claims has not been completed, yet, product marketing is years ahead of the evidence to support such claims. Unsupported medical claims could also mislead consumers that may need more serious medical intervention.

Just some of the many CBD products on the market today.

Additionally, consumers must review the packaging, which should include nutrition information in the form of a supplement fact label. The label should include the serving size, number of servings per container, a list of all dietary ingredients in the product and the amount per serving of each ingredient. All labels should include a net quantity of contents, lot number or batch ID, the name and address of the manufacturer, and an expiration or manufacturing date. These signs of a reputable brand are easy to look for and can save consumers from the trouble of selecting the wrong CBD product.

What to look for when selecting a CBD product

With this in mind, products from reputable, tested brands can be identified by a few key factors. Reputable CBD companies are already compliant with the FDA regulations on nutritional supplements, including a nutritional or supplement fact panel on the packaging—just like vitamins. The information in this panel should include all the active cannabinoids in the product, both per serving and package. Clear potency labeling allows consumers to confidently select products that suit their needs and understand the baseline impact of CBD concentration on their bodies, thus helping them to tailor their experience with thoughtful product selection.

Reputable brands also include a convenient QR code on the packaging, linking the product to a certificate of analysis that details the testing results to demonstrate compliance with product standards and label claims. In terms of specific ingredients, consumers should be skeptical of high concentration levels of “flavor of the month” minor cannabinoids, which are often associated with unsubstantiated medical claims. Current scientific research has set its focus on major cannabinoids like CBD and Delta-9 THC, leaving additional research necessary for understanding minor cannabinoids. Minor cannabinoids are typically included in full spectrum products at concentrations found naturally in the cannabis plant, which is a safer approach to consuming CBD until more research is completed.

Consumers should not let the existence of unreliable, untrustworthy brands curtail their confidence in the CBD sector—there are many high-quality, safe and trusted brands on the market. With a knowledgeable and discerning eye, consumers and retailers can easily select top-quality CBD products that millions of consumers have found to improve many aspects of their health and well-being. Looking ahead, clear federal regulations for CBD products that require mandatory product registration, compliance with product labeling, packaging and cGMP will be crucial in weeding out bad actors and will allow compliant companies to gain consumer trust and responsibly grow the CBD category.

Financing the Cannabis Industry Part 1: A Q&A with AFC Gamma CEO & Partner Len Tannenbaum

By Aaron Green
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Business often require outside capital to finance operating activities and to enable scaling and growth. Financing in the cannabis industry is notoriously challenging with regulatory obstacles at the local, state and federal levels. Recent market dynamics pose additional challenges for both financiers and cannabis operators.

We sat down with Len Tannenbaum, CEO & Partner of Advanced Flower Capital Gamma (AFC Gamma, NASDAQ: AFCG) to learn more about AFC Gamma and to get his perspective on recent market trends.

Aaron Green: In a nutshell, what is your investment/lending philosophy?

Len Tannenbaum: AFC Gamma is one of the largest providers of institutional loans to cannabis companies nationwide in all aspects of production: cultivation, processing, and distribution. Cannabis companies, no matter the size, traditionally lack the lending opportunities that other enterprises have available, and that’s where AFC Gamma comes in. As an institutional lender, we provide financial solutions to the cannabis industry.

AFC Gamma is a commercial mortgage REIT that provides loans to companies secured by three pillars: cash flows, licenses, and real estate. We provide term loans, draw facilities, and construction loans. Each loan is unique and tailored specifically to meet the needs of our borrowers. This unique partnership approach with our clients allows us to find solutions to help them expand and grow alongside them.

Since starting AFC Gamma, we have completed almost $500 million of transactions. We provide capital to an industry that others do not and, in turn, allow these operators to build cultivation facilities, production facilities, and dispensaries.

Green: What types of companies are you primarily financing?

Len Tannenbaum, CEO & Partner of Advanced Flower Capital Gamma

Tannenbaum: AFC Gamma seeks to work with operators, ideally in limited license states. We make loans to companies secured by three pillars: cash flows, licenses, and real estate. We tend to lend to operators in regulatory-friendly states, such as: Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Arizona, New Mexico, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, and Nevada. Traditionally, we shy away from states like California, Washington and Oregon given our approach to lending. We have 16 borrowers in 17 states, and what we look for are companies that we can grow with over the long term.

Green: What qualities do you look for in a cannabis industry operator or operating group?

Tannenbaum: We tend to work with three different buckets of operators. You have the large publicly traded multi-state operators (MSOs) we have lent to, such as Verano. Then you have the tier right below the top tier MSOs, where you have some public enterprises like Acreage, who is one of our borrowers, and then some private companies such as Nature’s Medicine and Justice Grown. The third tier are smaller operators. They’re single or two-state operators, and we’re typically coming in to help them build out licenses that they want or help them expand within that state. That’s why state-by-state dynamics are so important to us and why we typically only lend to limited license states.

We look at portfolio diversity on a step-by-step basis rather than a borrower-by-borrower basis. We tend to focus on deals in limited license states and also deals that have real estate as collateral. We have found that REIT loans give our clients the most flexibility, and we are able to finance more companies this way.

Green: Capital market dynamics have led to significant public cannabis company revaluations in 2022. How has this affected your business?

Tannenbaum: Although capital market dynamics have made an impact on a significant number of public cannabis companies’ revaluations this year, our overall business hasn’t been affected too much and that’s because the other lending options available right now are not ideal choices for most borrowers. One of the ways a lender can achieve credit enhancements or securities is by raising capital in the public markets. When the markets are more challenging, those companies have a harder time accessing capital when they may need it most. In turn, this could cause slow growth overall, more cash conservation and it removes one of the benefits to lenders. We’d like everyone to have more robust equity from that standpoint, but the flip side is, if equity gets too high in price, those borrowers won’t come to us lenders and they’ll raise capital in the equity markets since the equity is cheap. We’re definitely conducting a lot of business because the equity market is not available to cannabis companies. If that were to change, while our loans would be theoretically safer, they would choose equity instead of debt.

Green: Debt on cannabis companies balance sheets have increased significantly in recent years. What is your perspective on that?

Tannenbaum: When equity markets were free and the valuations were high, cannabis companies raised money in the equity markets rather than take on debt. Now that the equity markets have been somewhat closed and valuations are much lower, we see their debt has increased over the past two years.

Green: How does the lack of institutional investor participation in the cannabis industry affect your business?

Tannenbaum: Right now, we are one of the biggest lenders in cannabis. Looking to the future, though, if the SAFE Banking Act passes, we could see an influx of institutional capital that would increase competition amongst cannabis-specific and mainstream lenders. From the outset, most of the competition will come from hedge funds, not big banks. This competition will drive down interest rates and attract borrowers like MSOs.

Green: What would you like to see in either state or federal legalization?

Tannenbaum: The Senate passing the SAFE Banking Act. Should this happen, lenders, including AFC Gamma, will be able to borrow cheaper, which will, in turn, allow lenders to lend cheaper. It will be a net positive for all operators. It could also be positive for lenders assuming they have the infrastructure and capabilities to scale and decrease the cost of capital once the money starts flowing and more deals are being made.

Green: What trends are you following closely as we head towards the end of 2022?

Tannenbaum: The most important trend we’re following is state by state trends. We’re excited to see new states getting their act together like New York. We’re excited about Georgia. We’re also looking forward to Missouri going rec. On the flip side, we’re also watching Virginia issue more than 400 licenses, diluting down the limited license states into basically an unlimited license state, which personally doesn’t make sense.

The other trend we’re watching across the country is cannabis prices. There is definitely a gray and legacy market that goes across border that should be enforced. That flow of cannabis product is depressing prices, especially in the unlimited license states. I believe there is a chance that trend starts reversing as many grows are now inefficient. The low end of inefficient grows are going to start closing, which may increase prices going into next year.

The Cannabis Quality Conference & Expo Brings Education, Networking to New Jersey

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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PARSIPPANY, NJ, October 17-19, 2022 – The Cannabis Quality Conference & Expo (CQC) heads to New Jersey October 17-19 this year. The agenda features three tracks of educational talks, panel discussions, keynotes and breakout sessions.

At this year’s event, the conference will debut two new features of the program: Lunch & Learn sessions and Happy Hour Roundtables. Matthew Anderson, CEO of Vanguard Scientific, will sit down with two experts in cannabis law for interviews during the lunch hour:

Investigations & Enforcement: A Former Federal Prosecutor’s Perspective

  • Matthew Anderson will interview Barak Cohen, Chair of the Cannabis Industry Group at Perkins Coie, to discuss federal investigations, Justice Department prosecutions and white-collar offenses. This Lunch & Learn will take place 12:00 to 12:25 PM on Tuesday, October 18.

Compliance is Key: Best Practices for Your New Jersey Cannabis Business

  • Matthew Anderson will interview Casey Leaver, Director of Regulatory Compliance at Vicente Sederberg, to discuss compliance culture, quality controls, New Jersey regulations and more. This Lunch & Learn will take place 12:35 to 1:00 PM on Tuesday, October 18.

Following the conference agenda on Monday, October 17 and Tuesday October 18, attendees are invited to join the cocktail reception for Happy Hour Roundtables. From 4:45 to 5:45 PM, subject matter experts will be available to chat, answer questions & offer guidance on the following topics:

  • Regulatory Compliance: Jason Thomas, Precision Quality & Compliance
  • Banking, Finance & Real Estate: Steve Schain, Esq., Smart-Counsel LLC
  • Licensing: Russ Hudson & Sumer Thomas, Canna Advisors
  • Certifications & Controls: Tyler Williams, CSQ
  • Compliance Solutions: Doug Plunkett & Zach Cicconi, ProCanna
  • Standards in Cannabis: David Vaillencourt, The GMP Collective
  • Social Equity & Justice: Ernest Toney, BIPOCANN

The conference will begin with a panel discussion on The Future of East Coast Cannabis: Social Equity, Justice & Legalization. Following that will be a panel on The Standardization State of the Union: Science-Based Resources for Driving Cannabis Safety with an overview of the New Jersey cannabis marketplace to end the first day.

The second day will kick off with a Keynote titled Centering Equity in Cannabis Policy, Quality & Business with Toi Hutchinson, President & CEO at Marijuana Policy Project. Other agenda highlights include:

  • The State of the State: An Update on New Jersey Legalization by Steven M. Schain, Esquire, Attorney at Smart-Counsel, LLC
  • Tri-State Cannabis: Pro Tips for Winning Applications by Sumer Thomas, Director of Regulatory Affairs and Russ Hudson, Project Manager at Canna Advisors
  • Navigating Cannabis Testing Regulations for Multi-State Operations by Michael Kahn, President & Founder of MCR Labs
  • Keynote by Edmund DeVeaux, President of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association
  • A Guide to Infusion Technology | Design Experiences that Inspire and Innovate with Cannabis Ingredients by Austin Stevenson, Chief Innovation Officer at Vertosa
  • Valuable Analysis Ahead of Asset Acquisition by Matthew Anderson, CEO of Vanguard Scientific

Registration options are available for in-person, virtual and hybrid attendance.

Event Hours

  • Monday, October 17: 12 pm – 6:30 pm (ET)
  • Tuesday, October 18: 8 am – 5:45 pm (ET)
  • Wednesday, October 19: 8 am – 12 pm (ET)

Cannabis industry professionals also interested in the food industry can attend the Food Safety Consortium, which begins on Wednesday, October 19 – Friday, October 21.

About Cannabis Industry Journal

Cannabis Industry Journal is a digital media community for cannabis industry professionals. We inform, educate and connect cannabis growers, extractors, processors, infused products manufacturers, dispensaries, laboratories, suppliers, vendors and regulators with original, in-depth features and reports, curated industry news and user-contributed content, and live and virtual events that offer knowledge, perspectives, strategies and resources to facilitate an informed, legalized and safe cannabis marketplace.

About the Cannabis Quality Conference & ExpoCannabis Quality Conference & Expo logo

The Cannabis Quality Conference & Expo is an educational and networking event for the cannabis industry that has cannabis safety, quality and regulatory compliance as the foundation of the educational content of the program. With a unique focus on science, technology, safety and compliance, the “CQC” enables attendees to engage in conversations that are critical for advancing careers and organizations alike. Delegates visit with exhibitors to learn about cutting-edge solutions, explore three high-level educational tracks for learning valuable industry trends, and network with industry executives to find solutions to improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the evolving cannabis industry.

2022 Cannabis Labs Virtual Conference: September Program

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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2022 Cannabis Labs Virtual Conference: June Program

Sponsored by Millipore Sigma

Click here to watch the recording

Agenda

Combating Laboratory Shopping

  • Michael Kahn, President & Founder, MCR Labs

In this session, Michael Kahn discusses:

  • Economics of lab shopping
  • Effects of lab shopping on public health
  • Creating incentive for honest testing and labeling

TechTalk: Millipore Sigma

  • Dr. Stephan Altmaier, Sr. Manager, Merck KGa Darmstadt

AOAC: Why Third-Party Accreditation Matters More than Ever

  • Anthony Repay, Laboratory Director, Method Testing Laboratories

Attendees will learn about the history the AOAC, the role of third-party accreditations in Cannabis microbiology testing and how to seamlessly integrate into your existing processes to enhance consumer safety. 

The Evolution of the Hemp Testing Market: An Introduction

  • Mikhail Gadomski, Principal Chemist, Deibel Laboratories

Attendees of this session will learn:

  • What is the Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis?
  • What are Natural and Synthetic Psychoactive Cannabinoids; THC 9, CBD, THC 8, THC 10, THCO, etc.?
  • Status of Federal and State Testing Regulations

Cannabinoid Extraction Efficiency for Potency Analysis: An In-Depth Look of Multiple Techniques

  • Melinda Urich, LC Solutions Scientist, Restek

Attendees of this session will learn:

  • The importance of extraction efficiency.
  • Variables to consider when choosing a sample preparation technique.
  • Understanding which technique is best for your testing lab.

Click here to watch the recording

2022 Cannabis Extraction Virtual Conference: September Program

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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2022 Cannabis Extraction Virtual Conference: September Program

Sponsored by Vanguard Scientific 

View On-Demand Now

Click here to see all available CIJ events and webinars

Agenda

Solvent Remediation – The Last Step for Safe, Clean Hemp Extraction

  • Tom Bisbee, Production Director, EcoGen Biosciences

Attendees can expect to learn:

  • Understanding solvent remediation technology and processes
  • Residual solvents present huge risks
  • Consumers deserve transparency

Advancing Cannabinoid Therapeutics Through Regulated Drug Discovery

  • Matthew Anderson, CEO, Vanguard Scientific
  • Nick Herbst, VP of Engineering, Vanguard Scientific
  • Brian Brandley, Ph.D., Laboratory Director, Biopharmaceutical Research Co.

A panel discussion with Dr. Brian Brandley, the CSO of Biopharmaceutical Research Company, a DEA-licensed pharmaceutical company that is pioneering the legal cannabis space in the U.S. through the development of federally compliant active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) for plant-based therapeutics, and Nick Herbst, VP of Engineering at Vanguard Scientific, and the Lead Engineer for the Company’s MIDAS SCCO2 Extraction Program. During this 45-minute round table discussion moderated by Vanguard’s CEO Matthew Anderson, the panelists will provide an overview of what it takes to make ‘pharmaceutical-grade’ cannabis products. The conversation will range from facility requirements, methods development, equipment qualification, process validations and more.

GMPs for Cannabis Extraction: Don’t Overcomplicate it

  • Andrew Cole, Director, Client Delivery Audits, Cannon Quality Group

Attendees can expect to learn:

  • Understanding the basics in plain English.
  • Learn what you need to do to meet minimum Industry expectations for Quality and Scalability.
  • Implementation Strategies – Keep it simple.

View On-Demand Now

PlantTag

The B2B Marketplace Trend Comes to Cannabis (Finally)

By Adam Benko, Brian Mayfield
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PlantTag

Ancillary services are a hot topic in the cannabis industry, as they are in many niche industries turning to B2B marketplaces to connect with specialized expertise and products.

Platforms such as Amazon Business, Flexport, SupplyHog and others have emerged to connect mainstream business sectors with the vendors and services they need, but things look a lot different in the cannabis space. The many disparate aspects of launching, running and scaling a cannabis business—and vetting dozens of service providers clamoring for your business—can feel like playing whack-a-mole blindfolded.

While a business consultancy can do some of the heavy lifting, there are reasons why this traditional “one-size-fits-all” approach is problematic. However, the rise of legalization is creating new avenues for founders in both established and emerging markets to take charge of their destiny and secure the services that truly meet their needs.

Understanding what’s available can help founders avoid pitfalls, from inadequate insurance coverage and predatory lenders to inexperienced service providers seeking to cash in on the “green gold rush.”

The Importance of Regulatory Knowledge

One reason B2B services look so different in the cannabis industry is because the industry itself is still rapidly evolving, as new state markets for medical cannabis and recreational adult use come online and states constantly amend their regulations. There’s also the sprawling scope of compliance requirements facing a cannabis operator, from securing tightly zoned real estate to building a facility with adequate security, to integrating into the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system.

PlantTag
A plant tagged with a barcode and date for tracking

It’s critical to engage with experts who are knowledgeable on the regulatory variances of the state (or states) where the business will operate. Someone who has experience interpreting cannabis regulations will know, for example, if you should have a real estate lease locked in prior to applying or if a particular state would prefer you move through the pre-opening process in a different order.

Another reason ancillary services are so important is that cannabis regulations aren’t standardized on the federal level or even state to state, which requires an especially deep, granular level of understanding of market trends and compliance demands. That can make the difference not only between a successful business launch and a swift nose dive, but also between a business surviving a major disaster or setback and becoming past tense.

Insurance and Lending Issues

Every business owner knows they need insurance, for example, but not every insurance broker knows what specific coverages to lock in to ensure a payout if a dispensary is vandalized or if a wildfire burns a grow operation to the ground. While federal legislation like the Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana (CLAIM) Act could one day make it easier for national insurance companies to serve legal cannabis businesses, currently criminal conduct exclusions can be used to keep plant-touching business owners from getting their full payout.

Fires in Sonoma County devastated cannabis crops in Northern California back in 2017.

Not only does federal prohibition make it challenging for a cannabis business operator to find proper insurance coverage, access financial networks and establish employee benefits programs to keep industry jobs competitive, even seeking investment capital can leave cannabis companies exposed to unfavorable terms. Just look at the case of iAnthus, a multistate operator that claims to have been burned in a deal with Gotham Green Partners while looking for expansion funding.

So how can cannabis leadership locate and vet professional services, particularly in the critical startup stage when it feels like everything has to happen right away? That’s where the B2B marketplace trend comes in.

The Advent of Vendor-Agnostic B2B Marketplaces for Cannabis

While platforms such as Amazon Business have offerings for a variety of mainstream industries, they’re not tailored for cannabis. But there is a growing field of vendor-agnostic specialists helping cannabis founders make the right moves.

Vendor-agnostic consultancies are nimble and adaptable in a way that broad-scale platforms are not

Necessity absolutely produced this particular innovation, which upends the traditional single-funnel consultancy model to instead create a village that can raise a variety of cannabis businesses. Vendor-agnostic consultancies are nimble and adaptable in a way that broad-scale platforms are not. And rather than being tied to a particular suite of products and service providers the way traditional business consultancies often are, the vendor-agnostic approach gives both consultants and cannabis founders much-needed flexibility.

In a cannabis B2B marketplace, a pool of inventory-tracking software vendors, for example, can be sorted to allow for easy comparison shopping based on whether the operator is a single-state startup looking for basic integration with the state compliance system, or an MSO that needs a more robust platform. And the customization extends from there—vertically integrated businesses versus standalone wholesale producers, plant-touching businesses versus other professional service providers and beyond.

As more and more industries specialize, it’s no wonder ancillary services are having a renaissance and replacing the traditional one-size-fits-all model popularized decades ago. But it’s also no wonder that the cannabis industry needs an especially unique approach to professional support for niche fields. The more this industry expands, the more founders and their B2B partners need to roll with their own solutions.

An Interview with Bespoke Financial Co-Founder & CEO George Mancheril

By Aaron Green
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Founded in 2018, Bespoke Financial is the nation’s first fintech lender focused on the cannabis industry. Led by a premier team of experts in the credit, technology and cannabis industries, Bespoke Financial has financed more than $800M in GMV across the US cannabis industry and is on track to deploy $1B by end of year 2022 via their revolving lines of credit. Bespoke’s financing empowers cannabis companies to increase purchasing power, remove working capital limitations and accelerate growth in a rapidly growing industry. The company is backed by respected venture capital firms such as Casa Verde Capital, The General Partnership, Greenhouse Capital Partners and Ceres Group Holdings.

Bespoke recently entered into a milestone partnership with Blaze as the cannabis industry’s first tech-enabled B2B lending product available in CA & MA. Through this partnership, Bespoke and Blaze will be the first to bring “Buy Now Pay Later” to the industry. With just the click of a button, vendors can utilize this BNPL feature by paying directly within the Blaze platform via Bespoke’s financing with a 60-day repayment term on all vendor payments while minimizing dispensaries’ reliance on cash transactions. 

We caught up with George Mancheril, co-founder and CEO of Bespoke Financial to learn more about trends in cannabis lending and their unique partnership with Blaze. George was the company’s CFO prior to taking the CEO position in 2019. Prior to Bespoke, George was a VP at Guggenheim Partners in California. 

Aaron Green: What does it mean to be a fintech lender in cannabis?

George Mancheril: Bespoke Financial is a first mover in fintech lending for the cannabis industry, equipped with a robust network of investors, industry expertise and a multi-year track record solidifying our credibility in the space. We are focused on working with established cannabis companies who can use our financing to unlock growth, profitability, and success in the near- and long-term future.

Cannabis lenders must navigate a complex web of both cannabis and financing regulations, specific to each state, while trying to identify good borrowers in a nascent industry comprised of new companies. This has caused banks, traditional lenders, and institutional investors to avoid cannabis despite the unique growth opportunities and economic potential of the industry overall.

Green: What makes Bespoke different from other cannabis lenders in the business?

Mancheril: Unlike the few cannabis lenders active in the market, Bespoke Financial combines best-in-class technology and lending products designed to address the specific financing needs of the industry to better serve our clients. Our tech platform offers a simple interface for our clients to easily access financing, monitor loan balances, and manage payments. Bespoke’s technology allows us to service a broad array of clients in numerous markets across the US, offering our clients a reliable financing partner for their immediate and future needs.

Green: What markets do you serve in cannabis? Are you able to finance plant-touching operations?

George Mancheril, Co-Founder & CEO of Bespoke Financial

Mancheril: Bespoke works with cannabis companies across the entire supply chain within 15 U.S. cannabis markets, with the vast majority of our borrowers being plant-touching operations, Our portfolio comprises cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, dispensaries, non-plant touching cannabis brands, ancillary service providers and CBD companies. Our financing options have helped a wide variety of cannabis operations overcome working capital limitations and capitalize on new growth opportunities and increase profitability.

Green: You recently announced a “Buy Now Pay Later” partnership with Blaze. What problems do dispensaries have that you are solving for there?

Mancheril: As broader economic activity slows in the US with the threat of a recession impacting both businesses and consumers, dispensaries face supply, demand, and fundraising challenges:

  1. Consumer demand challenges:
    1. Cannabis consumers in 2022 are significantly more price sensitive than recent years for several reasons.
      1. High inflation over the past 1yr+ has reduced disposable income for consumers in the US.
      2. Post-COVID return to normalcy has allowed consumers to spend disposable income on many goods and services which were largely been unavailable since the beginning of 2020 (ie travel).
      3. Concern about a recession and slower wage growth has further reduced consumer spending.
      4. Illicit cannabis has always been the main competition for legal dispensaries with little enforcement or curtailing of black-market activity to note in the US.
    2. New cannabis consumers are gravitating towards smaller (but growing) product categories (edibles, concentrates, infused beverages, etc.) as opposed to just purchasing packaged flower. Dispensaries must carry a wide array of products and brands in order to better attract and service new and existing customers.
  2. Supply side challenges:
      1. Mature cannabis markets, such as California, have been saturated with over supply since Q2 2021 leading to inventory build ups and declining wholesale prices for cultivators, manufacturers, and brands (collectively referred to as suppliers). In this environment, suppliers are offering discounts to incentivize customers (i.e. dispensaries) who can:
        1. Purchase larger quantities more frequently to allow suppliers to move inventory before the product quality degrades.
        2. Pay COD for purchases as cashflow and capital are very important for suppliers during periods of economic stress.
      2. Dispensaries without the financial means to conform to suppliers’ preferences will be at a considerable disadvantage as they will continue to have trouble sourcing popular products at the lowest possible cost.
  1. Fundraising challenges:
    1. Cannabis’ federal illegality has resulted in a much smaller universe of potential capital providers. Once a potential lender or investor is identified, typically the application process requires time and resources to complete which puts dispensaries in an especially disadvantageous position. Large MSOs, who tend to attract most of the available capital, can rely on internal finance teams to source capital whereas dispensaries are much more constrained and require a simpler, faster, and easier application process.

Our partnership with Blaze to offer B2B BNPL to dispensaries addresses these challenges and more. With access to our financing, dispensaries are empowered with:

  1. Fast access to financing without a lengthy application process, entirely housed within the Blaze POS’ platform
    1. Dispensaries on the Blaze platform do not need to seek out lenders or weigh various financing options.
    2. No materials need to be gathered for the application.
    3. At the click of a button, dispensaries gain access to capital which they are free to use as they see fit with no obligation.
  1. Easy to understand financing
    1. No obligation: dispensaries have full discretion to use our financing only when they choose.
    2. No prepayment penalties or additional fees.
  1. Increased purchasing power, enabling dispensaries to
    1. Carry a wider array of cannabis products and brands to better service consumer needs.
    2. Purchase a higher quantity of inventory from suppliers to qualify for volume-based discounts.
    3. Pay COD for purchases to qualify for early payment discounts.
    4. Offer lower prices to cautious consumers as a result of these discounts, thereby increasing sales and gross profit while strengthening their relationships with suppliers.

Green: Can you explain your decision to launch in CA and MA first? 

Mancheril: While our ultimate goal is to offer B2B BNPL in all legal cannabis markets, we launched in CA and MA first because these states represent the largest and fastest growing markets in the US respectively. California was the first state that both Bespoke and Blaze launched in individually, so it was a natural starting point for our BNPL partnership. Massachusetts’ continued growth is compelling for any service provider and we believe our BNPL financing will be as successful addressing the needs and challenges in this newer market alongside those in more mature states.

Green: What trends are you seeing in US cannabis debt financing?

Mancheril: Since 2020, we’ve seen many MSOs increasingly rely on debt financing as opposed to equity capital. MSOs accounted for over ~80% of the debt raised over the past 2 years despite only representing a fraction of the broader cannabis market. Additionally, commercial real estate financing options for cannabis companies have increased over the same time period, driven by the growth of cannabis focused REITs. In general, by the end of 2021, we saw an increasing number of debt investors focused on higher yields participate in cannabis deals.

The recent macroeconomic volatility, increase in rates, and widening credit spreads in 2022 have slowed and slightly reversed the trends seen over the past 3 years. While banks and traditional lenders continue to wait for federal legalization, the vast majority of cannabis companies continue to have very limited access to debt financing options. Over the past quarter, we have seen debt investors leverage the recent illiquidity to negotiate higher interest rates and equity components in new debt deals, a trend we expect to continue until the broader economy strengthens or federal legalization gains traction.

At Bespoke, we empower entrepreneurs to grow their businesses without having to surrender control of their companies or visions. We are excited to continually be market leaders addressing this very vital need for cannabis companies of all sizes in all market environments.

Green: What trends are you following in US regulations and emerging markets?

Mancheril: The most recent headlines have been mixed for US cannabis regulations. Federal legalization is a huge point of focus with SAFE Banking failing (again) to survive the US Senate while the introduction of the revised CAOA offers a glimpse of hope. We believe federal regulatory changes will continue to be debated and discussed without any meaningful progress over the next 2 years but the current discussion of the CAOA revisions will provide the best insight on lawmakers’ priorities. On the local level, the list of states with adult-use sales continues to expand and we would expect to see a handful of new markets ushered in by voters in 2022.

Green: What would federal legalization mean for the cannabis lending industry? How do you stay ahead of the curve?

Mancheril: Federal legalization can occur in a variety of ways, including rescheduling cannabis (currently Schedule 1), descheduling cannabis entirely from the CSA, deferring to state specific regulation, implementing a national cannabis regulatory framework, or some combination of all of the above. The complexity of future regulatory changes makes the timeline for legalization difficult to forecast but we believe that the path forward will be comprised of multiple legislative changes over a number of years as opposed to a comprehensive reform addressing all the relevant points at once.

Based on the interests and goals of all stakeholders in this conversation, we believe that:

  1. Cannabis de-scheduling or rescheduling is unlikely to occur before 2025
  2. Any federal legislation which is approved will require long transition periods for new rules to be finalized, implemented, and adopted by relevant stakeholders (state regulators, courts, cannabis operators, financial institutions, etc.)
  3. Federal lawmakers may allow for financial institutions to service the cannabis industry prior to de-scheduling through limited scope legislation like SAFE banking
  4. Federal legislation will have a difficult time balancing deference to state specific cannabis regulation while enabling federal agencies such as the FDA and Treasury department to issue guidelines and rules for the broader industry. Too much federal agency interference will jeopardize existing & functioning cannabis markets while too much deference will impede vital oversight and consumer protection.
  5. We believe interstate commerce will not be allowed immediately following federal legalization. Interstate commerce will benefit larger MSOs and states with mature cannabis markets (which are hampered by oversupply) at the expense of smaller single state operators and new markets. State governments are motivated to legalize cannabis in the pursuit of tax revenue and economic opportunity for their constituents, both of which would be significantly reduced for newer markets competing with out of state operators.

Regardless of which path federal legalization takes in the coming years, the net benefit for the industry overall will be clear. Setting aside the societal benefit from expunging criminal records for non-violent offenders and freeing enforcement agencies to focus on more serious issues, any progress towards legalization would significantly reduce the challenges that cannabis operators face today. Cannabis companies will see a reduction in operating expenses, a wider array of options for basic business services like insurance and marketing, and an increase in consumer demand as the stigma of illegality fades into memory. Allowing banks to service the industry would remove cash as the primary form of payment, entice larger pools of capital to enter the cannabis market, and in general de-risk the industry tremendously. Bespoke will continue in our role as market leader and cannabis industry advocate in this new paradigm by empowering our clients with even greater access to the capital and services vital to their continued success.

Transportation & Supply Issues in Cannabis Staffing: How to Get Unstuck

By Melita Balestieri
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Anyone in cannabis will tell you that complex transportation and supply issues are stalling industry growth and impacting employers’ ability to hire teams for the critical roles that keep product moving on schedule.

Since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, global and domestic supply chains have suffered bottlenecks caused by ever-changing public health policies and ongoing materials and labor shortages. While the status of transportation as an essential business kept other essential sectors, such as cannabis and grocery, chugging along, the current situation is still challenging.

Transportation remains the biggest supply-side problem, with the American Trucking Association reporting a shortage of an estimated 80,000 truckers in October 2021. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also continues to report high numbers of job openings across supply-chain jobs such as warehousing and transportation.

Cannabis businesses, from multistate operators to distributors to delivery service startups, are hardly immune to these issues. In fact, they face the additional hurdle of restrictive federal regulations, including the illegality of transporting cannabis across state borders. For example, this stipulation means that the over-saturation of flower in California cannot be addressed in a naturally symbiotic manner by shipping to states whose markets demand more flower, such as Arizona and New Mexico.

In the aggregate, these challenges impact employers’ operational and logistics goals and diminish candidates’ interest to work in a highly scrutinized industry. Many trucking companies have found it a challenge to attract drivers. Low pay, grueling schedules, and zero-tolerance cannabis testing for drivers despite legalization have led to an exodus of truckers in the U.S. and Canada.

Despite these obstacles, cannabis employers can still embrace smart strategies to attract quality employees and create much-needed stability to thrive in the rapidly changing marketplace.

Cannabis, COVID & the Great Resignation

In recent months, when it seemed America was finally emerging from COVID’s long shadow, the Great Resignation dampened business optimism. Employee turnover hit cannabis hard—especially in California, where other challenges like a thriving illicit market, high taxes and wholesale price compression have impacted companies’ ability to operate smoothly. Transportation and supply issues compound the problems.

For example, even transporting federally legal hemp in California and elsewhere has its headaches. Our company’s trimmer certification course uses hemp for training purposes. We ship the hemp directly to students’ homes so they can participate in virtual training sessions. Although our company has certified that the course packet contains only hemp, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will not ship it, regardless of whether the delivery location is in or out of state. We therefore must rely on a private carrier to transport the course packets to class participants, which is more time consuming and costly

Staffing Strategies for Transportation & Supply Jobs

Cannabis employers have several traditional and non-traditional tools at their disposal to address transportation and supply-related staffing.

While standard ecommerce jobs are synonymous with turnover, here lies an opportunity for cannabis operators to differentiate themselves. This is the cannabis industry, after all, and plenty of individuals who might not normally be interested in the transportation or supply aspect of ecommerce, might be far more open to those types of roles if they know the jobs involve cannabis.

What can employers do to attract these more receptive candidates to their organizations? Hone in on workers who have a passion for the plant. In job descriptions, position cannabis messaging front and center and conduct outreach through LinkedIn groups and other social media platforms to groups and individuals that have a cannabis focus.

Salary and Benefits

These days, a competitive salary simply is not enough to entice the right employees. A solid benefits package goes a long way to establishing trust between employers and employees and provides employees with a level of comfort and reassurance that they are supported during these tumultuous times. For example, companies must prioritize healthcare benefits and consider including coverage for part-time workers on the supply side of the cannabis industry.

Bonuses

Bonuses are another great way to catch the eye of potential employees, but bonuses must be developed within a framework designed for retention. Cannabis employers who establish performance bonuses and loyalty bonuses also increase that ever-important aspect of trust within their companies.

Safety

A transparent and robust HR plan that addresses safety concerns—COVID and beyond—can affect employees’ comfort for certain supply or transport positions that may involve increased public exposure or enhanced personal safety risks. Be clear with employees about the system that’s in place to support them in the event of unforeseen emergencies or injuries.

Procedures

Cannabis employers should also be aware of the importance of having compliance-focused internal transportation standard operating procedures and protections for employees. These policies can be a key factor in attracting both drivers and additional transport and supply experts from other regulated transport industries such as food, agriculture and pharmaceuticals. Candidates without a cannabis background will be more drawn to companies that provide a well-developed and safe infrastructure.

Smart Cannabis Staffing Solutions: The Time is Now

Federal cannabis legalization is coming, and with that nationwide sea change other issues in cannabis supply and transport will emerge. How will cannabis transport consolidate? Will the nation’s top carriers simply take over?

Regardless of what those answers might be, the need to embrace smart staffing solutions now is imperative. Providing a solid base wage with health benefits, and making it clear to current employees and job candidates that there’s an internal infrastructure of support—from HR to loyalty bonuses—is the best way to tackle the transportation and supply issues to position your company for future success.

The Inflated THC Crisis Plaguing California Cannabis

By Erik Paulson, Josh Swider, Zachary Eisenberg
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Fraud

The THC content you see on a label when you walk into a dispensary? There is a very good chance the number is false.

In every state with regulated cannabis, there is a requirement to label the potency of products so consumers can make informed purchasing and medicating decisions. The regulations usually state that the THC/cannabinoid content on the label must be within a particular relative percent difference of the actual tested results for the product to be salable. In California, that threshold is +/- 10%.

The problem is, with all the focus on THC percentage in flower and concentrate products, enormous pressure has been placed on cultivators and manufacturers to push their numbers up. Higher numbers = higher prices. But unfortunately, improving their growing, extraction and formulation processes only gets companies so far. So, they proceed to ‘lab shop’: giving their business to whichever lab provides them the highest potency.

There are roughly 50 Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) licensed labs in the state, and competition is fierce to maintain market share in a maturing and plateauing industry. Whereas competition used to be healthy and revolved around quality, turnaround time and customer service, now it’s essentially become a numbers game. As a result, many labs have sacrificed their scientific integrity to chase what the clients want: higher THC potency results without contaminant failures. The practice has become so prevalent that labs openly advertise their higher potency values to gain customers without fear of recourse. Here are two examples:

 

Over a year ago, a few labs fed up with what was happening got together to determine the extent of the potency inflation issue. We proactively purchased and tested over 150 randomly chosen flower samples off dispensary shelves. The results were staggering. Eighty-seven percent of the samples failed their label claims (i.e., were >10% deviant of their labeled values), with over half of the samples >20% deviant of their labeled THC values (i.e., over 2x the legal permitted variance). Additionally, our labs found multiple cases of unreported category 1 pesticides in some of the analyzed samples at multiple times the legal limit – a significant public health concern. The deceit was not limited to small cultivators trying to get by but also some of the industry’s biggest brands.

The same issues and economic conditions are in play for concentrates. Manufacturers of these products also hunt for the highest D9 THC values because wholesale prices for distillate are determined by THC content: <86% for the lowest value, 86-88%, 88-90% and >90%, with a new price point for over 94%. As a result, consumers can walk into a dispensary and find concentrates like the one shown below that report>99% total cannabinoids (>990mg/g) and contains almost 10% additional terpenes. You don’t have to be an analytical chemist to realize those numbers add up to well over 100%, which is physically impossible.

Blame

Everyone can agree that the system is broken, but who is at fault? Should the blame be placed on dispensaries, many of whom use THC % as their only purchasing or marketing metric? Or on cultivators, manufacturers and distributors, who seek the highest results possible rather than the most accurate ones? Or on the labs themselves, who are knowingly reporting inflated results?

Ultimately, the individual businesses are acting in their own self-interest, and many are participating in this practice simply to stay afloat. Dispensaries can’t reasonably be expected to know which results are inflated and which are not. Cultivators and manufacturers feel obligated to use labs that provide them with the highest results; otherwise, they’re putting themselves at a disadvantage relative to their competitors. Likewise, labs that aren’t willing to inflate their numbers have to be ready to watch customers walk out the door to maintain their principles – an existential dilemma for many.

The primary reason why potency inflation has become so prevalent is that there have been no negative repercussions for those that are cheating.  

The axiom is true – don’t hate the player, hate the game. Unlike most businesses, testing labs operating with integrity want meaningful regulations and oversight to assure a level playing field. Without them, the economics force a race to the bottom where labs either have to inflate more and more or go out of business. Since 2016, the DCC (formerly BCC) has taken zero meaningful actions to discourage or crackdown on potency inflation— not a single recall of an inflated product or license suspension of an inflating lab— so predictably, the problem has gotten progressively worse over time.

So, to answer the question above – who is at fault for our broken system? The answer is simple: the DCC.

Inaction

In the Fall of 2021, we began engaging with the DCC to address the industry’s potency inflation concerns. The DCC requested we provide them with direct evidence of our accusations, so we collected and shared the flower data mentioned above. The Department tested the same batches off the shelf and confirmed our results. Somehow not a single recall was issued – even for the batches containing category 1 pesticides.

We pushed for more accountability, and DCC Director Nicole Elliott assured us steps were being taken: “The Department is in the process of establishing a number of mechanisms to strengthen compliance with and accountability around the testing methods required of labs and will be sharing more about that in the near future.”

Instead, we got a standardized cannabinoid potency method (mandated by SB 544) that all labs will be required to use. On the surface, a standardized methodology sounds like a good thing to level the playing field by forcing suspect labs into accepting generally accepted best practices. In reality, however, most labs already use the same basic methodology for flower and concentrate cannabinoid profiling and inflate their results using a variety of other mechanisms: selective sampling, using advantageous reference materials, manipulating data, etc. Furthermore, the method mandated is outdated and will flatly not work for various complex matrices such as gummies, topicals, beverages, fruit chews and more. If adopted without changes, it would be a disaster for manufacturers of these products and the labs that test them. Nevertheless, the press release issued by the DCC reads as though they’ve earned a pat on the back and delivered the silver bullet to the potency inflation issue.

Here are a few more meaningful actions the DCC could take that would help combat potency inflation:

  • Perform routine surveillance sampling and testing of products off of store shelves either at the DCC’s internal lab or by leveraging DCC licensed private labs.
  • Recall products found to be guilty of extreme levels of potency inflation.
  • Conduct in-person, unannounced audits of all labs, perhaps focusing on those reporting statistically higher THC results.
  • Conduct routine round-robin studies where every lab tests the same sample and outliers are identified.
  • Shutdown labs that are unable or unwilling to remediate their potency inflation issues.

For some less disciplinary suggestions:

  • Remove incentives for potency inflation, like putting a tax on THC percentage
  • Set up routine training sessions for labs to address areas of concern and improve communication with the DCC

Fight

Someone might retort – who cares if the number is slightly higher than it should be? No one will notice a little less THC in their product. A few counterpoints:

  1. Consumers are being lied to and paying more for less THC.
  2. Medical cannabis users depend on specific dosages for intended therapeutic effects.
  3. Ethical people who put their entire lives into cultivating quality cannabis, manufacturing quality products and accurately testing cannot compete with those willing to cheat. If things get worse, only the unethical actors will be left.
  4. Labs that inflate potency are more likely to ignore the presence of contaminants, like the category 1 pesticides we found in our surveillance testing.
  5. This single compound, delta-9 THC, is the entire reason why this industry is so highly regulated. If we are not measuring it accurately, why regulate it at all?

We will continue to fight for a future where quality and ethics in the cannabis industry are rewarded rather than penalized. And consumers can have confidence in the quality and safety of the products they purchase. Our labs are willing to generate additional surveillance data, provide further suggestions for improvement in regulations/enforcement, and bring further attention to this problem. But there is a limit to what we can do. In the end, the health and future of our industry are entirely in the hands of the DCC. We hope you will join us in calling on them to enact meaningful and necessary changes that address this problem.