APHL Guidance for State Medical Cannabis Testing Programs

While more than half of the states currently permit cannabis for medical use, it remains illegal at the federal level. This regulatory contradiction has created a significant problem – inconsistent and disjointed cannabis regulations that severely increase the risk to public health and safety. The absence of federal guidance regarding cannabis has led states to develop their own approach to regulations, quality management, and testing. As new state cannabis programs continue to develop throughout the United States, concerns about quality, consistency and safety continue to grow. Public health agencies, physicians, patients, and the public have real concerns about the quality, therapeutic benefit, and possible side effects of the products they are using.

In 2014, the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) convened a monthly community-of-practice call so laboratories could share questions, advice, lessons learned and resources. During these calls, a theme emerged surrounding cannabis – every new participant asked the same questions. As a result, the APHL Board commissioned a Workgroup to collect the shared knowledge and develop guidance for laboratories and states to use when implementing cannabis programs. The project was 100% federally funded and is also supported by a cooperative agreement funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS) is honored to have been included in this workgroup

In May 2016, the APHL Workgroup published Guidance for State Medical Cannabis Testing Programs. The report provides specific guidance on analytes and action levels, sampling, testing protocols, test analysis and lab accreditation. The report builds on the monograph established by the US Pharmacopeia and includes recent experience and data from cannabis programs in a variety of U.S. states with active cannabis programs.

The report serves as an excellent resource for cannabis testing specifications with extensive lists of solvents, pesticides, metals and other chemicals and their action levels. The introduction and supporting sections of the report offer valuable insights into the importance of testing, when testing is not required, and how to use the process to continually improve product quality and safety.

The APHL specifications align with the FOCUS international, voluntary-consensus cannabis standards set for release in June. FOCUS, a non-profit standards development organization, has spent two+ years developing cannabis specific standards in the form of Good Manufacturing Guidelines for cultivation, retail, extraction, infused products, security, sustainability, packaging and labeling, and testing labs.

The APHL Guidance was created to facilitate the development of state labs for new cannabis programs, help existing labs assess their programs, and to assist public agencies, legislators and the industry by creating more uniformity and consistency in the industry. In combination with the FOCUS standards, cannabis testing laboratories, state and federal regulators, as well as business owners now have multiple, valid sources for accurate, unbiased, cannabis information.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories(APHL) represents state and local governmental health laboratories in the United States to protect the health and safety of Americans. APHL brings together multiple disciplines, including public health, environmental, agricultural and food safety to collaborate with laboratory and public health partners to assure effective surveillance, detection and response to health threats. APHL also works closely with federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, to develop and execute national health initiatives. To learn more visit www.aphl.org.