Cannabis Standards Overview

What is a standard?

A standard is an agreed upon way of doing things.  It is a guideline of how to make a product safe, efficient, consistent, and compatible with others.

Why are standards important?

Whether we recognize it or not, standards play an important role in our lives everyday. They ensure the products we use are safe. They may establish size or shape or capacity of a product, process or system. They can specify performance of products or personnel. They also define terms so that they are familiar to industry personnel, which make regulations more straightforward and less difficult to implement.

Why are standards needed?

In addition to making things safe, standards create a common language, which allow businesses, states, and countries to communicate.
This is especially important in the cannabis industry, because even though more than half of the states in the US currently permit cannabis for medical or adult use, it remains illegal under federal law. This regulatory contradiction has created inconsistent and disjointed cannabis regulations that severely increase the risks to the health and safety of consumers, patients, the environment and the public. Voluntary-consensus standards and a third-party certification systems are essential to protecting public health and safety.

What are Voluntary Consensus Standards?

Voluntary Consensus Standards are established in an open environment, through a collaborative, voluntary effort by professionals from both the public and private sectors, who have an interest in participating in the development and/or use of the standards. Voluntary Consensus Standards meet the qualifications of Accrediting Standards Bodies. They have a greater likelihood of universal acceptance and compliance than recommendations, guidelines, or best practices due to the way they are developed.
FOCUS standards are Voluntary Consensus Standards.

FOCUS Overview

What is FOCUS?

FOCUS, which stands for the “Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards,” is the only independent, third-party, non-profit, international cannabis standards development organization created to protect public health, consumer safety and safeguard the environment

What does FOCUS do?

FOCUS develops comprehensive, international, third-party, voluntary consensus standards for the cannabis industry.

Third-party, accredited conformity assessment services are available to both public agencies and private businesses to build a safe, legitimate, legal cannabis marketplace.

Complementary associated services are provided to assist the cannabis industry in moving forward in a way that is healthy and sustainable to all humans and the environment.

Consumer Affairs

What role do consumers play in FOCUS activities?

Consumers and patients are at the heart of every one of the activities FOCUS engages in. Standard development and conformity assessment is about assuring the correct systems, processes or product is in place to ensure that what ends up in the hands of the consumer or patient is always consistent, of good quality, and safe.
FOCUS works with both regulators and business owners to fulfill our mission of protecting public health, consumer safety and safeguarding the environment.

Government Affairs

Is FOCUS a government agency?

No. FOCUS is not a government agency and, therefore, it has no authority to regulate or address complaints about consumer products or services—including products or services that purport to comply with FOCUS standards.

To what extent does the Federal government rely on voluntary consensus standards?

One of the best examples of the federal government’s confidence in voluntary standards is Congress’s 1996 passage of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act. This law requires federal agencies to increase their reliance upon—and participation in—voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency under the Department of Commerce, recently reported that the number of federal government agencies and cabinet-level departments making use of voluntary consensus standards in new or revised regulations in fiscal year 2000 was more than double the number reported the previous year.
In January of 2016, the White House Office of Management and Budget updated their Guidance to Federal Agencies on the use of voluntary-consensus standards, for the first time in 18 years. The guidance specifically directs federal agencies to use standards in regulations when available, and for representatives of federal agencies to participate in the development of voluntary consensus standards.

Standards Development

Does FOCUS develop standards?

Yes, the FOCUS Standard Development Committee establishes FOCUS’ voluntary consensus standards during the first phase of standard development. The standards are then field tested within the market place in a pilot program to collect data from participants and auditors in phase two.  The final phase of standard development is a public review of the standards where we collect comments and feedback.

Does FOCUS work only within the United States?

No.  FOCUS is a global company.  Voluntary-consensus standards in any industry are developed to become the common language for global commerce. FOCUS standards were developed to provide this foundation for the cannabis industry.  However, due to the federal illegality of cannabis in the United States, FOCUS standards are crucial to the development of a legal, safe, legitimate industry developing in this country as well.  FOCUS standards span all boundaries – inside and outside of the United States, which is why we work extensively with national and international standards bodies.

When will the FOCUS standards be available for us?

The FOCUS standards will undergo a 30 day public review period during March and April of 2016, to prepare for the formal release of the standards into the market in mid-June.

Conformity Assessment & Certification

What is a Conformity Assessment?

Conformity Assessment is the way compliance with a standard is verified. It means that an independent, third party has done an evaluation or review of a system, process, or procedure to verify that the final product meets certain standards for safety, quality, consistency or performance. The evaluation generally includes comprehensive formulation/material reviews, as well as testing and facility inspections. Most certified products bear the certifier’s mark on their packaging to help consumers, patients and other buyers make educated purchasing decisions.
Conformity Assessments are necessary because a standard is only a guideline of how to make a product safe and consistent. A standard by itself cannot guarantee the performance, consistency, safety or quality of a product.
Conformity Assessment is the crucial link between standards that define product characteristics and the actual product. They verify the consistency of a product’s characteristics, and if that particular product meets set quality or safety standards.

How is FOCUS involved in assessing the conformity of products to standards?

FOCUS currently offers Conformity Assessments and Certification for most cannabis related processes and businesses, including: Cultivation, Manufacturing, Production, Retail, Extraction, Infusion, Laboratory and Personnel.
FOCUS also accredits other organizations to serve as third party product, system and personnel certifiers to the FOCUS standards.

What areas are covered by FOCUS standards?

FOCUS develops comprehensive, international, voluntary-consensus standards for the cannabis industry in the following eight areas: Cultivation | Retail, Marketing & Patient Care | Extraction | Infused Products | Security | Laboratory | Packaging & Labeling | Sustainability |

Why do companies seek FOCUS certification?

FOCUS certification demonstrates that a business complies with all FOCUS standard requirements, which means their business practices go above and beyond what is expected under state regulations. FOCUS conducts periodic facility audits and product testing to verify that the product continues to comply with the standard.
Businesses who have earned the FOCUS certification demonstrate independent validation and verification of their commitment to safety and quality. Certified businesses bear a badge on every single product they sell that says their company is committed to producing a safe, quality product and being a leader within the industry. This increases credibility and acceptance with patients, consumers, regulators and the public.


What services are available from FOCUS?

Education, public awareness campaigns, and related services are offered directly through FOCUS.
FOCUS also provides a comprehensive suite of solutions driven services related to compliance, conformity assessment and risk management for both the public and private sector through third-party partnerships. These services are all designed to assist with the implementation of the FOCUS standards either directly into the marketplace, or to assist regulators in addressing public health and safety.