Oregon’s testing labs transition from a free-for-all to a heavily-regulated industry
By Rowshan Reordan
The era of loosely-regulated cannabis testing in Oregon is nearing the end.
Oregon finally remedied a serious lack of oversight during the 2015 legislative session. New standards for both the recreational and medical marijuana markets are going to make Oregon one of the leaders in the nation when it comes to cannabis testing. Rather than simply licensing testing laboratories, Oregon will require a two-tiered system of licensing and accreditation to ensure quality cannabis analytics.
Licensing for cannabis labs will include oversight from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Oregon Health Authority, with many of the rules being similar to those governing labs in other states in the recreational and medical markets.
In order for cannabis labs to be licensed in Oregon, they must also meet specific accreditation standards. The Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ORELAP) is the agency that will be tasked with accrediting cannabis analytical laboratories according to national standards set by the NELAC Institute.
Although the international standards for testing (ISO 17025) are commonly used throughout the world, Oregon follows the national standards, which are comprised of an even more extensive set of rules.
The standards will require cannabis testing laboratories to prove their testing methods are valid and reproducible. This will help create an even playing field for cannabis analytical laboratories, while building trust for industry stakeholders in the current broken system.
Oregon is requiring more stringent standards for laboratories, but it will also specify what types and levels of pesticides and residual solvents will fail under the new rules. Different than Washington and Colorado’s pesticide testing requirements, Oregon labs must be accredited to test for more than 50 pesticides. If the listed pesticides are found to exceed the specified limits, the product will fail. Oregon’s residual solvent analysis, with more than 40 solvents that are required to be tested for, is also more extensive than in Washington and Colorado.
Cannabis testing in Oregon has been tumultuous from the very start. Starting March 1, 2014, licensed medical dispensaries were required to have their products tested to ensure that safety standards were met before dispensing medical marijuana to patients. What the state failed to address was proper oversight for cannabis testing laboratories.
Thus, the bedlam of cannabis testing in Oregon began. Once people learned that testing laboratories had no oversight, Oregon saw a plethora of cannabis labs open for business. The only elements needed were a computer, a printer, a “chemist” and an “instrument.” There was no entity to ensure that the standards required by law were being followed by the laboratories.
However, the testing side of the cannabis industry is changing significantly. Instead of a free-for-all for cannabis analytical laboratories, Oregon will set the standard for both licensing requirements and national accreditation.
The lessons Oregon has learned about cannabis testing should provide legislators in other cannabis-friendly states with a blueprint of what to avoid so history is not repeated.
Rowshan Reordan is the founder of Green Leaf Lab, Oregon’s largest cannabis analytical laboratory, with four locations (www.greenleaflab.org). She was one of the first women to open a cannabis laboratory in the nation, and has spearheaded the standardization and legitimization of cannabis safety testing for both the medical and recreational sectors.