Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Working Group took a deep dive Wednesday into testing.
Jeremy Applen is vice chairman of the ASTM International committee developing technical standards for cannabis. Applen said testing must be done at multiple stages of cannabis production, because making a THC concentrate, for example, concentrates all substances that were on a marijuana plant.
"And so, by testing a concentrate for pesticide residue, we have better resolution around whether or not a pesticide may have been identified or used in the cultivation process, and that can then be used to direct regulatory enforcement activities," Applen said.
Confidence in testing programs is key. Nearly half of consumers responding to a recent survey had moderate to no confidence in THC content listed on medical marijuana product labels, and Applen said that can be dangerous.
"If somebody’s kind of guessing, or self-titrating is what we call it, there’s an increased potential for them to incidentally overdose themselves and experience negative impact as they go through their day from the psychotropic effects of THC or, on the other end of the spectrum, to not experience the relief from symptoms that they were hoping to," Applen said.
Applen said requiring national accreditation is a good way to increase confidence in testing. If Oklahoma is going to rely on independent laboratories for medical marijuana testing, however, they must be economically viable, which may mean more frequent testing than is currently being considered.
"I’m a laboratory, and I’ve sunk $1 million into a facility and equipment buildout. I need to be able to recoup that investment, and I’m not going to be able to do that off of a very small or finite number of samples," Applen said. "And if I can’t recoup my investment, you get that economic pressure over the laboratory, and they too are going to deviate and you’re going to start seeing potentially funny things crop up that would undermine the integrity of the program in the long run."
Applen said testing frequency in proposed regulations may be too low while required qualifications for lab directors are too high.