In a sweeping show of popular support, New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota have all voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and Mississippi has voted to legalize marijuana for medical use. In all five states, the decision was made by ballot measure. These five states are only the latest in a massive and relatively rapid nationwide shift in support of marijuana access, leaving Idaho as the only state in the US where no form of cannabis (hemp or marijuana) is legal for any application. These ballot measures are expected to have a significant impact on the cannabis industry in the states where they passed, and to influence cannabis legislation in neighboring states. New Jersey, in particular, is noteworthy as the first Midatlantic state to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and the forthcoming availability of marijuana in New Jersey may prompt states like New York and Pennsylvania to consider recreational cannabis legislation as well.
Although this decision is a major step for all five states, it is only the beginning of expanding – or in the case of South Dakota and Mississippi, developing – state cannabis product infrastructures, which will ensure that their consumers have safe and transparent access to cannabis products. Each state will be responsible for developing or expanding its own regulations and procedures to manage how cannabis products are grown, tested, processed, and distributed. Even for states like New Jersey, where medical cannabis use was already legal, the switch to recreational use will mean more demand, more supply, and an increased need for reliable cannabis testing services.
Currently, the gold standard for ensuring competent testing of cannabis products is third-party accreditation to the international standard ISO/IEC 17025. This standard was developed for testing and calibration laboratories and is broadly applicable to many different types of chemical and biological testing, including cannabis testing. Cannabis testing is a relatively new industry, even for the states that were early adopters, and this well-established laboratory standard provides a strong and trustworthy framework for how cannabis testing laboratories should operate to ensure reliable test results. The process of third-party accreditation provides assurance from an unbiased outside party that laboratories are meeting the requirements of the standard. At present, out of the 35 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have a medical cannabis program, 20 states officially use ISO/IEC 17025 as an indicator of competence for cannabis laboratories, and cannabis laboratories in other states often voluntarily become accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 as a market differentiator and an indication of quality. The USDA’s Interim Final Rule on hemp production in the US also “strongly recommends” ISO/IEC 17025 for hemp labs in the US.
As the cannabis industry continues to expand, we expect to see demand for ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation increase significantly. A2LA is currently among the largest accreditors of cannabis testing laboratories globally, with a dedicated program to accredit cannabis laboratories. For more information about ISO/IEC 17025 or A2LA’s Cannabis Testing Laboratory Accreditation Program, visit A2LA.org and view our cannabis program page. To speak directly to an expert in our cannabis department, contact Accreditation Supervisor Anna Williams by phone at 240-575-7494 or by email at awilliams@A2LA.org.