Voluntary Accreditation: Why Labs Seek Accreditation Where it is Not Mandatory

In many states, regulations require that cannabis testing laboratories be accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 in order to operate. This requirement is not ubiquitous, however, and in the absence of federal requirements for cannabis testing, states where cannabis products are legal demonstrate significant variability in how those products are regulated. As a result, many cannabis testing labs have taken it upon themselves to implement quality assurance measures that go beyond the requirements in their state. Accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 is a widely recognized indicator of competence within the cannabis testing space, so labs seeking more rigorous quality parameters often voluntarily apply for accreditation through A2LA. Representatives from two such labs: Kristen Goedde of Trichome Analytical in new Jersey, and Jessica Alexander of Land & Seas Laboratory in Alaska, each kindly answered our questions about why they chose to have their laboratories accredited by A2LA, even though it was not mandatory in their respective states.

For many cannabis testing laboratories, accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 is mandated by the state. Why did your laboratory decide to voluntarily seek accreditation?

Trichome Analytical: As a third-party laboratory responsible for providing unbiased analytical results to our clients, we understand the need for our laboratory to go through third-party auditing. Externally audited quality management systems are integral to any reputable laboratory. We were already familiar with ISO/IEC 17025 because of our background in environmental testing, so we felt that it was incredibly important to integrate these standards into our processes from the beginning. With A2LA’s recognition of our quality systems, we can give our clients the peace of mind that their results are accurate and reliable.

Land & Seas Laboratory: There was a lot of turmoil in Alaska regarding the accuracy and legitimacy of laboratory results when we were preparing to open. Accreditation was a way to reassure new customers that we had a quality control system in place and were prepared to go above and beyond what was required to meet the needs of the industry.

How did your laboratory decide to use A2LA as your accreditation body?

Trichome Analytical: Our laboratory researched several accrediting bodies before choosing A2LA. While many accreditation bodies will service the cannabis industry, it was clear that A2LA has the most experience auditing cannabis laboratories and employs high-level cannabis experts to perform the assessments. We wanted our clients to have the same level of confidence that we have in our procedures, so we opted for what we believe to be the most comprehensive and capable accreditation body.

Land & Seas Laboratory: A2LA was contracted by the state of Alaska to audit the lab against a list of the state requirements before approval to open, so we were able to request an ISO accreditation audit at the same time.

What is the biggest impact that you think your laboratory has gained from being accredited?

Trichome Analytical: The cannabis and hemp industries are constantly evolving. Being accredited at the beginning of our operation prepares us for any changes in the current regulations for plant and product testing. And, although we do not have to be accredited for testing in our home state of New Jersey, there are many companies in the cannabis and hemp industries that require or prefer ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratories.

Land & Seas Laboratory: At Land & Seas we also process food safety samples for local production facilities. It is preferable to have ISO accreditation when processing food samples, so this has helped us secure contracts.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to laboratories that are looking into voluntary getting accredited?

Trichome Analytical: I would advise all laboratories to consider getting ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation from the beginning of their operation, or as soon as possible. We feel that the requirement is likely inevitable, and it will be easier to integrate sooner rather than later.

Land & Seas Laboratory: Speak to a laboratory that has been accredited and ask candid questions about the process and requirements before starting activities like writing a QA plan or answering accreditation questionnaires. It would have been immensely helpful to know the focus and mindset of the accreditation bodies because it can be overwhelming when you don’t have a frame of reference or a “buddy” to ask questions.