Cannabis Science Conference Fall: Closing Panel Discussion Highlights Standards and Accreditation

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A panel of individuals from standards-setting organizations and accreditation bodies reviewed the role they each play within the cannabis sector and offered insights into the future of the industry to close out the analytical science track at Cannabis Science Conference Fall on Friday, September 22nd.

The panel titled “Standards and Accreditation – The Way We Move Forward?” was co-moderated by Patricia Atkins,Spex, an Antylia company and Evan Friedmann, Scientific Cell Company and featured panelists:

  • Susan Audino, S.A. Audino & Associates, LLC
  • Allison Baker, Coordinator of Standards and Official Methods, AOAC International
  • James Farrell, Manager, Technical Committee Operations Division, ASTM International
  • Warren Merkel, Vice President, Policy, ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB)
  • Nandakumara Sarma, Director, Dietary Supplements and Herbal Medicines, US Pharmacopeia
  • Tracy Szerszen, President, Perry Johnson Laboratory Accreditation, Inc.

As pioneers for establishing scientific standards and leaders who inspire confidence in quality services, the organizations represented by these panelists work collaboratively to ensure the safety and integrity of hemp and cannabis. The discussion-based panel defined the coordination between laboratories, accreditation bodies, and standards organizations, described how the cannabis space can be improved, discussed the use of standardization and accreditation in “good science,” and answered questions from audience members about the needs of cannabis laboratories to move the industry forward.

In one intriguing question posed by the moderators, the panel contemplated the future of cannabis legalization, particularly in terms of testing, regulations, and laboratory practices. They discussed various aspects, including:

  1. Regulation and Testing: The panelists suggested that if cannabis were to become federally legal, the quality testing requirements would probably remain like those for other legal drugs. They emphasized the importance of regulating cannabis based on its unique properties and complexities rather than borrowing regulations from other industries.
  2. Laboratories and Accreditation: The panelists anticipated that federal approval of cannabis would lead to more consistency among testing laboratories. Laboratories might see improvements in proficiency testing and greater standardization of methods, although immediate changes in methods may not occur unless mandated.
  3. Assessment and Auditing Challenges: The discussion touched on the challenges faced by assessors and auditors in the cannabis industry, where ambiguities and nuances are prevalent. They suggested that accreditation bodies recognize the need for more specialized training to assess cannabis laboratories accurately.
  4. Standardization and Research: As cannabis legalization progresses, standard-setting organizations and committees expect to benefit from increased research. This research will enable them to create standards that better protect public health and safety, informed by scientific evidence.
  5. Collaboration: Participants emphasized the importance of collaboration between regulators, testing laboratories, standard-setting organizations, and accreditation bodies. They suggested that working together can ensure that regulations are based on sound science and that inconsistencies among states can be minimized.
  6. Regulatory Conflicts: The panel also noted the challenges posed by regulations driven by legislation written by lawyers who are unfamiliar with scientific principles. Conflicts between state and federal regulations can create confusion for testing laboratories.

In summary, the panel foresees a future where cannabis legalization, if it were to happen, would necessitate collaboration, research-driven regulation, and greater consistency in testing methods and standards across the industry. They hope for a more coherent and scientifically informed approach to cannabis regulation and testing in the future.

The 60-minute discussion covered a wide array of topics as well as audience-driven questions. The Cannabis Science Conference organizers plan to revisit these topics with additional panel discussions and presentations at Cannabis Science Conference Spring, taking place May 7-9th in Kansas City, Missouri. Stay tuned to for updates.

For more with some of our panelists, please check out our live interview with Allison Baker: