Cannabis Safety and Quality Marches on despite Absence of Regulations

Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2021 by Global Food Safety Resource

By Jackie Bowen

Over the past several years, the CBD industry has experienced meteoric growth and continues to demonstrate an upward trajectory. According to a recent market study published by Growth Market Reports (GMR), titled, “Cannabidiol (CBD) Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast,” the market was valued at USD 395.2 Million in 2019 and is expected to grow at a healthy growth rate of around 30.4% by the year 2027. They attribute the rise in the use of CBD to cannabis legalization across the globe. Furthermore, the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill sanctioned the farming of hemp – cannabis with less than 0.3% THC by weight. This, in turn, has enabled many farmers to adopt hemp farming, and the domestic supply of the plant has increased dramatically.

Meanwhile, the CBD industry has also been riddled with controversy. From media and consumer exposés over high levels of heavy metals, questionable levels of potency, and allegations of testing positive for THC after consuming CBD, the industry is far from having a squeaky-clean reputation. In the continued absence of federal guidance, regulation, and enforcement of CBD foods and supplements, COVID-19 could serve as the catalyst to provide questionable CBD industry performers their day of reckoning.

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However, there is an emerging standard that embraces the foundation of global food safety best practices that is poised to challenge the current CBD compliance status quo, open retail doors, and help provide cannabis product confidence and trust – the Cannabis Safety and Quality Standards.

Requirements of the Standard

The Cannabis Safety & Quality (CSQ) Standards were launched in 2020 to promote industry best practices and improve the overall safety and quality of cannabis and cannabis-infused products in the market. The Cannabis Safety and Quality Certification Program is a first of its kind and based off of ISO 17067- Conformity assessment and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarking standards. Why does this matter? The world’s leading retailers are galvanized behind GFSI. The GFSI benchmarking requirements are the world’s most widely accepted benchmark for food safety certification programs. Aligned with Codex Alimentarius, these science-based requirements enable a common understanding and mutual trust in the global supply chain that helps facilitate trade, improves efficiency, and lends nameplate authority to operations certified to a GFSI-recognized program.

What’s Different about CSQ?

Cannabis Safety & Quality provides a firm set of “regulations” in a time when this industry has little to no regulatory oversight. It creates a semi-self-regulating environment where private auditing firms close the regulatory oversight gaps. Given that it is going through the GFSI benchmarking process and based on FDA cGMP requirements, it fulfills domestic production safety and quality requirements in addition to opening up global trade barriers. Unlike cGMP audits, Cannabis Safety & Quality is an accredited certification program and has stricter requirements for auditor competency. It has a heavy focus on documentation, so even though the audit is simply a snapshot in time, the compliance documentation has to have been maintained over an extended period.

Certification Bodies Involved

The official launch date of the Cannabis Safety and Quality Standards is January 4, 2021. At this time, only two global certification bodies have been approved to offer services: QIMA-WQS, a global third-party food safety certification company and ASI Food Safety.

What’s Next for CSQ?

The current Cannabis Safety & Quality audit is focused on production and grow facilities, but the efforts aren’t stopping there. Newly accredited cannabis standards include infused cosmetics, cannabis packaging, retail, and foodservice. For those brands still in need of a stepping stone, a more traditional baseline cGMP and cGAP audit are available.

Free training and guidance documents can also be found online to assist the industry in developing and implementing Cannabis Safety and Quality compliant systems.

Given the patchwork quilt that is current state-by-state cannabis regulations, Cannabis Safety and Quality is assembling a new “Gold Standard” of cannabis regulations. The effort takes best practices from current regulations and aims to help streamline and standardize regulations for new states or countries considering the legalization of cannabis.

For those progressive brands with state-of-the-art quality and safety best practices, check out the new standards published by Cannabis Safety and Quality.

About the Author:
Jaclyn Bowen MPH, MS is a food and consumer products quality and safety systems engineer and executive director of Clean Label Project, a national non-profit and standards development organization with the mission to bring truth and transparency to food and consumer product labeling.  Her expertise is in organic, gluten-free, non-gmo labeling, food safety, and label claim substantiation and compliance.  Bowen conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of the top-selling CBD products in America- testing 208 products for potency, pesticides, heavy metals, plasticizers, and residual solvents. She provided public testimony as to the marketing and contents of CBD products at an FDA public hearing in May 2019 and was invited to present the findings at the United Nations Commission on Narcotics in Vienna Austria in March 2020.  Bowen and Clean Label Project have appeared on NBC, ABC, CNN, ‘The Doctors’, ‘Dr. Oz’, ‘Dr. Drew’ and 450+ print and online media outlets including USA Today and Huff Post.  

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