WA House COG - Committee Meeting
(January 18, 2022) - HB 1859 - Public Hearing

Product, Lab, and Accreditation Standards

A joint request bill to establish an interagency cannabis lab standards team was wholeheartedly supported by representatives of the agencies which drafted the legislation.

Here are some observations from the Tuesday January 18th Washington State House Commerce and Gaming Committee (WA House COG) Committee Meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • WA House COG Counsel Peter Clodfelter shared a staff report on HB 1859, “Concerning quality standards for laboratories conducting cannabis analysis,” multi-agency request legislation to form an interagency coordination team (ICT) to define standards for cannabis lab accreditation (audio - 4m, video).
  • Sign ins and speaker testimony were uniformly positive, as participating agency staff offered a glowing assessment of the bill’s utility - although no representatives of impacted private laboratories directly participated.
    • Chair Shelley Kloba, the primary sponsor of HB 1859, said that “around 2019 we became aware of some problems" in cannabis testing, including some labs “inflating the results" of cannabis samples. Her bill focused on “three things: it’s about fairness, it’s about truth, and it’s about integrity" (audio - 3m, video).
      • To combat lab “cheating,” Kloba supported legislation forming the CSTF and transfer of responsibility for lab accreditation, because “having a really high-quality and safe market” with honest testing and accurate labeling was “key.”
      • As HB 1859 reflected CSTF recommendations, she expressed gratitude to those who gave “their time and talent” to the group, because "the product in the package is only as good as the labeling outside, and the labeling outside is only as good as the lab that did the analysis." Kloba asked for passage to help ensure “all labs produce valid, credible, and accurate results.”
    • Annette Hoffmann, DOE Environmental Assessment Program Manager and CSTF Chair, backed the bill because her department "has a vested interest in the success of this legislation as accreditation authority will transfer to us in 2024" (audio - 2m, video). 
      • In its current form, Hoffmann said the “accreditation program lacks standard procedures” needed prior to transfer of authority and for “accuracy and consistency in testing results.” She conveyed that while CSTF members worked towards “standardized testing protocols,” they’d found there were “critical implementation steps needed to realize the benefits.” Hoffmann told the committee that the bill “accomplishes two of those implementation steps” by forming the ICT with “the requisite expertise to evaluate requested changes to testing protocols and make recommendations for adaptations needed in rule.”
        • The third implementation step identified by the CSTF was around the availability of in-matrix cannabis proficiency testing for pesticides, potency, and residual solvents. DOE staff drafted request legislation that would have eliminated the 2024 statutory deadline for the transfer of lab accreditation until an in-matrix proficiency test provider was available in the state, but in October 2021 staff acknowledged that they chose not to pursue it after receiving minimal stakeholder support.
      • Without passage, Hoffmann warned that many of “the key recommended testing protocols would not be able to be implemented.” She noted that WSDA adding standards into rule “provides the baseline information that our accreditation program needs to evaluate the labs” while enabling DOE staff “to avoid conflicts of interest by remaining independent from the coordination team.”
      • Hoffmann concluded that HB 1859 assisted in necessary implementation steps for the transfer of lab accreditation, and allowed for cooperation to solve “a difficult accreditation problem that does not have the typical federal support.”
    • Kelly McLain, WSDA Policy Advisor to the Director and Legislative Liaison, gave some background on her department’s work with the CSTF before elaborating that the “main problem that our bill is looking to address is that federal standards for cannabis testing do not exist" (audio - 3m, video). 
      • McLain remarked that federal guidelines were used in DOE accreditation standards on other substances, and that it was difficult for an agency “tasked with accrediting a lab to both set the standards as well as do the accreditation.” Following conversations among agency staff and CSTF members, “it was determined and recommended” that WSDA take on rule implementation since they were “a non-regulatory agency in this arena,” and because of “our expertise and years of work in laboratory analysis,” she testified.
      • According to McLain, the ICT was modeled on a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concept of a “client” which collaborated and “appropriately share[d] scientific information with regulatory agencies.” She added that WSLCB and DOH members of the ICT would serve because of their “regulatory roles in cannabis industry management.” Science could only inform policy choices “if that science is being produced and vetted as implementable within the regulatory structure,” McLain stated.
      • Appreciating the bill would move the state towards “uniform laboratory standards for cannabis,” McLain expected it to increase “transparency and consumer protection in this regulatory space.”
    • Ryan Black, DOH Deputy Director of Policy and Legislative Relations, said that the department played a part in “establishing standards [for] products that may be beneficial for medical use.” He described how DOH staff worked with the other agencies to “develop the lab accreditation and testing model proposed in this bill” and were appreciative of their expertise (audio - 2m, video).
      • Black indicated that patients using cannabis as medicine “look to the Department of Health to ensure medically compliant products do not include unknown compounds or chemicals that may be detrimental to their health.” He commented that the bill would “ensure that all labs are held to the same standards and testing rules” and that DOH staff would stay involved to see that “the medical community is not left behind as product and safety standards continue to evolve."
        • An amendment offered on SB 5547, the WSLCB request bill on cannabinoid regulation, would mandate that DOH, with the input of WSLCB staff, “adopt rules that may prohibit marijuana products containing synthetically derived cannabinoids from being sold or provided at no charge to qualifying patients or designated providers at a retail outlet holding a medical marijuana endorsement.”
        • A stronger amendment was offered on HB 1668, the house companion bill to SB 5547. It declared “Artificial cannabinoids and synthetically derived cannabinoids are prohibited” in MMJ products and was adopted on January 25th as the bill was recommended out of committee.
    • Chris Thompson, WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations, thanked the sponsors and called HB 1859 the “culmination of a number of years of effort around providing more robust quality standards for the cannabis testing labs.” As no cannabis item could be sold legally “without going through the gateway of this network of testing labs,” he said WSLCB leadership felt the “unusual multi-agency partnership" was the best way to ensure quality lab standards. He thanked the other agencies with staff involved in the legislation, hopeful that “we’re able to secure your approval this session for the new direction outlined” in the bill (audio - 2m, video).
    • Nine people signed in supportive of the bill (audio - <1m, video). 
  • At publication time, an executive session was planned for HB 1859 while its senate companion had already been recommended out of committee.

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