WSLCB – Listen and Learn Forum – QA Testing and Product Requirements
(August 22, 2019)

Here are some observations from the Thursday August 22nd Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Listen and Learn Forum on the Quality Assurance (QA) Testing and Product Requirements rulemaking project.

My top 4 takeaways:

  • Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman briefed on the purpose of the session and its organization before asking attendees to introduce themselves.
    • This session was part of the Quality Assurance (QA) Testing and Product Requirements rulemaking project (WSR 18-17-041). See our coverage of the first QA listen and learn session on April 9th. Hoffman’s last update on the rulemaking project was presented during the August 21st Board Meeting
    • Hoffman welcomed attendees, gave a short briefing on the current draft of new QA rules, and described the meeting format. She said feedback gathered on mitigation and phase-in strategies would help the agency move towards required pesticide and heavy metals testing of all cannabis products in the state. Responses from the session would be curated to “look for themes that emerge” and analyzed to “share with the Board and agency leadership” as well as publication on WSLCB’s website. Feedback would inform the CR-102 for the QA rulemaking, which she anticipated would be finished by mid-November (audio – 11m).
    • Hoffman then explained that the Small Business Economic Impact Statement (SBEIS) being put together for the rulemaking project was not the same as a small business study as defined in the Regulatory Fairness Act (RFA), which required an SBEIS if a proposed regulation would “require more than a minor cost on businesses.” An SBEIS was “very different” from an “economic study,” she asserted, saying that state agencies have several criteria they need to address under Washington’s Administrative Procedures Act. SBEIS and “Significant Analysis” work by WSLCB were done “in tandem” and not generally released until a CR-102 was filed. A preliminary SBEIS was intended to “paint the picture” of why emergency rulemaking wasn’t appropriate and “set the stage” for determining small business impacts in a final SBEIS. The preliminary SBEIS Hoffman contracted for the QA rulemaking project reaffirmed her suspicions that this topic was unprecedented for the state given the newness of the industry. Federal information common in other business sectors which reliably weighed small business impact was unavailable for the legal cannabis industry (audio – 5m).
    • Attendees introduced themselves and identified their affiliations (audio – 7m).
    • WSLCB staff:
      • Kathy Hoffman, Policy and Rules Coordinator. Meeting Facilitator.
      • Trecia Ehrlich, Research Consultant
      • Matthew Harper, Marijuana Examiner
      • Victoria Owen, Rules and Policy Assistant
      • Nick Poolman, Marijuana Chemist
      • Amy Sharar, Communications Consultant
      • Chris Thompson, Director of Legislative Relations
      • Robert Villemaire, Marijuana Examiner 
    • Cannabis testing laboratory representatives:
    • Cannabis industry representatives:
    • Additional participants, email commenters, and observers:
  • The agency gathered feedback from participants on strategies to mitigate costs from revised rules.
    • Hoffman and Owen called on participants who signed up to testify, allotting ten minutes for each speaker.
    • Douglas Duncan (audio – 3m)
      • Duncan attributed the presence of heavy metals in cannabis plants to “soil and water” sources. He claimed cannabis grown with potable water sources wouldn’t have heavy metals, “and if they’re getting their soil tested there should be no need to test the plant.” For soil, “a cannabis lab wouldn’t need to do the testing” and producers could “outsource that to an environmental lab that has the economy of scale to provide that test at a low cost.”
      • For pesticides, Duncan said two pieces of instrumentation, “[Gas Chromatography] (GC) Triple Quad or [Liquid Chromatography] (LC) Triple Quad” mass spectrometers, were most frequently used for testing. Both required “hundreds of thousands of dollars and a person to maintain” the equipment.
      • Duncan suggested, “By removing a choice few pesticides to a ‘banned’ list you could drastically reduce the cost of testing by pushing all your pesticides to one piece of technology.” He said “multiple instrument vendors” told him the remaining approved pesticides would be “easy to spot by an inspector” and all pesticide testing could be achieved with LC instrumentation.
      • Duncan spoke up later to say the complete list of pesticide compounds he recommended disapproving were:
    • Larry Ward (audio – 9m, audio – 2m)
      • Ward claimed Washington had “the least expensive testing costs of any state” and offered estimated averages for lab testing costs in Washington, California, and Oregon.
      • “What does the state want?” was the biggest question according to Ward. The level of quality expected of labs would affect how many could thrive in the market. His company had invested $400,000 in a SCIEX Triple Quad LC/MS last year – plus $100,000 for training and calibration; and $24,000 a year for upkeep. Ward contrasted, “and a pesticide test in Washington State is $70. That’s the baseline.” Every cannabis lab would need to spend roughly half a million dollars, and testing costs could be expected to double. Staying with a 5 pound lot could increase Washington‘s average to 9 cents/gram tested, while larger lot sizes could mitigate costs. He acknowledged mitigation by lot size would primarily benefit Tier 3 producers; for Tier 1 and Tier 2 growers, it was “not very often that their lot sizes exceed 5 pounds.”
      • At Ward’s lab, Testing Technologies, 25% of the samples they had received had failed pesticide tests; he believed some of the resulting products had reached consumers. “Our function is safety,” he said, but mitigation shouldn’t come “at the cost of making it impossible for the labs to survive” by expecting them to maintain instruments then “reduce the amount of income they can possibly make.” He called for a half million dollar budget appropriation to help WSLCB improve labs, and recommended increased testing costs be passed to consumers, as they stood to benefit most. “An additional nickel a gram is not a huge expense.”
      • Ward was first to bring up variability in cannabis sampling procedures and testing outcomes, a recurring theme in this and other fora. He pointed out that a 5 pound lot “consists of 2268 grams, as a lab we get 5 grams to test.” He explained that his team “took four samples, two from the top, one from the middle, one from the bottom.” Tested individually for THC concentration, “the range was from 18 to 23%” so whatever flower sample was used “becomes the bible for that lot and their ability to sell that lot.”
    • Crystal Oliver (audio – 3m)
      • Oliver spoke in favor of an increased lot size, saying WSIA had “farmers who routinely harvest 200 lbs+ during their seasonal harvest” which had to be batched into 5 pound lots and separately tested. She said the Department of Health’s (DOH) quality assurance testing rules required one test per cultivar, per harvest – but required a 1g sample per pound. Oliver added that labs she’d spoken with “aren’t really too keen to receive 200 grams as a testing lot sample.”
      • Pointing to the preliminary SBEIS for the rulemaking, Oliver confirmed changing lot size would benefit outdoor Tier 3 farmers who were harvesting substantial quantities seasonally.
      • Oliver’s final concern was about WSLCB-defined pesticide action levels, particularly the limit of 1 part per million for pyrethrins. The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) list of pesticides allowed for use on cannabis included “about 40” products containing pyrethrins, and some growers reported narrowly exceeding WSLCB’s action level in concentrates. WSIA submitted an issue brief to the agency the previous month and Oliver called for action levels “to be based on science and data.”
    • Shawn DeNae Wagenseller (audio – 7m, audio – 3m)
      • Wagenseller established that her farm, Washington Bud Company, was “the first flower company in the entire state to voluntarily test for pesticides and heavy metals on our harvest.” However, they had discontinued that practice as there were “so many different issues” to continue the pricey tests for their eight cultivars.
      • Wagenseller credited the OK Cannabis program for “a huge clean up and a huge shift” towards more rigorous testing expectations. It “helped clean up a lot of farms without regulations, without new laws.”
      • She said that cannabis concentrates were more frequently failing tests and warned “patients rely, very heavily, on concentrates.” Wagenseller suggested end product testing of concentrates would be one way to mitigate costs while exempting “uninfused flower.” End product testing would motivate processors “to source clean product from the growers.”
      • Wagenseller backed an increase in lot size, even though as a Tier 2 procedure “we don’t harvest 5 pounds” from each cultivar. Another “tried and true process” was spot checking products in stores “to keep the growers honest too.”
      • Wagenseller recommended only requiring one pesticide and heavy metal test per harvest “on the same date from the same continuous space.” Ehrlich asked Wagenseller for suggestions “delineating that for an outdoor grow” to which she responded that it could be done by harvest date or by “contained, fenced area.” 
      • Later, Wagenseller noted that “to force the labs to test to hundreths of a percentage on cannabinoids is ridiculous” as four one-gram buds would never be “representative of 100% of that lot.” Instead, the state could focus on ranges of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration because “the consumer has gotten really used to shopping for the highest THC for the least money.” Even for her own flower, Wagenseller had seen cannabinoid concentrations vary 6-10% within a single cultivar. Potency ranges would help move the market away from “high-THC shopping.”
    • Amber Wise (audio – 4m)
      • Wise encouraged WSLCB to shorten the initial list of compounds to be tested for, then phase-in other compounds over time. “A smaller list of things you have to test for,” she said, would give labs “more time to invest and perfect the science.” She agreed with Duncan that no lab could meet all the testing requirements for WSLCB and DOH without both gas and liquid chromatography instruments, and echoed Ward’s observation that “good science takes time and money.”
      • Wise expected retailers would have to purchase at a slightly higher cost-per-gram after expanded testing and costs passed on to consumers would be “way less” than regular sales tax.
      • Testing “finished and packaged products only” was preferable as there was a “huge black box” between the collection of samples for testing and end products. Wise reminded everyone “we know the traceability system is completely broken,” which made it harder for her lab, Medicine Creek Analytics, to “guarantee the result that I give for that product is really what’s going in the packaging and the consumer is buying.”
    • Nick Mosely (audio – 5m)
      • Mosely shared topics collected from members of The Cannabis Alliance which he felt “overlap with phase-in and mitigation.” The first was “the phase-in for pesticides and heavy metals” as “the licensees are who’s going to be paying for this testing” and gaining reduced product liability as a result. He felt the greatest liability for the industry came from “concentrates and pesticides, so that is where our focus should start.”
      • Mosely noted that all growers “produce trim” from flowers, and “pretty much without exception they use their trim to create concentrates.” This made concentrate testing equivalent to screening an entire farm without making the farmer pay for the testing.
      • Mosely’s third point revolved around the interagency agreement for WSDA testing on behalf of WSLCB. He encouraged the WSLCB to fully utilize the 75 samples per month allotted under the arrangement. Pointing to several months at the beginning of the year where testing was “underutilized,” Mosely argued otherwise unused tests could focus on farms to increase surveillance without increasing costs for producers. Hoffman indicated her test utilization numbers were different and promised to share information from the Enforcement division. 
      • Mosely reiterated the need to remove “three or four of these compounds” from the state’s list of allowed pesticides. Doing so, he said, would limit the amount of mass spectrometer instrumentation labs needed thereby saving them set-up and operational costs.
    • Jeff Doughty (audio – 2m)
      • Doughty commented that “something’s gotta give in the tax structure.” He felt the amount his lab, Capitol Analysis, needed to charge to be successful was too expensive for producer/processors. He suggested the agency approach the state legislature to look at “end use fees” to require that anything “tested for the purposes of public health and safety is paid for by the consumers themselves.” Doughty believed this cost should “trickle down” to consumers and an additional line item on every receipt would lead consumers to pay attention because “they have skin in the game.”
    • Jim MacRae (audio – 6m)
      • MacRae indicated that mitigation for this subject was typically understood “in terms of cost of additional testing” even though it had a “huge” impact on product liability. Potential product liability costs in the absence of a more rigorous testing regime could be considered a “counterbalance” to concerns over new business costs.
      • Instrumental in the formation of the original Ike’s OK Cannabis program, and having reviewed many of the program’s test results, MacRae pointed to “10 to 15 to maybe 20 analytes tops that represent well over 95% of the failures that they’re seeing.”
      • MacRae pushed back on the suggestion to drop certain pesticides from the allowed list: “any change that is differentially negative, potentially, to the safety of consumers really should be mitigated while thinking about changing that rule in the first place.”
      • MacRae urged the agency to reinstate yeast and mold testing, as their removal in 2017 was “absolutely, unequivocally, not good for consumers.”
        • In the Concise Explanatory Statement for the WSLCB rulemaking on Lab Quality Assurance Testing Rules, the agency claimed “Moisture analysis and microbiological testing changes include testing and reporting for water activity rate, which is a more accurate indicator of the risk of growth of microbes, mold, etc.”
      • MacRae was also suspicious about calls to change action levels on pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide as they represented roughly 10% of failed tests, the most of any two compounds. MacRae acknowledged the difficulty in propagating good cannabis testing science due to legal restrictions, but felt the “targeted removing” of pesticide compounds commonly showing up in cannabis would damage consumer confidence in the 502 market.
      • MacRae’s final suggestion was on lot size, saying larger lot sizes were “less representative on certain sampling assumptions.” So long as someone with a financial stake in the test result collected the sample, there was a risk of bias in the testing. He also claimed that “the economic advantage” of larger lots would be “differentially enjoyed by bigger farms.”
    • Don Skakie (audio – 6m)
      • Skakie spoke as a consumer who recognized “the cost and challenges of being a [cannabis] business owner” while abiding by the state’s allowed pesticide list. His concern was that cannabis products should be safe to eat, smoke, or drink – and many medical patients he knew avoided the 502 market due to concerns over pesticides.
      • Skakie said the allowed pesticide list had assumed end use products would be eaten or imbibed rather than vaped or smoked. Better research was needed to reduce liability both “on the state and people in the industry.” 
      • After initial costs, Skakie said, testing would become part of the cost of goods sold (COGS) and be borne by the consumer. He suggested it was “disingenuous” to imply that consumers weren’t already bearing the cost for product testing. 
      • Skakie said lot sizes could be “scalable” by tier size. His recommendation was for “on-going testing” to account for human error inherent in crop production.
    • Alan Boner (audio – 5m)
      • Boner said he’d made concentrates in California as the first legal extractor in that state. He said trim had never been tested in California because the concentrate produced from it always was. He expressed surprise at how small test sample size was in Washington but felt that testing trim as a proxy for the harvest as a whole was a plausible method to identify pesticide contamination.
      • To “reduce the opportunity for contamination,” Boner suggested requiring labs to collect samples and quarantining harvests after they were sampled but before testing results were returned. In contrast, he felt current sampling rules were “really ripe for manipulation.”
    • Joe Rammell (audio – 3m)
      • Hoffman read an email from Rammell who asserted testing costs were “[not] as bad as people think” and that Confidence Analytics was “bringing competition” by offering a full terpene profile and heavy metals testing.
      • Rammell suggested reduced testing frequency based on the performance history of a producer or processor. He admitted the idea might not be popular with labs who would see less testing, but “would really help small growers.”
      • Rammell reported that “there are ways for processors to remove pesticides from concentrates” and that mandatory pesticide testing would increase the practice in the industry. 
      • “Fourth point: If the lab is going to do terpene testing there needs to be a standard. Right now, people shop the numbers because it’s not mandatory.”
      • Like others, Rammell said that bigger lot sizes would favor larger growers. He asked that WSLCB “harmonize” lot size rules with DOH.
      • Rammell’s final advice: “If you let the farms self-sample it doesn’t matter what you do” as bad actors would “game the system.” Instead, labs or transportation companies should accept the responsibility of collecting samples which were truly representative.
    • Lana Kruger (audio – 3m)
      • Kruger favored larger lot sizes even if they helped larger producers more than smaller ones.
      • She suggested one possibility was for “one pesticide test per batch rather than per lot.” Another was “quarterly pesticide testing” or an organic certification for producers.
      • Kruger favored potency ranges as “the consumer is not well educated” and correlated high potency with high quality. An expanded cannabinoid profile on labels could make consumer research of products “simplified.” Potency ranges could also be applied to multi-lot batches.
    • Trecia Ehrlich (audio – 1m)
      • Ehrlich reminded participants that packaging and labeling rules were open at WSLCB (WSR 19-12-029) and comments on cannabinoid ranges were “really helpful for that rule set as well.”
      • Ehrlich added that WSDA continued working to create an organic-equivalent “Certified Cannabis” mark for cannabis products.
      • Ehrlich said the terms “batch,” “lot,” and “harvest” were used interchangeably and asked attendees to provide the agency “with strong definitions” for those terms.
  • Following an intermission, phase-in strategies for prospective changes were discussed by attendees who signed in to speak.
    • Larry Ward (audio – 4m)
      • Ward recommended the agency phase-in testing changes because they were a “huge, huge expense” for labs.
      • Saying cannabis was a “unique compound,” Ward stressed the amount of time needed to validate testing methods. He argued that WSLCB should “factor in six months at least” for any lab changes as acquisition of equipment would take 30-60 days to receive the equipment with additional time for set up. Ward noted that California regulators staggered testing changes over six-month periods throughout 2018.
      • Ward urged growers to pay attention to unorthodox pesticide contamination from soil or even vinyl gloves. Heavy metals were a “rare finding” in cannabis, with Ward expressing skepticism mandatory testing was even needed.
    • Ben Hart (audio – 8m)
      • Addressing issues raised earlier, Hart said Testing Technologies didn’t test for seven of 61 allowed pesticides “because they’re a little more problematic.” However, he claimed that SCIEX had “a method that has all 61” making it “feasible” to detect all the pesticides with liquid chromatography instrumentation. Hart said stricter quality control (QC) requirements became harder since “it’s going to be more difficult to say that you meet those requirements” because of the “accepted range for your calibrators or your QC samples that you run every batch.”
      • On consumer safety, Hart admitted the tradeoff was “always cost versus safety” as not all labs would be able to test for all approved pesticides.
        • There are also thousands of unapproved pesticide active ingredients which labs would not be required to detect.
      • Regarding heavy metals, Hart agreed with the suggestion to test soil and water, remarking that “it’s my understanding that the issues for metals is a lot lower” than pesticides. Pesticides “need to be addressed” even if doing so led to a slight cost increase for the consumer. Hart’s estimate was that adding metals and pesticide testing to the current requirements would cost about $220.
      • Hart said altering lot size could significantly impact a harvest’s microbial and mycotoxin test results given “different conditions in one grow room from one side of the grow room to the next” among otherwise similar plants.
      • For pyrethrins, Hart noted it was commonly used on plants as it was believed to be one of the safer pesticides, being extracted from chrysanthemums. He considered prevalence a poor reason for banning a compound.
      • Hart said “the more notice [of upcoming changes] that people get the better.” He supported staggered requirements to “give the market time to react” and recommended breaking up heavy metals and pesticides into separate groups.
    • Amber Wise (audio – 5m)
      • Wise urged the agency to “think about which products need to get what tests” saying she doubted heavy metals were showing up in cannabis topicals. Her lab had uncovered “failing levels of heavy metals in products” during the last several months even though she didn’t believe “growers are spraying lead on their plants.” Fertilizers and nutrients were more likely to be the source of “mystery things” compromising plants, according to Wise. Carefully considering “what end products need what tests” was preferable to testing every product for every compound.  
      • Wise said that “improved oversight” of labs could bolster public trust. She pointed to the Department of Ecology’s (DOE) Cannabis Science Task Force (CSTF) as one process for improving oversight, but felt WSLCB should “speed that timeline up” as the legislated transition of lab accreditation responsibility was “too long.”
      • Mosely inquired about her lab’s observed failure rate for heavy metals.  Wise answered that it was “about 2%” of her lab’s voluntary samples. She said concentrate products were the “highest concern” and expressed confidence that concentrates weren’t being contaminated by “leaching” of metals from vapor cartridges. Still, Wise admitted that she hadn’t seen data on concentrates tested after they were put into a cartridge.
        • Later in a semi-public forum, Wise said Medicine Creek Analytics “will also soon have the capability of testing the vapor itself…testing oil itself can give us some information, but there are lots of unpredictable (and some predictable) chemistries that occur when heated/vaped/smoked.”
        • In 2018, researchers found “Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users.”
    • Shawn DeNae Wagenseller (audio – 2m, audio – 2m)
      • One phase-in method Wagenseller recommended was to “start testing concentrates for pesticides and heavy metals” and “let that run for a year” before changing testing further. She supported requiring farms to have their soil and water tested by an environmental lab. Wagenseller had heard “those tests are good for a year or even more” for other commodities.
      • As there was no limit on “batch” size for processors, Wagenseller was concerned that some were made in a “continuous run” making source attribution for contaminants difficult. She recommended WSLCB “look at limiting the batch size.” 
      • Wagenseller emphasized that the conversation around testing started in 2016, and that data since then was “proving” that concentrates in the state’s legal market were frequently tainted. Though she expected some processors would disagree, she felt the situation warranted emergency rulemaking by the agency as concentrates “need to be tested, they need to be tested quickly, and they need to be tested now” as it was a potential long-term public health and safety issue. “It’s a cover your ass thing right now,” Wagenseller concluded.
    • Lana Kruger (audio – 1m)
      • Kruger advocated having soil companies test their products, and utility companies certify that their water was safe.
    • Nick Mosely (audio – 2m)
      • Mosely said it might be natural to assume “pesticide exposure begins at the farm and so that’s where we should put all our emphasis on testing.” However, “that’s the least economically efficient way to tackle the liability” of contaminated plants. The testing of final products “places a downward pressure on the primary producers to develop their own screening protocols on a voluntary basis.”
      • Mosely said his lab’s work on the OK Cannabis program had led processors to shop for sources that could provide clean product – an example of industry self-regulation without involving WSLCB.
      • Saying he was “hugely in favor of potency ranges” and lot size increases Mosely remained doubtful “either could be implemented” effectively without addressing sampling as well.
    • Kyle Capizzi (audio – 4m)
      • Capizzi said the phase-in should include “time for study to understand what we’re actually doing and collect data on it.”
      • Capizzi pushed for end product testing of concentrates and preservation of samples of flower sent for extraction. Preserved samples could be tested when a downstream product failed testing to confirm sources of contamination.
      • Capizzi suggested heavy metal contamination could also occur within industrial production environments, not just soil or water.
      • Capizzi noted ‘potency’ was a common, though not scientific, term.
      • Rather than labeling THC ranges, he advocated description of cannabinoid concentrations on “an empirical basis, which is a confidence interval” to foster competition among labs based on measurement precision “rather than price-based.”
    • Jim MacRae (audio – 12m)
      • QA testing “is not a burden,” MacRae said, “it’s something that any reasonable consumer would expect.”
      • He noted that several labs had already prepared for anticipated testing requirements by investing in instrumentation and personnel. Suggestions that an industry which has had DOH rules on compliant products for three years still needed phase-in time struck MacRae as disingenuous. “To delay things when there are existing capabilities in place diminishes the investment of those forward-looking labs,” he surmised. Proactive labs raising consumer safety should be rewarded in MacRae’s estimation, not punished. While the list of labs that had achieved accreditation for heavy metals and pesticide testing wasn’t long, MacRae was confident the remaining businesses could “ramp up fairly significantly on virtually no notice.”
      • For testing of concentrates, MacRae was concerned a focus on pesticides implicitly made detection of heavy metals seem “less important.” Heavy metals were a “known public health threat” whereas “most pesticides have not been tested for inhalation.” For “heavy metals we know what happens when you’re exposed to them. And we know what happens when you’re exposed to them again, and again, and again.”
      • MacRae said he was aware of surveys on cannabis use performed under contract for WSLCB which established the Pareto Principle at work, where a majority of cannabis sales were made by a minority of active consumers. People who “ingest fairly high doses chronically, daily, multiple times per day is actually a big hunk of the market today.” MacRae was concerned that this group was particularly susceptible to contaminated products, as were medical cannabis patients – many of whom consumed cannabis in large doses, could have compromised health, and weren’t using the 502 market out of mistrust. MacRae felt the addition of pesticide and heavy metals testing was “one more reason for those patients to maybe try the regulated system, and that ultimately is a win for virtually every other policy initiative I’ve seen.”
      • Considering what products should be tested, MacRae noted that the majority of products at retail “traditionally” only had to be tested for potency (see WAC 314-55-102(2)(d)). He preferred random testing of end products as “only then are you convinced that you’re actually having stuff that consumers are ingesting being tested.” Looking at the results from the OK Cannabis program, MacRae observed a vendor whose concentrate labels claimed 70-80% cannabinoid purity, but were repeatedly “testing at about 50% to 60% relative on what it was labeled, consistently, every time we looked at them.” While admitting that processor was an outlier, he noted they were only caught due to end product testing.
      • MacRae believed WSLCB “could use a fraction” of the testing samples under their agreement with WSDA to “get this industry hopping” but only if there were “consequences for failures.” He claimed efficient deployment of tests statewide could bring quicker compliance and promised to share a program design.
      • Caitlein Ryan asked for MacRae’s thoughts on “compliance education” so that testing would weed out bad actors instead of licensees who “just need education in order to become compliant.” He responded that most cannabis labs should be equipped to help find “source points” of contamination if specific substances were consistently showing up in a grower’s samples.
      • Mosely supported MacRae’s comments, pointing out that four of Washington’s accredited cannabis labs had pesticide testing capacity plus a fifth which could “get on that list, I think, at any time.” He believed the same was true for heavy metals testing, with two labs accredited for it, and another two in the wings. Mosely said, “I think the capacity is already there” for concentrate testing. Labs had been contacted by WSLCB in 2016 specifically asking about what it would take for them to do heavy metals and pesticide testing. His lab chose to make the investment even though it still hadn’t been required.
    • Douglas Duncan (audio – 3m)
      • Duncan suggested new testing standards be “voluntary for the first year, and anyone that does not pass or does not test for those voluntary tests must put a large, red sticker on their product that says it was not tested. Consume at your own risk.” In Oregon, Duncan was beginning to see a divide between “low cost, low quality bud and high quality, high tested, voluntary tested products.”
      • For heavy metals, Duncan supported soil and water testing in the first year, and potentially a “control study” where a lot was tested for pesticides, while subdivided batches within that lot received terpene and potency testing. This would reduce the number of tests labs had to run, and costs for producers and processors.
      • Instead of potency ranges, Duncan seconded Capizzi’s suggestion that “labs report their error bar, have the labs distinguish themselves by accuracy.
      • Duncan added, “we’ve done a study that the over-quantification [of THC in products or flower] is due to [Cannabichromene] CBC coeluting with THCA. If you add CBC as an independent cannabinoid that is mandatory to be tested you can distinguish between the labs that are coeluting and quantifying independently.”
      • WSLCB’s draft QA rules read “Any psychoactive cannabis derivative intentionally added to the formula of a product must be tested for potency.” Instead, Duncan recommended following Massachusetts testing regulations which specify “any psychoactive compound,” a change intended to thwart the practice of introducing synthetic cannabinoid compounds in products.
    • Julie Kowalski (audio – 1m)
      • Hoffman received an emailed comment from Kowalski saying Consequences of pesticide failures need to be severe enough to encourage growers and processors to do significant testing. This is how food safety is structured and why food companies have some of the best and most sophisticated testing. They can’t afford to fail. As an example would be increased required testing if you fail. After showing clean products testing could be reduced.”
    • Jeff Doughty (audio – 8m)
      • Doughty suggested “pesticide-free sections at retail” could highlight clean products without requiring large warning stickers.
      • Doughty called for a “hard date” for new testing rules so labs would know what instruments they would be required to use and when. He agreed with MacRae’s point about current lab capacity being scalable, indicating Capitol Analysis could weather sudden rule changes through business relationships with other accredited labs.
      • Doughty was supportive of end product testing and urged the agency to associate required testing with the type of product.
      • Doughty seconded the call to report test confidence intervals as it would create competitive advantages for better performing labs.
      • Harper, a WSLCB Marijuana Examiner, asked how error bars or confidence ranges could “be translated into a more consumable number for Washington State consumers.” Doughty answered that he was supportive of testing ranges but cautioned “let’s not get out of control here” with overly broad or overly specific ranges. Instead, the state should “grade the lab[‘s proficiency] based on the data they’re providing.”
    • Alan Boner (audio – 2m)
      • Boner said the “time of implementation should be right now,” and that specifications for testing and product labeling should match.
      • “The future of everyone here depends on people buying legal product,” and that unregulated cannabis sales in Washington “could be affected” by proper enforcement of testing and labeling rules.
    • Mark Ambler (audio – 3m)
      • Ambler, founder of T1PA, sent Hoffman a comment saying that his organization “requests a review” of the SBEIS to “quantify the ability of mitigation efforts to offset the detrimental impact” from new rules. If mitigation wasn’t sufficient, Ambler felt “Tier 1 producers should be exempt” from additional requirements.
      • Ambler’s email said T1PA also requested Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Method 6200, a heavy metals detection procedure, “be allowed to be performed at our facilities for heavy metals compliance.”
      • Ambler asked that Tier 1 producers be permitted to combine samples “and provide a single report for pesticide compliance.” Tier 1 farms would be deemed “a quarantine facility” with training to identify pests before combining samples. Ambler asked for Tier 1s to be allowed to transport cannabis prior to testing for the purpose of combining sample lots.
      • Amber suggested Tier 1s be allowed to “fundraise by selling directly to the public” and be tested once a year, provided they are only harvesting once a year.
      • In anticipation of broader legalization, Ambler also suggested WSLCB exempt any cannabis exported outside Washington from having to meet the state’s testing requirements.
      • Ambler promised to share a video of concepts “being presented to all Tier 1 producers which would help to mitigate the cost of this potential rule.”
      • In conclusion, Ambler warned the rule process could “completely destroy the small cannabis farmers” and that WSLCB should not move forward unless “mitigation has been thoroughly vetted and quantified.”
    • Mike Schmitt (audio – 2m)
      • Schmitt said his employer, SōRSE Technology, created extraction technology and was trying to keep abreast of rules in Washington state. He felt licensees needed to better understand the risks they faced from their raw materials and the risks “passed on to your consumers.” As different states had different testing practices, Schmitt welcomed the opportunity to learn from the group to help his company create better products.
    • Kendra Hodgson (audio – 2m)
      • Hodgson shared that the top cannabis product type in Washington state continued to be cannabis flower representing 67% of the units sold, while concentrates made up 22% of the market. The remainder was infused food or beverages.
    • Eric Clayton (audio – 3m)
      • Hoffman walked through questions and comments received from Clayton, beginning with “What mitigation is currently used for a plan to be enacted for verifying laboratories are providing quality data to regulatory agencies?” Attendees agreed the CSTF was one entity fostering that.
      • “Are state chemists reviewing lab practices and generated data?” WSLCB’s lab accreditation vendor RJ Lee performed those audits.
      • “Laboratories are just as prone to providing questionable data due to poor handling, sampling, and training as producers.”
      • Heavy metals are not evenly distributed within a cannabis plant; parts of plants used to create concentrates can affect levels of contaminants. And second, contaminants can be introduced via additional chemicals” leading otherwise clean plants to test positive for them. WSLCB Marijuana Examiner Robert Villemaire said the flowers and end products would both be tested for contaminants.
    • Miguel ‘Miggy’ Santiago (audio – 1m)
      • A comment from Santiago was read: “if testing for the multiple components of molds to metals is required and the results are mandatory to be on the label, the consumer will still smoke it, it just gives them a chance to know what’s in their flower. Testing for all consumption, medical versus recreational, should be equally mandatory.”
  • Hoffman answered final questions before closing out the three-hour session (audio – 10m).
    • Hoffman thanked participants for their information and their help creating rules “that withstand the test of time.” She hoped the agency was generally moving from a tightly controlled approach “to a place where [WSLCB] is loosening that a little bit.”
    • For next steps, Hoffman promised she would “memorialize” the comments from the session into a spreadsheet organized by theme which would be sent out to stakeholders. 
    • Wise asked about the timeline for feedback on the current rule process and Hoffman asked attendees to “give it a month.” Paths were “developing forward” but still needed to be analyzed by the agency. While many labs were ready for expanded testing, many producers weren’t. “We want to be sure that we’re doing the best for everyone involved,” Hoffman said.
    • Capizzi asked Hoffman to relate any comment themes back to the earlier listen and learn session to help identify new and repeated concepts. Hoffman said they’d be looking at overlap “and divergence” of opinions.
    • Wagenseller said many questions around testing related back to medical patients, and the DOH “has been pretty silent” about changes in testing thus far. She asked if WSLCB had been engaging with the department on a single pesticide list, as cannabis “should be clean” regardless of one’s intentions for consuming it. Hoffman was in agreement on the need for consistently clean products, and that the agency was “working on coordinating with DOH and WSDA.” Hoffman felt communicating with them was a challenging opportunity moving forward. Gregory Foster reported that he’d spoken with DOH Medical Marijuana Program Operational Manager Shelly Rowden following the CSTF meeting who reported that DOH “was waiting to see what LCB does.” Erhlich said that WSLCB staff had spoken with Ryan Black, DOH Deputy Director of Policy and Legislative Relations, who expressed interest in alignment with WSLCB. However, Erhlich asserted “some components of these rule changes will probably lead [DOH] to need to explore some more philosophical questions about the very nature of their program.

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