The Need for Cannabis Standards
Q. You have long been involved with ASTM and work on committees such as roofing and waterproofing (D08) and rubber and rubber-like materials (D11), which are seemingly unrelated to cannabis. How did you then become chair of the cannabis committee?
A. In many ways, that is the first reaction many people have. Believe it or not, there are many members in this field who have a background in construction. If you think about it, many of the materials and systems required for greenhouses are from standard building materials and systems.
My involvement had to do with timing more than anything else. I was chair of the board in 2016, and it also was around that time that the Government of Canada announced plans to legalize cannabis. I was looking at what role, if any, NRC [National Research Council of Canada] Metrology would play and thought of normative standards as well as reference materials because of the problems that the industry was mentioning (e.g., different labs gave different results).
I then discussed with Dan Smith [ASTM’s vice president, technical committee operations] the need for standards in this area, and he said that I was the second person to raise this issue. From there, at an NCSLI meeting, I gave a conference keynote on the need for standards and how ASTM could work in this area. The second keynote was Jeremy Applen, who is now the D37 vice chair. We just kept being part of discussions with ASTM staff. The rest, as they say, is history.
Q. Why are standards needed for cannabis?
A. A big issue is related to safe consumption. Many users have health issues and are looking at using cannabis for relief from these issues. Others are using it for recreational purposes.
Whichever the purpose, people need to know that they are consuming something that is fit-for-consumption. People need to know how much they are consuming, what the components are, whether the delivery devices are safe, if the material was stored properly, and so on.
Standards are also needed to ensure that the producers of goods know what they are selling both in terms of the quantity of THC and the quality of the product (e.g., absence of pesticides, etc.). It will help with sales and exports and imports.
Q. How are cannabis standards relevant in regulation, certification, and industry?
A. That is a big part of several subcommittees. All areas are important, but for there to be a safe and reliable supply of cannabis, all parties involved need to have the proper standards available to them.
For certification to be effective and credible, one needs to know how to evaluate the cannabis product and what to evaluate for. Industry wants to be able to demonstrate that they are reliable and have a safe product, so they want to demonstrate that they meet standards. This is how the industry as a whole will gain credibility.
Q. How would you characterize the cannabis committee?
A. The members of D37 are very committed and engaged. To their credit, they saw that the road to being considered a legitimate sector was through standards. We are fortunate to have a committed group of leaders on the executive subcommittee who are dynamic and engage many volunteers to help develop standards. We are also fortunate to have someone like Bob Morgan as our staff manager. He has been a great resource for the committee, especially given that the majority of our members are new to ASTM.
The momentum is there. That is why we have developed 15 standards with many more in the works. We have over 900 members from around the world — 26 countries in total. The record for distance traveled goes to one of our members from New Zealand, who came to the United States specifically for our committee week. As is usually the case for committees, it is all about the members. They are identifying the pressing needs for standard development, and they are willing to take the pen and write the standards that the entire committee then weighs in on. Luckily, ASTM has many templates that help guide standards development.
Q. What would you consider the most important issue facing the cannabis industry right now, and how would standards help solve it?
A. Ultimately, credibility is the biggest issue. Consumers need to know what they are getting and that if they choose to consume, it will be free of pesticides, etc. They need to know how much they are consuming, and they need to know that should a problem occur, there will be a means of identifying the problem and that a recall will take place. They need to know that it was processed properly and they need to know that the method of delivery is reliable, does not contain heavy metals, and more. ■
READ MORE: Cannabis Cetification