What Are The Cannabis Testing Rules in Oregon?

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By Roshawn Reordan
Green Leaf Lab

Many of us are aware that the rules guiding and shaping the cannabis industry in Oregon seem to change every week. As a result, it can be confusing and overwhelming to know what is current, what has changed and what is about to change. Our goal is to help bring clarity to what we currently know about testing in Oregon.

HB 3400 has mandated new testing rules that are aimed at protecting consumers. This is accomplished by ensuring that all cannabis products and items are assessed using proper quality control criteria by requiring specific analytical testing and oversight of analytical testing facilities. These new rules were originally required as of June 1, 2016. This date has now been changed to October 1, 2016.

One of the changes to the amended rules will require that analytical testing labs not only be licensed through the OLCC, but also be accredited through the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ORELAP) using NELAC standards. Accreditation means that laboratories will be required to perform tests that show proficiency by the lab in the testing that they are performing. Laboratories will need to show that the method by which they perform the testing is proven and validated. Laboratories also will have personnel requirements that show technical competence.

As many know, pesticides can be harmful to health as well as to the environment. Another change in the amended rules concerns pesticide testing. Oregon HB 3460’s dispensary legislation required testing for a broad list of four classes of pesticides. These requirements specify each compound that must be tested. The new list of pesticides can be found at the Oregon Dispensary Program website (www.oregon.gov/oha/mmj/Pages/rules.aspx), under the Rules section and the Exhibit A tables 3 and 4 links. There are 59 pesticides for which testing is required. The pesticide list is complex and rigorous. Two separate analytical instruments will be needed in order to accurately and legitimately test for all of the compounds.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has reference information regarding pesticide use and a guidance list regarding the use of pesticides on cannabis. The ODA’s cannabis guide list can be found at www.oregon.gov/ODA/shared/Documents/Publications/PesticidesPARC/GuidelistPesticideCannabis.pdf. However, for growers and producers who want to ensure that their product will pass the new testing requirements, we recommend that they order extended pesticide testing, in addition to the current compliance testing. This will allow internal research and development to assess the need to change one’s standard operating procedures before the new testing requirements take effect.

A Green Leaf Lab scientist analyzing a sample.
A Green Leaf Lab scientist analyzing a sample.

Residual solvents are another set of problematic compounds that can affect consumer safety and health. Residual solvent testing will be a new requirement and includes a list of 45 compounds that a laboratory will be required to analyze. Residual solvent testing will be required for products that are processed using any of the compounds found on the residual solvent testing table referred to above.

Sampling methods will be another change for many in the industry. As of October 1, 2016, the sampling of cannabis items and products may only be performed by a laboratory that is accredited by ORELAP to perform sampling. This will require more planning on the part of those ordering testing services and an understanding of exactly what they want tested and what types of testing will be performed. Once the order has been placed for sampling, it will guide the sampler on how and what types of instruments they will need to properly perform the sampling.

Water activity is another new testing requirement. Water activity is a test that assesses the likelihood of microbiological growth on usable cannabis. If water activity is measured and falls at 0.65 Aѡ or below it will be considered passing. If it falls above that threshold it will fail the test.

Batch sizes also will be required for all cannabis products. Batch size for usable marijuana will be 10 lbs. Batch size for concentrates, extracts and marijuana products will be a process lot. Process lot is any amount of a cannabinoid concentrate or extract of the same type that is processed using the same extraction methods, standard operating procedures (SOP) and batches from the same or a different harvest lot; or any amount of a cannabinoid product of the same type that is processed using the same ingredients, SOP and batches from the same, or a different harvest lot or process lot of cannabinoid concentrate or extract. To ensure that testing is financially viable, we recommend that producers and growers grow enough plants of the same strain to ensure that they can test a whole batch. This will spread the cost of testing over multiple pounds of the same product.
The rules spell out remedies for products that fail testing for residual solvents, potency limits, water activity, microbiological analyses and pesticides. However, remedying the product requires remediation as well as testing validation. Failed pesticide analysis has no remedy; the product will have to be destroyed.

While many rules are still being fleshed out and some will be changed before they become permanent, we hope to share what we do know and help you prepare for a successful transition to the new testing requirements. Remember that rules may change before October 1, 2016.

The last take-away to remember is that any product that has been transferred to a dispensary before October 1, 2016, may still be sold if it was tested under the old rules, but it must have the proper disclaimer on it. Any product that is transferred to a dispensary after October 1, 2016, must comply with all the new testing requirements. However, a dispensary is not prevented from accepting test results under the new standards before October 1, 2016.

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