Cannabis is found in many types of products, including oils, waxes, and edible treats, making analytical testing a challenge.
A nurse, a pharmacist, a former casino employee, and a few dozen other people hoping to cash in on Maryland’s medical cannabis industry gathered in mid-October at a day spa in the state. They were there as prospective dispensary employees to be trained by an advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, about standards and procedures for ensuring the safety and quality of medical cannabis products.
Maryland, like dozens of other U.S. states, has legalized the medical use of cannabis, even though possession of such products is still illegal under federal law. More than 100 dispensaries have already obtained preliminary licenses to sell cannabis products in Maryland, and they expect to open their doors to qualified patients in the coming months.
States such as Maryland that are gearing up to launch medical cannabis industries are taking quality and safety seriously. They have the advantage of learning from mistakes made by other states, such as Arizona, California, Colorado, and Washington, which blazed the trail for medical cannabis legalization several years ago.
When the medical cannabis industry first emerged, no analytical testing standards or guidelines existed. States learned the importance of analytical testing for safety and quality the hard way. Cannabis products arrived at dispensaries contaminated with pesticides, residual solvents, and mold. Inaccurately labeled products with the wrong dosages of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, also raised concerns.
“Cannabis itself is quite chemically complex,” says Melissa Wilcox, sales and market development manager at Regis Technologies, a company that makes columns and other supplies for chromatography instruments. It contains “cannabinoids, such