The growing pains appear to finally be over for Oregon’s cannabis testing system.
Oregon has transitioned from medical cannabis only under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) to a new focus on the recreational market during the last three years. During that time there have been adjustments to the rules and laws regulating the level of contaminants in cannabis. The biggest change came in 2016 when the state instituted pesticide action levels as part of a process to standardize testing at cannabis laboratories in the state. (See OAR 333-007-0300 to 333-007-0490 and OAR 333-064-0100 to 333-064-0110.)
While many labs were equipped and certified to test for contaminants like solvents, not many were prepared for the pesticide requirements. In fact, only five labs in the state were accredited to test for pesticides by October of 2016. This shortage of access to testing bottlenecked the supply for the state and created the appearance to many outside of the industry that labs may have been closed.
A study from Portland-based economist Beau Whitney in 2016, which included responses from surveys of Oregon marijuana businesses, found that more than 20% of business were failing while 81% had to raise prices.
Under pressure from the cannabis industry and the public in October 2016 the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) eventually temporarily eased the standards to require that only a third of all batches from a producer had to be tested. Remediation for some pesticides and contaminants also became allowable in some situations.
“The governor has been clear about the importance of the marijuana industry to Oregon’s economy,” Jeff Rhoades, marijuana policy adviser for Governor Kate Brown, said in an OHA statement. “This approach keeps Oregonians employed, prevents marijuana product from slipping back into the illegal market, and continues to protect public health and safety.”
These temporary changes bought time for Oregon’s cannabis testing labs to adjust to the influx of new rules. Last August the OHA rescinded their temporary orders and moved to have all batches from cannabis producers tested for pesticides. The state claimed that, at the time, 10 labs were fully accredited for all required tests.
Oregon continues to have issues with cannabis producer licensing, canopy size, and other ways the market is regulated, but it appears that the supply shortage for cannabis testing was short-lived.