Lab Matters Spring 2017 - Page 31

public health preparedness and response

Colorado Puts Cannabis Testing on High Priority by Samuel Abrams , MPH , specialist , Public Health Preparedness and Response

For a drug that once carried a life sentence for possession in Texas , the last 20 years has seen sweeping reform to cannabis policy in the US . Although Colorado legalized it for medical use in 2000 , its 2012 legalization for recreational usage brought new challenges for public health officials . In March 2017 , APHL Public Health Preparedness and Response ( PHPR ) staff visited the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment ( CDPHE ) Laboratory Services Division , to discuss CDPHE ’ s role in the Laboratory Response Network , biosafety and outreach to sentinel clinical laboratories and testing for cannabis and associated products .

Colorado ’ s booming cannabis industry has seen an expansion to almost 250 licensed recreational marijuana product manufacturers . 1 Currently , products are tested by just 13 private laboratories , which perform a variety of tests for potency , homogeneity and contamination from residual solvents and microbials such as bacteria and fungus . 2 Additional test requirements will soon be implemented to check for the presence of pesticides , as well as for heavy metals such as lead and cadmium .

Certification of private laboratories falls under the responsibility of the CDPHE Laboratory Services Division . These on-site inspections by CDPHE staff ensure that laboratories are operating with proper quality control measures and procedures deemed appropriate for testing , all of which are done to ensure the safety of the final product that consumers will purchase in retail outlets . Acting as a technical resource for the private laboratories , CDPHE also oversees the proficiency testing program that private laboratories use to internally audit their capabilities .
Moving forward , CDPHE expects to see its role quickly expand . When a manufacturer disagrees with the results provided by a private laboratory , CDPHE will be relied upon to confirm the quality of the product . Similar to foodborne disease outbreaks , the laboratory can also be called into action to determine the source of a marijuana product suspected to be causing illness from the presence of a microbial agent . Since private laboratories use proprietary testing methods , CDPHE faces the task of developing its own laboratory techniques to ensure consistent and reliable results . This requires the hiring and training of new staff as well as the procurement of equipment such as gas and liquid chromatography systems .
As with any new program , recreational marijuana is sure to create new challenges for CDPHE . Fortunately for Coloradans , their public health laboratory has made it a high priority .
References 1 . Retail Marijuana Product Manufacturers . https :// www . colorado . gov / pacific / sites / default / files / Product % 20
03012017 . pdf
2 . Retail Marijuana Testing Facilities . https :// www . colorado . gov / pacific / sites / default / files / RLab % 2003012017 . pdf
3 . Guidance for State Medical Cannabis Testing Programs https :// www . aphl . org / AboutAPHL / publications / Documents / EH-Guide-State-Med-Cannabis-052016 . pdf
Medical cannabis has been approved for use in a number of states but remains outside federal control . As has been reported , the absence of federal guidance when it comes to cannabis testing has led states to develop their own approaches . Since 2014 , APHL ’ s Environmental Health program has convened a monthly community of practice call so that member laboratories could share questions , advice , lessons learned and resources . As a result of these calls , APHL developed Guidance for State Medical Cannabis Testing Programs 3 for laboratorians charged with assessing existing programs , as well as developing new testing programs .
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