The Cannabis Safety Institute is run by an Advisory Board of scientists, doctors, and regulatory experts committed to providing the rigorous scientific data and expertise necessary to ensure the safety of the legal Cannabis industry.
Cannabis use is now legal, in one form or another, in close to half of the states in the US. Each of these states has had to struggle individually with the logistics and policy issues involved in implementing these programs. Regulating its production and sale in a safe and reasonable manner has been complicated by an almost complete lack of scientific research, and by the absence of guidance from the federal agencies that would normally provide expertise and oversight. Most states simply don’t have the scientific resources necessary to ensure the safety of a major agricultural crop that is used both medically and recreationally and that very little is known about.
In the absence of guidance from the USDA and the FDA, each state with a significant legal Cannabis industry has tried, in its own way, to implement some kind of regulatory framework to protect public health. Many states have required some kind of pesticide testing, and many of them have produced lists of microorganisms to be tested for on Cannabis. Potency testing has become widespread, either because of market forces or state mandate or both. Certain states have other requirements, such as tests for heavy metals or for mycotoxins, or for residual solvents in extracts made from Cannabis.
In addition, many states have allowed or even encouraged the growth of a testing industry composed of local laboratories that perform analytical chemistry and microbiological testing on Cannabis. There are now dozens of such labs in existence, and for the most part they are unregulated, un-certified, and not held to any particular standard. In the absence of federal support, most states have made the decision that some safety testing must be better than no testing at all.
The mission of the Cannabis Safety Institute is to provide the research and expertise that the states have not had access to. The scientists on the Advisory Board of the Institute are in agreement that, in fact, some testing is not better than no testing at all. Some states have required tests that are inappropriate or meaningless for this type of plant. Many of them have failed to require tests for organisms or contaminants that could actually lead to extraordinarily serious public health consequences. And most of them have allowed new and un-accredited labs to perform these tests with practically no oversight or regulation.
It is not good public health policy to allow these products to be sold to the public with stamps on them indicating that they have been safety tested. False guarantees are much more dangerous than a lack of any guarantee. Until it is clear what tests should be performed, and until the laboratories performing the tests are accredited by the same standards as any analytical laboratory performing food safety or water safety testing, it would be wiser for Cannabis to be sold without any assurance of safety.
The scientific knowledge necessary to determine what kind of testing should be done on a new crop like this is available. The standards used to determine how analytical laboratories must be run in order to be relied upon, are likewise available. The Cannabis Safety Institute has compiled most of this information in the form of white papers designed to be useful to state regulators and to industry stakeholders themselves. Cannabis is not a particularly dangerous crop, by any means. But an unregulated testing industry could turn almost any plant into a serious public health threat.