Medical cannabis use in the United States has become more widespread as more states enact laws making it legal for doctors to prescribe, and patients to thereby consume marijuana for certain ailments. Simultaneously, President Obama recently signed the Farm Bill, which legitimizes industrial hemp research and authorizes institutions of higher education or state department’s of agriculture in states that legalized hemp cultivation to conduct pilot programs.
Medical cannabis can be taken in many forms – from marijuana inhalation, edibles and tinctures to hemp-based lotions, serums and oil – making its popularity skyrocket in recent years. The problem, though, is that you cannot go to your favorite pharmacy to pick these items up like you would a regular prescription.
As a result, testing and quality control standards in the budding medical cannabis industry are extremely important to ensure the health and safety of medical cannabis users and patients.
Quality Starts With Growers
The quality and potency of each cannabis and hemp plant starts first with the grower. Growers should uphold the strictest standards to ensure their finished product is free from pesticides and micro-organisms.
Unfortunately, as of now there is no standard of practice or any checks and balances in the United States to ensure that these quality controls are in place. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has Pesticide Tolerance Limits for crops grown on U.S. soil, but none as of yet for cannabis or hemp crops. As such, the marijuana in state dispensaries is largely unregulated. This can theoretically spell disaster for patients looking for a safe alternative.
After all, with the chemical onslaught that a cancer patient faces with mainstream treatment, the last thing they need to reduce their pain and nausea is a plant laced with more chemicals.
Finding Reputable Dispensaries
With the lack of government regulation, finding a reputable dispensary or hemp product can be difficult. Here are a few things to look for when choosing the right one for your needs:
– The professionally trained staff should be able to tell you about the cannabinoid profile in the various products they offer.
– They should be knowledgeable about what strains are best for what ailments.
Third Party Certification
Luckily, there are third-party certification programs that are picking up where the government is slacking. These independent testers use high-tech lab equipment, such as Gas and High-performance Liquid Chromatography and Mass Spectrometers, to measure potency and look for microbial or other contaminants. One such independent certifier, the American Herbal Products Association, is a national organization dedicated to promoting responsibility within the herbal products industry by working to address issues related to the safe use and responsible commerce of legally-marketed products derived from the Cannabis species. A patient looking for a quality product would be wise to seek out their medical cannabis from those who have third-party certifications such as this.
The overall efficacy of medical cannabis and hemp is affected by its environment as it is growing. Because of this factors, it is important to ask the right question when shopping around for medical cannabis products. Is the strain higher in THC or CBD? What percentage of each is in it? Is it free of pesticides and contaminants? Was it grown organically? What are the effects of using this product? These are all questions that the patient needs to know so they can make informed decisions.
Patient advocates are calling for everything from grower’s standards, quality testing and better packaging. The industry is in its infancy, but for it to be maintained for the long-term, these things must be put into place.
It is in the best interest of everyone – from grower to patient – to ensure this happens soon.