March 2, 2024

Navigating Cannabis Testing Regulations: Guarding Against Fungus, Bacteria, and More

The cannabis industry, in its youth and rapid expansion, constantly undergoes transformations, particularly in the realm of regulatory frameworks. The absence of national, federal standards has resulted in state-level governance for cannabis businesses, leading to a landscape that can be perplexing for professionals in the field.

Amidst this regulatory uncertainty, safety emerges as a paramount concern for cannabis businesses engaged in cultivation, packaging, and distribution. The absence of universal standards has prompted states to individually regulate cannabis safety, emphasizing the importance of testing for and preventing the growth of contaminants like fungus, bacteria, and other potential threats to consumer well-being. In this discussion, we delve into the significance of cannabis safety, the existing regulations, and the proactive measures cannabis growers can take to meet safety standards.

Why Emphasize Cannabis Safety? 

Ensuring cannabis safety is imperative for multiple reasons, primarily due to the product’s intended ingestion. Contaminants in cannabis pose serious risks to users, with heightened concerns for immunocompromised and vulnerable individuals, especially as medical cannabis usage becomes more prevalent. Maintaining a vigilant stance against risks is crucial for safeguarding end users’ safety and well-being.

Indoor cannabis cultivation environments often create conditions conducive to mold, bacteria, and pathogen proliferation. Facility operators must be equipped to control these conditions and conduct necessary tests to meet local regulations. In the event of unacceptable contaminant levels, cannabis manufacturers should be well-versed in appropriate responses.

Understanding Cannabis Industry Regulations 

Given the absence of uniform national regulations, cannabis industry regulations vary by state, each emphasizing product safety. State regulations typically mandate testing for specific contaminants, with products exceeding acceptable contaminant levels subject to destruction. While prioritizing safety is paramount, the financial implications of losing product underscore the challenges faced by cannabis manufacturers.

Common tests mandated by state regulations include:

  • Total yeast and mold
  • Select mold strains
  • Salmonella
  • coli
  • Total aerobic presence
  • Total enteric presence

Some states may require additional testing for pathogens, underscoring the need for comprehensive safety measures. In anticipation of future federal regulations, cannabis manufacturers are also establishing in-house standards to bolster consumer protection and business resilience.

Moreover, regulations play a crucial role in protecting not only end users but also the growers and personnel working within cannabis facilities.

Cleanrooms: Elevating Safety Standards 

To meet and exceed regulatory standards while prioritizing safety for end users and workers, many cannabis facilities are adopting cleanroom settings and practices for cultivation. Cleanrooms, commonly utilized in industrial, medical, and food-grade manufacturing, minimize contaminant risks through strategic design, controlled airflow, and stringent personnel procedures.

Cleanroom Design:

  • Easy-to-clean, non-porous surfaces prevent contaminants from embedding and facilitate easy removal.
  • Humidity-resistant surfaces combat mold and bacteria by resisting humidity buildup.
  • Modular construction ensures tight seals and a fully controlled environment.

Controlled Airflow:

  • Cleanrooms cycle air based on their rating, often up to 48 times per hour. HEPA filters ensure contaminants are effectively filtered out, preventing reentry.

Personnel Procedures:

  • Access to cleanrooms is tightly controlled, requiring adherence to specific preparation, gowning, and cleaning procedures. Stringent protocols within cleanrooms minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, staying abreast of the current regulatory landscape equips businesses to make informed choices for their facilities, fostering a culture of safety and compliance.

 

Infographic provided by Technical Safety Services, provider of biosafety cabinet certification