In the past five months, almost half of all labs in the state of Nevada responsible for testing marijuana have had their licenses suspended by the Nevada Tax Department. There are nine labs responsible for marijuana testing in Nevada, and four of them have lost their licenses since the Nevada Tax Department took over marijuana regulation last July.
Stephanie Klapstein is a spokesperson for the Nevada Tax Department spokeswoman. She said: “Our aim is to address issues early – well before anything rises to the level of a public health or safety concern. Independent testing labs serve an essential function as quality assurance before products reach the public. We want them to understand we have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to regulatory noncompliance, even in cases where good lab practices are not followed but there is no imminent public health concern.”
The labs have been shut down due to a lack of “following proper procedure,” according to Klapstein, but no other details have been offered. In response, most labs are working to amend the issues highlighted by the Nevada Tax Board and working toward submitting a “Plan of Correction” so they can be up and running again as soon as possible.
One of the labs has formerly run into trouble with regulatory agencies for advertising local cannabis dining and cocktail events on behalf of other companies. Such activities appear to be viewed as a conflict of interest by Clark County commissioners. The lab in question ultimately avoided revocation of their license by investing heavily in a university study on drug abuse among children, making and disseminating a pamphlet detailing Nevada’s marijuana laws, and hosting free lectures on state marijuana laws.
The Role of Marijuana Testing Labs
In an effort to ensure the safety of products purchased by consumers, independent testing labs are used to identify any potential issues before products hit the shelves. That is, product samples are tested for mold, pathogens, and parasites as well as for potency to ensure uniformity among products. Should a sample fail a test for any reason, labs are directed to inform the state immediately, and the company that sent in the product for testing and the manufacturer would be expected to dump the entire product batch. When some labs choose instead to run a second test before informing the state, government regulatory agencies step in. The idea is to enforce uniformity among all testing facilities and make sure all consumers can trust that all products are being tested with high standards and transparency.
Jason Sturtsman is a cultivation license holder who also sits on the Nevada Independent Cannabis Laboratory Advisory Committee. He says: “You don’t see this in any other market because our Department of Taxation is going above and beyond to make sure everyone’s doing this on up and up. The state of Nevada and Department of Taxation are doing everything possible to look out for the safety of consumers.”
Safety in Marijuana Use: Any Oxymoron?
While it is a positive thing to know that the production of marijuana plants and products are being rigorously tested for safety, potency, and uniformity, there is some concern that there is not enough focus being placed on protecting children and teens from exposure to these substances, especially edibles that are packaged with little to no indication that they contain marijuana, or keeping the roads safe from drugged drivers. Instead, the focus so far seems heavily weighted on ensuring that the flow of product continues without interruption and thus the generation of tax revenue is uninterrupted as well.
There are a number of risks associated with marijuana use and abuse. While it is good to know that regulators are making sure none of the weed sold on shelves is moldy, it would be better to know that due effort is being place on ensuring there are treatment services available to those who develop an addiction as a result of their use of these now-legal substances. Government support for people impacted by marijuana use disorders in the community would go a long way toward making sure that real safety measures are in place to protect all involved.
What do you think?