Is there such a thing as too many rules? In Oregon, some people think so, particularly when it comes to the new and stricter marijuana testing standards.
The new standards, which went into effect on October 1, were meant to standardize cannabis product testing and protect the public, but they may have gone a step too far. Since the new standards went into effect, around 22% of cannabis companies have admitted to failing the tests, and 43% have reported a loss of $20,000 or more per month, according to a survey by Whitney Economics.
And the problems aren’t just limited to failure and revenue loss. The new testing requirements are also causing huge delays for getting product to the shelf. “It used to take two days to get test results back,” says Myron Chadowitz, CFO of Cannassentials—a farm-to-table, organic marijuana farm located outside of Eugene, Oregon. “Then, when the new testing standards went into effect, it started to take ten days. Now, it takes two to three weeks to get our results back.”
Unfortunately, the reason behind the delays isn’t a simple fix. There are quite a few issues at play, the first being the lack of accredited labs. According to the new standards, every testing lab needs to be accredited by the ORELAP and licensed by the OLCC, which has limited the number of available labs. The labs also now operate under new testing standards, which have caused test failures in 40-60% of submissions, according to the Whitney survey. Consequently, those delays are causing a huge shortage of marijuana products on the shelf.
“We’ve always grown all of our product using the concept of ‘living soil,’ meaning that we don’t use anything synthetic, artificial, or toxic to feed our plants…”
Due to Cannassentials’ philosophy of using only organic living soil and probiotic farming methods to grow their bud, they’ve never had to worry about failed tests. “We’ve always grown all of our product using the concept of ‘living soil,’ meaning that we don’t use anything synthetic, artificial, or toxic to feed our plants,” explains Shane Budd, a Master Grower at Cannassentials. “As a result, our healthy plants can pass any test and withstand any pressure.”
In fact, the regulations have actually helped Cannassentials in some ways, by increasing the demand for their product. “We’re having a hard time keeping up with demand. That’s the thing that keeps me up at night,” says Myron. “Often, I have to explain to our customers that we can’t get them product for a few weeks.” Perhaps a good problem to have, but still a problem.
Although they’ve tried to incorporate the extended testing time into their business practices, the fact is that there is less marijuana on the market, which increases the demand for their high-quality product. And there’s no doubt that they grow quality cannabis.
“Our goal is to grow marijuana that tastes and smells great. It should be a clean burning flower that provides a consistent olfactory experience the entire time you smoke it.”
Throughout 2016, Cannassentials has managed to take home six different industry awards for their flowers and growing practices. Most recently, their strain of Orange Haze won 1st Place for Best Flower Nose (Medical) Category at the 2016 Oregon Dope Cup.
“Without a doubt, Orange Haze is our most pungent strain,” explains Shane. “It can practically be used as incense. Our goal is to grow marijuana that tastes and smells great. It should be a clean burning flower that provides a consistent olfactory experience the entire time you smoke it.” And that’s exactly what they’ve accomplished.
In the end, that’s the goal behind the new marijuana testing standards in Oregon: to put better product on the market. Before the stricter standards, there was a lot of cannabis in the Oregon marketplace that shouldn’t have been there.
“We’ve heard of businesses failing the strict lab requirements because they didn’t know what was in the products they used to grow their plants. They focused solely on pushing yields and growing as much as they could in a cramped space. That’s a bad thing since the ‘allowable’ limits of toxins really shouldn’t be allowable in the first place because there are some products that are just not healthy for you, especially when you burn them,” Shane explains.
While the new rules in Oregon might be difficult, they’re not necessarily a bad thing for consumers. It just means that the product you pick up now will be far better tasting, and better for you.
What are your thoughts on the Oregon marijuana industry? Are you finding better product, or just more problems?
Also published on Medium.