Federal, state and local officials convened for a national conference this week where members discussed and advanced proposals to establish standards for marijuana products that could later be formally adopted into a federal handbook.
Two committees of the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) had cannabis-related items on the agenda. If any of them are ultimately approved at a subsequent meeting this summer, they would be incorporated into federal guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
NCWM’s Laws and Regulations Committee discussed proposals to establish a definition for cannabis and cannabis-containing products, develop a policy for the water activity range for marijuana and standardize packaging and labeling requirements.
Those first two items did move forward and achieve voting status, meaning that NCWM members will have the opportunity to adopt them into the NIST handbook when they convene again in July. The latter proposal, which specifically concerned creating a national standard for the weight of packages that contain marijuana, did not advance to voting status during this interim meeting and will continue to be considered in the future.
NCWM’s Specifications and Tolerances Committee, meanwhile, presented a proposal to develop “scale suitability requirements” for the direct sale of bulk marijuana to dispensaries in legal states. That one is still being workshopped, however, and it too will be reworked at later sessions.
“As states legalize sales of cannabis in its various forms, the need has arisen for uniform standards for scale suitability,” the justification section of that proposal says. “Uniform requirements from one state to the next, will strengthen each jurisdiction’s ability to effectively regulate the industry in a fair and equitable manner. Uniform standards also provide industry with expectations regardless of the jurisdiction, reducing potential conflict or confusion.”
The purpose of this week’s interim meeting was to consider the proposals, take comment from stakeholders and decide whether to advance them to a vote at NCWM’s annual meeting in July.
“These regulations are much needed,” Matthew Curran, food safety director of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services who participated in the conference, told Marijuana Moment. The proposals “have the potential to become the first national standard—not federal standards—but national standards through a national consensus organization that virtually every state taps into.”
“When you have national standards, it allows for harmony across state lines,” he said. “Whereas without those, each state can do their own thing and so you end up with potentially 50 boutique markets, which makes it really hard to regulate, really hard for industry to grow.”
Through its Office of Weights and Measures, NIST, a federal agency that has separately investigated marijuana issues and worked to develop testing standards, provided analyses of the NCWM proposals but does not play a voting role in whether the conference items are adopted.
In comments submitted ahead of this week’s conference, Florida officials said that that it “discovered several inaccuracies in [the NIST] analysis” and that their “recommendations fall short in the areas of consumer protection, marketplace equality, and regulatory responsibility.”
It’s not that NIST opposed standardizing these marijuana policies, however, but rather the agency lacks the experience that regulators overseeing state marijuana programs have developed over years.
“This was a chance to have the first harmonizing national standard,” Charlie Rutherford, co-chair of the NCWM cannabis task force, told Marijuana Moment. “I really applaud the work that they’ve done in getting these important items to the point that we are potentially months away from something that can make the compliance ability of operators, especially multi-state operators, much easier by harmonizing at least a few of the regulations.”
On a related note, NIST announced in 2020 that it was launching a cannabis testing program to help ensure that the products people purchase from retailers and dispensaries are accurately labeled.
Last year, the agency also invited labs to participate in a large-scale study to assess their ability to accurately analyze marijuana and hemp samples for their cannabinoid profile and possible contaminants.