“As soon as you concern yourself with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter, Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weaken and defeat you.” Morihei Ueshiba, Athlete
There was never a perfect version of adult cannabis use in Arizona, but the people approved proposition 207, and so we are now rapidly approaching recreational cannabis. The problems and preparation for prop 207 are becoming apparent in our cannabis market; that said, we are still struggling to implement recent requirements of 5-panel testing being required on all current medical cannabis products. The result might have caught your attention when shopping with the increased frequency of bare shelves, shortages of known brands ranging from flower to concentrates and edibles, all the way down to topicals. Several companies are simply folding, unable to meet the costs of these requirements for testing, and others risk their reputation to continue old habits for higher profit in a testing-compliant market. The result is a shortage of product available to patients whose quality of life might depend on these products or how we still face dubious circumstances regarding the products being tested. The frustration of not having access to products directly affects patients who communicate frustrations to the dispensaries who are under the most direct pressure, and this in turn, rolls over the vendors trying to meet these requirements while maintaining a reputation. The vendors, dispensaries, and patients face issues that originate from a lack of accountability from one place, the testing companies.
I wholeheartedly believe in mandatory testing, the benefit of making testing available to patients is without question, and transparency from vendor to consumer having numerous benefits. I do, however, have strong reservations about enforcing a requirement upon an industry when regulators have not been able to provide proper oversight, implementation of procedures, or any oversight of the testing companies by the State of Arizona. Ultimately, the State of Arizona and Department of Health Services have failed, and the consequences of that gross negligence threatens those who depend on cannabis most. Everyone has already seen prices increase, supply chain disruptions, and distribution that is bottlenecking for the vendors, dispensaries, as well as patients, who will need to wait the 3 to 8 weeks for testing results that allow intakes. The failure was obvious as five panel testing was not offered in Arizona at the time of implementation and labs in the valley have scrambled to earn accreditation since. Several labs skirt the required accreditation, and continue business despite not having the full panel of testing, with some labs coming under scrutiny for having mailed products out of state to be tested.
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” Juvenal, Poet
A lack of oversight for the testing industry and labs has created an opening for poor standards of practice to cause severe delays. An example being improper storage of juice for so long it begins to turn to alcohol, then causing the product to fail solvent testing leading to longer delays. The lab won’t face any inspections or investigation of methods by the State, while the vendor who lost the product likely won’t see credit reimbursed. The price of testing inflated vastly when testing became mandatory but no lab seems to be reinvesting their profit into expansion. A standing handful of labs are working within a reasonable timeframe for the cost, with those remaining offering what they can at a similar price. The sudden introduction of money and the power to decide who does business has opened doors to possible corruption and manipulation of the market by these testing companies. Circumstances similar to those described have created a need for standing policy by dispensaries to bar vendors from dispensaries who collude with these companies. Ties to shady dealings or corporate money could reveal the high amount of failed testing, or mistakes that skew the results causing delays. The questions from vendors are frequent and focused as to why these issues exist and what can be done to find a solution.
Duty and diligence by vendors as well as dispensaries will be a component to finding a path forward. Patients will have the responsibility of knowing who controls their medicine, while rec users become aware of their rights to know who produces their cannabis, as well as having access to cannabis as a right. The landscape of cannabis will be changing, for the better. Those who watch out for us need to watch behind as they would ahead. The threat of special interests controlling our testing sows doubt in those working to establish these guidelines for our market. Those who want cannabis to test clean must hold those conducting the testing to the same standards of cleanliness. The biggest questions that need to be asked are whose interests are being served with these testing requirements, and whose money is tied to these testing facilities. Transparency will begin to matter to consumers, and with the passage of recreational cannabis, our numbers will demand it.
Adrian Ryan was born in New Mexico and attended school since elementary in Arizona, his time growing up split between the two states. He hopes to work towards recreational cannabis, enjoys reading, writing, film, music, and also writing music.