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By NCIA’s Infused Products Committee
Contributors include Radojka Barycki, Noval Compliance; Karin Clarke, KC Business Solutions; Lee Hilpert, Organnx; Danielle Maybach, Eva Gardens; Trevor Morones, Control Point; and Todd Winter, Winter LLP
You have spent months fighting sleep deprivation to build a strong pitch deck as the next most desired infused cannabis company. Educating staff, family, and friends, through role-plays and recent published journal entries. Blog after blog, inspirational book after book, and you start to believe that the deck is complete. Dress to impress then review the multi-colored sticky notes that list the risks of your operation. Some are likely, others are less, but what about the ones that are high? Is ALL of your due-diligence completed to pitch to the venture capital groups in the cannabis world?
While legalization has quickly brought cannabis and cannabis-related products into international markets, relevant food safety regulations need to be implemented and adopted to protect patients and consumers. The infused product manufacturing sector, in particular, requires more uniform safety requirements to guide operating professionals, many of whom lack knowledge, resources, and incentive to standardize safety.
As target consumers range from large groups of adult consumers to medical users, safety is a paramount concern for all. This is especially true for medical users, as they are predominately high-risk consumers regardless of their specific medical condition.
The cannabis industry, especially the infused edible products sector, has a prime opportunity to incorporate and implement existing food safety regulations into their manufacturing processes. This will demonstrate alliance with the general food manufacturing industry and help to ensure that cannabis-infused product manufacturers are regulated no more stringently than any other food manufacturer.
In addition to the already controversial nature of our industry, safety issues will undoubtedly garner public and press attention when as few one people become ill as a result of an unsafe product. Contamination inevitably comes from a variety sources, such as chemical, physical, or biological hazards in the growing and extraction process (and lack of testing), employee contamination (failure to use gloves, wash hands, dirty garments and tools, etc.), failure to adhere to basic food safety processing standards and practices (clean food contact surfaces, improper chemical concentrations, introducing biological contaminants).
Without clear and industry applicable guidelines and processes, product safety issues will emerge and take over headlines. Issues of product safety damage consumer and industry trust, resulting in lost revenue, loss of market share, decreased share value and loss of talent. One most recent example of the exorbitant cost related to product safety was made ominously clear in the multi-state Chipotle case. This incident caused a tragic decline in customer confidence and many days of double-digit stock value plunges.
Site-specific training for all team members is the preventative action to reduce risks and generate positive audit results. Rigorous training programs expand food/product safety knowledge, generate a stronger culture, reduce risk, and prevent contamination. By focusing on how each employee can positively impact safety through their daily actions and contribute to the market value and customer satisfaction, employees take on a stronger safety and excellence culture, resulting in higher Net Promoter Scores (NPS).
Measurement is critical to quality control and ongoing excellence. Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) provide operating structure and validate the process to prove the system is operating as intended. These proven systems operate on a foundation of integrity that mitigates risk throughout the process of a product. No doubt the learnings there transfer to the cannabis products, especially infused products.
The IPC’s goals are to raise awareness, effectuate positive change, and help establish protocols and standards for food safety, dosing, and testing within the cannabis industry. This will establish baselines from which cannabis business operators can rely upon, prevent inapplicable regulatory requirements that are not relevant to our industry, and most of all provide for the safety of consumers.
Now, when did food safety leave a bitter taste in your mouth? Precisely! Never would we need an Upton Sinclair to transform the industry from a negative outlook on the truths. Collectively we will unite and hold our operations to a standard of excellence that will be called upon during the end of cannabis probation on a national level.