CCC Research Subcommittee Publishes Draft Recommendations

Members focus on cannabis testing, standards, and quality, and are still soliciting feedback

It’s understandable that people who care about cannabis in Massachusetts pay close attention to the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), since the agency regulates the industry and serves as a gatekeeper for those who want to be a part of it—whether that’s business owners, workers, or even medical marijuana patients.

But if you really want a crystal ball to glimpse what may be coming in the future, the real action is often bubbling around the commission’s extensive Cannabis Advisory Board, whose 25 members represent every corner of the industry and consumer base. They may not have the power of the actual commissioners, but these advisors and their subcommittees—Cannabis Industry, Market Participation, Public Safety & Community Mitigation, Public Health, and Research—help steer and set the tone for upcoming regulatory adjustments, many of which are potentially critical.

In one case, that latter subcommittee, the six-member research arm, has been “tasked with developing recommendations on the medical cannabis industry in MA and the next five years of the adult use industry to inform the changes in the adult use and medical cannabis regulations that are ongoing.” Here’s some additional background:

The Cannabis Advisory Board (CAB) Research Subcommittee has been evaluating the area of cannabis lab testing and product labeling since October of 2022, and discussing reports of inconsistencies and potential safety issues in how cannabis and cannabis product samples are tested, how test results and contaminants are reported, and how operators are presenting testing and potency data to patients and consumers on product labels. The Research Subcommittee will issue recommendations related to lab testing and product labeling based on its evaluation of existing reports, qualitative data collected through the solicitation of feedback from industry and consumer stakeholders and best practices utilized in other legal cannabis states.

Furthermore, the “CAB Research Subcommittee ran a cannabis lab testing survey from October to December 15, 2022 asking public and stakeholder input on regulations and issues related to cannabis lab testing and product labeling. The survey was shared via email, social media, and other in-person networking events to gather feedback from operators, consumers, patients, industry workers and other stakeholders regarding how cannabis and cannabis products are sampled, tested and analyzed and how results are reported or available to consumers and patients.”

They’re still in the process of finalizing a resulting report, but the subcommittee has released a draft that includes seven recommendations bullet pointed below:

  • Recommendation #1: The CCC should expand the currently existing Open Data Portal to include Open METRC Data Related to Lab Testing.  
  • Recommendation #2: Define THC (Total THC, THCA, THCV, THC etc) and provide operators clear guidance on how to appropriately calculate and label THC for the benefit of consumers. 
  • Recommendation #3: Convene an ongoing working group similar to the model in Colorado to review and make ongoing recommendations on rules and regulations related to the testing and labeling of cannabis and cannabis products. Advise on revisions necessary to the current testing protocols and labeling. 
  • Recommendation #4: CCC to Conduct Quarterly Audits of Existing Labs.
  • Recommendation #5: The CCC to commence a feasibility study around the implementation of a cannabis standards lab in Massachusetts based on lessons learned from other states that are implementing cannabis reference/standards labs. Other states include: California, Michagan and Maryland. 
  • Recommendation #6: Start the Secret Shopper Program that is part of the existing CCC regulations. (Ed. note: In response to this one at today’s meeting, Commissioner Kimberly Roy said this program has been used in the past and is a tool the CCC currently has available; “I wouldn’t want people to think our investigation and enforcement team hasn’t already used that,” she said.
  • Recommendation #7: Amend the testing requirements to modify current microbe thresholds under 935 CMR 500.160: Testing of Marijuana and Marijuana Products to test only for specific harmful pathogens.

While those draft recs are already based on community, expert, and stakeholder input, the subcommittee has made a public survey available for additional comments. They plan to vote on the final recommendations at their next meeting.

You can read and participate in the survey here.

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