Missouri Cannabis Regulators Crack Down on ‘Lab Shopping’

The demand for potent cannabis products has put labs under pressure to guarantee high THC levels, and now Missouri’s state health department is stepping up to ensure standardized and accurate reporting in marijuana potency and safety testing.

According to the Missouri Independent, the state is introducing “round robin” testing, a system where labs cross-check each other’s results. The initiative will be overseen by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Marijuana producers have been pushing labs to guarantee high THC content for a while now, but more recent enforcement activity has risen. Josh Swider of Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs in San Diego knows about the rising pressure, recounting how producers have been increasing their demanded guarantees year after year.

“The next year it went up to 25,” he told the outlet. “The year after that it went to 30. Now it’s up 30-plus, guaranteed, no matter what. You can never report less than that, or ‘I will pull my business.’ That is the exact conversations I have with the producers.”

To combat the issue of “lab shopping,” where producers seek labs that report desired results, Swider and his peers have been working on a guide that suggests best practices for testing cannabis, which emphasizes interlaboratory comparison.

While the new Missouri measure has its supporters, there are skeptics as well. Some lab owners argue the new rule is redundant, burdensome, and doesn’t provide enough data to be meaningful.

Still, the push for uniformity comes amid concerns regarding the safety of inaccurate THC content reporting. Discrepancies in potency could pose significant health risks, including potential overdoses for consumers.

States like Pennsylvania and Oregon have taken varied approaches to address such testing challenges. With the absence of federal testing standards due to marijuana’s illegal status nationally, states are left to their own devices, resulting in varied methodologies and standards.

Proficiency testing, where labs are judged against established criteria, has been a go-to solution for states like Missouri, Colorado, and California. But the inability to ship marijuana samples for this testing because of federal restrictions remains a roadblock.

“It’s a necessary evil, I call it, the enforcement,” Swider said. “Because if not, what happens is the whole testing industry implodes on itself. You can write the best regulation in the world, and then if no one does anything, guess what. Welcome to California.”

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