NZ company helping write global cannabis industry standards
Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Cannabis Company has been in Rome this week participating in an international standards setting meeting for the cannabis industry. The meeting included recommended changes to the way cannabis is defined in both legal and scientific terms.
ASTM International, a global industry standards body with 30,000 members worldwide representing more than 20 industry sectors held a workshop in Rome under its technical committee D37 on Cannabis. The group of 600 industry experts are working to develop standards for cannabis products testing and production processes across the globe.
The group aims to meet the needs of the legal cannabis industry by addressing quality and safety issues through the development of classifications, specifications, test methods, practices, and guides for cultivation, manufacturing, quality assurance, laboratory considerations, packaging, and security.
“The meeting revealed how much work there is to do within particular areas of the industry and that there is real commitment from around the world to build common standards that are meaningful and achievable for both the industry and regulators” said Hikurangi CEO Manu Caddie.
The objective of D37’s Workshop on Advancing the Field of Cannabis through Standardization, held at the Rome Marriot Park Hotel, was to explore creation of new, fit-for-purpose industry standards. International liaisons responsible for updating the D37 Committee on developments in their regions were appointed during the workshop. Mr Caddie was invited to present on the New Zealand regulatory situation and appointed to provide ongoing liaison between the Committee and New Zealand members.
Hikurangi plant scientists Dr Alvaro Vidiella and Irene Lopez-Ubiria prepared a presentation for the workshop to propose a methodology for characterising cannabis varieties. At present no global standard exists for the classification of cannabis plants and this is a critical requirement for Hikurangi as the company builds a genetics databank over coming years of plant varieties from global and local sources.
“At present there is no universal method for characterising cannabis plants and varieties” said Mr Caddie. “A number of organisations use their own ‘standards’ to characterise the cannabis material they are working with. Some of them are probably doing a very good job creating really good standards. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that many of these standards becomes public and keeping them secret doesn’t engender confidence in the process or products. Even if these processes became public, the quality would be unlikely to be as good as if the whole industry works together to create standards that would be useful for everyone and at the same time it would make life better for patients/consumers and the regulators.”
Topics for the workshop included updates from regional representatives, presentations by academics, consultants and company representatives on analytical laboratory accreditation, methods for analysing cannabis extracts, industry terminology issues, reference materials for analytical testing and an overview by Canadian cannabis company Aurora on staff training, safety and compliance.
Mr Caddie said one of the most useful and provocative presentations proposed a new set of legal classifications for cannabis.
“We all got quite animated in the last session of the workshop led by Darwin Millard, an extraction expert from New York, who presented a proposal for doing away with ‘hemp’ as a legal term for low-THC cannabis” said Mr Caddie.
Mr Millard suggested cannabis terminology should be based on what the plant is being cultivated for and regulations appropriate to the purpose would then apply. Where more than one purpose is intended, then the regulatory standards for purpose with higher standards would be required.
“There was quite a lot of support for this approach and I think we’ll see ongoing discussion about how such a framework can be refined and eventually find its way into the regulations in some jurisdictions” said Mr Caddie.
“New Zealand needs to relook at the Industrial Hemp regulations as currently cannabis grown under an industrial hemp license cannot be used to produce CBD. That is a huge amount of value being left to rot on our paddocks given per hectare CBD is worth more than ten times the value of hemp seed and fibre combined.”
A number of subcommittees exist under the D37 Committee, these committees address specific segments within the general subject area covered by the technical committee. D37 currently has the following sub-committee that any member is free to join and contribute to standards development within:
• Indoor and Outdoor Horticulture
• Quality Management Systems
• Processing and Handling
• Security and Transportation
• Personnel Training, Assessment, Credentialing
• Industrial Hemp
“I was really impressed with the participatory structure of ASTM in general and D37 in particular” said Mr Caddie. “Everyone gets a voice and vote, and if there are topics you’re passionate about that aren’t being addressed then you can establish a new sub-committee.”
Mr Caddie said the democratic nature of the organisation required ongoing participation to ensure it continued to establish, test, review and improve standards necessary to ensure high quality, safe and effective products and services within the legal cannabis sector.
“Ensuring there is consistency and transparency within this industry is critical, we need the highest standards and it is better that those are negotiated amongst the experts who use them than to have inappropriate standards imposed by others.”
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ASTM provides a forum for the development and publication of international voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems and services. ASTM’s volunteer members represent producers, consumers, government, and academia from more than 140 countries who develop technical documents that are the basis for manufacturing, management, procurement, codes and regulations for dozens of industry sectors. Industries covered by ASTM standards include aerospace, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, energy, food processing and health care.