The state of California has worked to safeguard its flourishing legal cannabis industry by requiring comprehensive quality testing on all cannabis products. However, cannabis testing labs need their own set of regulations and quality checks.
We discussed the international standards that exist for quality testing labs in Part I of our series “How Cannabis Testing Labs Get Certified.” Here in Part II, we’ll look at the process that labs must undertake if they want to get certified.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sets the standards for testing labs. But the ISO doesn’t actually oversee accreditation and certification first hand.
That responsibility lies in the hands of various accrediting bodies. In the case of cannabis testing labs, an accrediting body is responsible for evaluating whether the lab’s protocols and methods for quality testing meet the ISO/IEC 17025 standards. If the evaluation is successful, the accrediting body can issue certification.
Different regions and countries have their own accrediting bodies. The United States has several. For example, Encore Labs used Perry Johnson Laboratory Accreditation for its ISO certification, but the International Accreditation Service and the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation also offer ISO/IEC 17025 certification programs.
These organizations follow the methods outlined by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation to ensure that all labs are assessed uniformly.
Steps to Getting Certified
So what does the actual certification process look like? Here are the steps that cannabis testing labs must go through if they want to receive their ISO/IEC 17025 certification.
1. Submit Documentation
First, the lab must submit documentation. This involves a substantial amount of paperwork including but not limited to:
- A customized Quality Assurance Manual
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
- Testing methods
- Training records
- Calibration records (for balances, pipettes, and other lab support equipment)
Next, the lab will undergo a pre-assessment. An auditor from the accrediting body will visit the lab for a day to review documentation and one in-person testing method, from sample preparation through data analysis. This step serves as a practice audit and allows the lab to address any issues before the real deal evaluation begins.
3. The Audit
After the pre-assessment, the auditor will return to the lab and observe all of the testing methods to make sure lab staff are faithfully abiding by the SOPs and the lab’s established quality system. A complete audit will take multiple days. If the audit is successful, the lab is awarded ISO/IEC 17025 certification.
The ISO/IEC 17025 represents the international standard for testing labs, including those in the cannabis industry. However, the ISO relies on independent accrediting bodies to assess testing labs and award certification.
Cannabis testing labs must submit extensive documentation and undergo a thorough audit of their testing methods if they hope to receive ISO/IEC 17025 certification. The process for obtaining certification is rigorous but ensures that cannabis testing labs are producing reliable and consistent results for their customers.