26 June 2022 |

We want safe weed. And consumers think we already have it.

By Kaitlin Domangue

If there’s one thing the American cannabis industry knows: it’s that we are a fragmented market. 

We know there are “no rules.” But that isn’t so evident to the consumer. 

A new poll conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of SIPCA, a leading regulatory solutions provider, and FOCUS (Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards) found that 4 in 5 consumers think cannabis products are produced with consistent product safety standards. 

  • 72% of Americans overall and 80% of cannabis consumers think the cultivation and production safety standards on cannabis products are consistent – no matter which state they’re in 
  • 81% of Americans overall and 84% of cannabis consumers think environmental standards are consistently met during cultivation and production – no matter what state they’re in 
  • 77% of Americans overall and 81% of cannabis consumers think cannabis employers are held to the same health and safety standards for their workers like every other industry 

Unfortunately – cannabis consumers, on the surface, appear slightly more uneducated regarding the production of cannabis products than Americans in general, and that’s probably for a variety of reasons. 

The good news? This is untapped potential at its finest, my friends. Consumers *need* to be educated about the realities of fragmented regulations & standards in American cannabis. 

Education empowers consumers to make smarter purchasing decisions. And – there are millions of consumers to educate. And in turn, the millions of people buying cannabis products can echo the cannabis industry’s demands for more stringent regulations. 

Approximately 4 out of 5 Americans overall and cannabis consumers alike support setting federal standards for cannabis product safety and quality and environmental protections that the cannabis industry must follow. 

80% of consumers don’t know very much about cannabis production. And that’s not an insult. That’s an opportunity. The average consumer isn’t going looking for this information, we have to tell them. 

The reality is that these unified standards don’t already exist because there isn’t a federal policy to make them exist. Hemp-derived CBD products were in the same boat until 2018 when The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of controlled substances. 

That’s why organizations like FOCUS are here. To bring unification to an industry without waiting on federal policy to make it happen. 

BDSA doesn’t predict federal legalization to arrive until at least 2026. I honestly agree with that, and I wouldn’t have said that maybe even 6 months ago. We need to adopt and abide by our own standards if we want to see major changes before then.  

“The US has a plethora of consumer protection laws and organizations, at both the federal and state level, that regulate consumer affairs. So, it is understandable that Americans expect these same consumer protections in cannabis like they do for everything they purchase. Unfortunately, as these and other findings continue to show, nothing could be further from the truth. Americans want safe, reliable, and quality cannabis products. The lack of protections for cannabis consumers, is simply one more example of the extreme risks to public health and safety Americans are exposed to given the lack of action around cannabis at the federal level,” said Lezli Engelking, the President & Founder of FOCUS. 

At the same time, consumers also want more information about the cannabis products they use. 81% of consumers (in this report, defined as anyone who has ever consumed cannabis) say they’d like full information about the cannabis products provided if they ever purchase them. 

  • 80% of consumers say it’s important to verify the safety of the cannabis product before using it 
  • 78% of consumers say checking whether or not a cannabis product has ever been recalled is important to them before making a purchase 
  • 83% of consumers support requiring cannabis retailers to verify their products have been legitimately tested for safety and potency 

This isn’t necessarily surprising, but 58% of cannabis consumers say they aren’t even sure how to determine which cannabis products are worth consuming and which ones aren’t. 

There are two main ways to determine which products are worth purchasing and which aren’t: company transparency and testing products. 

Plenty of brands like Honeybee Collective make transparency a core part of their mission & equipping their consumers with plenty of knowledge about their products. 

But, plenty of brands aren’t doing that. There are no state requirements to be transparent or divulge a bunch of behind-the-scenes information to customers. 

This is where comprehensive testing becomes vital. But like everything else in cannabis – U.S. testing regulations vary state by state

Pesticides (and basically every other containment) weren’t even tested in Arizona’s medical cannabis program for several years

There have been plenty of pesticides recalls in cannabis, including Colorado’s colossal 100,000-unit batch of infused suckers in 2016

Drafters of Arizona’s medical bill didn’t include a testing provision because they were worried it would drive up the cost of medicine. 

Medical cannabis testing rules in Arizona were eventually revised in 2020. 

But for several years before – medical cannabis patients were out of the loop regarding contaminants like pesticide levels and microbial organisms. 

Compare this to Hawaii, where 20% to 30% of the recreational’s markets’ first batches were rejected. The island only has four testing labs and the lab that rejected these batches runs two of them. 

Safe to say, the standard for safety varies across state lines. Labs have also been caught falsifying test results on more than one occasion, further muddying the waters. 

Testing is also expensive, costing anywhere from $300 to $700+ on average for one sample. It will be hard to convince most, much less all cultivators to shell out more money for tests in current condition of our industry. 

What I’m thinking 🧠

Our goals and desires (sadly) lie just beyond federal reform. 

As much as I believe in groups like FOCUS and unifying the space from within, I also understand the reality of the current environment. Tests are expensive. Labs aren’t operating under much oversight. Budgets are wildly different, making eco-friendly options hard for some brands. 

Until federal reform arrives, it will be hard to get the industry on the same page. Even if we all wanted to, there are just too many barriers that make execution a constant mountain to climb.