Armed with a doctorate in plant/environmental sciences as well as 25 years of governmental compliance experience, Dr. Chao-Hsiung Tung is in charge of cannabis testing at G3 Labs. Having worked at both Yucca Mountain and the Nevada Test Site, he not only brings his scientific expertise to G3, but also to the state’s Independent Lab Advisory Committee. Dr. Tung’s knowledge of the intricacies of government compliance made him an obvious choice to serve on the Clark County Commission’s recently created Green Ribbon Advisory Panel.
The most important message is that this is for adult-use and used for recreational purposes. When people say recreation, take that word to heart. One is not supposed to be stoned. Moderation is the key. We want our visitors to have a pleasant Las Vegas experience and come back frequently.
As far as testing, we analyze the cannabis and test for its potency and hold the safety line to ensure it’s not contaminated or harmful to users. On the compliance side, we are all under the umbrella of the Nevada law. We have NRS 453A of the Medical Marijuana Act to follow. Pretty soon, we will also have an adult-use law to follow. We envision they will pretty much be the same. The packaging and labeling, the contents, and the test results are all geared toward compliance and protecting the end-user.
When we started two years ago, testing in Nevada was a newborn baby. We have evolved a lot. We have become a toddler and we are learning to walk. We are actually walking pretty well so far. We have learned and implemented many measures to improve and enhance our program. But, all in all, the most significant lesson we have learned and are able to share with the rest of the country is during the implementation of the regulations you have to hold the safety standard. Right now Nevada holds the standard.
For any state that has a new testing program, it needs to implement the testing program in the very beginning before everything is rolled out. It is difficult to start testing later because by then people have to relearn the culture. From the state’s viewpoint, for a new program to be successful, the labs have to be independent, technically capable, and there has to be adequate capacity to serve the market. Without enough capable labs, a backlog is created which lends to the possibility of sloppy testing and results in an effort to get caught up. When setting up a testing lab program the expected volume for that state has to be taken into consideration and organized with that in mind.
ILAC’s overall focus has been, of course, to assist the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (Division) in sorting out and clarifying many regulatory compliance issues for the industry, such as the significant issues related to pesticide monitoring issues as well as parameters for dosage and serving size. ILAC basically gives advice, and makes recommendations to the Division on how to actually implement those regulations in detail.
ILAC has worked with the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (Division) to include the Department of Agriculture in regulating pesticide use and testing. They are the authority and they have the expertise — that’s number one and I think that’s a big one. They can regulate all the pesticides sold in the state and they also have the authority and expertise to go into any cultivation or any agriculture entity that’s using pesticides to do inspections. Also, we, on the ILAC board, advised and recommended that the state implement a round robin test, which is an inter-laboratory comparison. The state issues a sample and all the labs will test it at the same time, turn in the results then the state can evaluate our results, and identify the spread and if there are any outliers. We just started the first round, but it’s a landmark idea for the cannabis industry.
Our title is Independent Lab Advisory Committee, but it happens to be the only platform for the whole industry to voice any concerns regularly. So ILAC is not only the voice for the laboratories, we see ourselves as representing the whole industry and the public. Therefore, we are constantly soliciting ideas from across the industry and public and we recommend subjects for the agenda on how we can improve and enhance this program. In my personal view, the biggest issue on the table right now is how to continue holding the standard or enhancing the program to protect the end-user because, after all, public safety is number one. That never comes off the table — that is always first.
Yes it will be tested, and it should because a patient has the advantage of their doctors, their physicians or their caretaker monitoring their medication’s dose and effect; whereas the adult-use consumers have none. They usually rely on their own limited knowledge that rarely is based on education or any program support. With that in mind, if the adult-use program doesn’t have solid safety testing, or sufficient information to educate them, then the result will probably not be optimal. When people in the state voted for Question #2, it was with the idea that we can’t relax on public safety.
So many people not treating this as a real business surprised me. There are a certain number of people who are carrying the baggage from those shady days before legalization. They are not treating this as a legitimate business that must be operated in full compliance. I was astonished by that and there are so many individuals claiming they have experience in the industry and, yet, not able to perform up to the standards of our regulations.
As a business owner, the answer is yes, but not as an individual. I was amazed by the number of people who are motivated by the hype — thinking the cannabis industry is another Gold Rush and that they will be rolling in the money really fast, but that’s not the case. Just like any business, you need to have a business plan to run your company with solid investment and backing as well as operational and technical capacities. You have to ride it out because it takes a while to recover your investment and it takes a long while to see a real profit. It’s not a get-rich scheme. So far, the industry is on the right track and there are people who finally realized they can’t handle this and they either decided to give up and drop out or just sell their license.