A matter of standard: discussing the challenges of the industry with Juriën Koster

Initially, every newly born sector undergoes an ‘adjustment period’, during which many pressing issues are addressed. The same thing can be said with regards to the cannabis industry: freshly coming out of prohibition times, growers found themselves in a highly regulated industry where high quality and consistency are a must, if one wants to thrive. However, it is not always easy to adapt to new rules, and, on the other hand, some are not willing to do so. “Consistency, high quality, and safety are the keywords for this industry,” says Jurien Koster, Vice President of Relations with Phytonext. “However, the product that has been going around thus far does not really align with those. This is because of the lack of commonly accepted standards, but also because I see a lack of specialization.”

A need for specialization
According to Jurien, there are many cannabis operators that are vertically integrated, which means that they take care of most part of the cannabis supply chain: seed to sale, that is. “The thing to keep in mind is that the medical cannabis industry is part horticulture, but also part pharmaceutical,” Jurien points out. “Big pharma companies do not grow themselves; they get the semi-finished product and work with that. Specialization will be key in the future: medical cannabis growers that focus solely on the growing, and take care of crafting high-quality, but mainly consistent flowers.”

Jurien Koster during the Cannabis Capital Convention, Amsterdam

The lack of consistency
And indeed, consistency is the main issue in the industry right now. “The flower is not consistent, and even cloned material can vary in their characteristics,” he says. “When a grower gives off a specification for their plant, it should stay at least within 10% range of that specification. I have seen plant material with a higher difference than 10%, which is definitely not acceptable. The challenge here is to start with good consistent product in order to make a standardized end product; otherwise, it just won't work.”

The problems on the hemp side
The situation is even tougher with regards to the hemp side of the industry. “Hemp is just a mess,” Jurien observes. “Most of the hemp being produced is polluted with some sort of chemical crop protection.” However, things are not doomed to end badly. On the contrary, there is one solution. “Education,” says Jurien. “A lot of growers are not very familiar with growing something for the pharmaceutical industry, and it is of the utmost importance to educate them on what this endeavor entails. Knowledgeable people should be heard more: there are companies out there that are completely capable of producing a consistent product. We need to unite everyone, and boost our lobbying effort to push government to univocally standardize this industry.”

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