One of the most common issues in the cannabis industry is that of tainted cannabis. Being such a highly regulated sector, growers have to make sure that their cannabis lives up to the highest standards, not only in terms of quality, but also in terms of safety.
Every time a cannabis batch has been harvested, growers have to send in the final product, or mature flower, to testing labs that assess the cleanliness and safety of said cannabis. And this is exactly where A&L Canada Laboratories comes into play.
“Our company has been involved in agriculture for 35 years,” Nevin McDougall, A&L Laboratories President & CCO says. “So, we are very aware of the need and benefit for tissue testing as well as residue testing. We have extensive knowledge on all aspects of producing high-yielding crops. Cannabis, to us, is another high value crop we can support production of.”
Issues with contaminants
According to Nevin, tainted cannabis is a topic that an increasing number of growers are becoming aware of. “Issues with contaminants can be caused by many things,” he points out. “For instance, it could be caused by the growing media which may have been produced in a country where regulations are not as strict as here in Canada. Or maybe it could be caused by the nutrient formulation. This is why it is of the utmost importance to rely on reputable suppliers. Being contaminant free is mandated by Health Canada, it is a regulatory requirement.”
One of the major root causes of the struggles growers go through when it comes to following such strict regulations derives from the fact that the supplying industries are still catching up with the different regulatory environments. “The industry has not caught up to provide new solutions yet,” Nevin observes. “At the same time, many companies are investing and developing solutions that comply with Health Canada regulations. I think that in 2 or 3 years, there will be a broader range of solutions available.”
Testing and reassessing SOPs
When it comes to the testing, strictly speaking, Nevin takes care to explain how it is carried out. “These tests are carefully run through analytical equipment. We use the most sophisticated and advanced technology in order to spot every potential issue with a given cannabis batch.”
Even though A&L only does the testing, Nevin says that they support their clients. “If a cannabis batch has been deemed as tainted, growers need to reassess their operation and SOPs (standard operating procedures) to identify the root causes and to address the issues. We can help them in pointing them in the right direction.”
Another reason why growers have been struggling with this is because we are still in the early days of industry development, according to Nevin. “There was a lot of initial excitement, infrastructures have been built exceeding the capacities of retail distribution channels. We are in a period of adjustment now. We need to get the right supply/demand balance in position, especially considering the introduction of innovations such as edibles, beverages, and infused products.”
Finally, Nevin points out that cannabis growers should look at their horticultural colleagues and how they have been navigating the large-scale cultivation sector. “Horticultural growers have been producing in greenhouses for many years,” he says. “They are very proficient in managing their nutrients and media, they know the production cycle. For people who are new to growing at that scale, it is a different experience. However, there are a lot of resources available, and also conferences. There are a lot of opportunities to learn and to exchange best practices.”