Cannabis Testing: The Current State in the US
The drug of choice for many, cannabis has grown up into a mature industry. The product has reached impressive levels of sophistication in terms of production, packaging, and marketing to consumers, resulting in exponential sales and market growth. Eleven of the 50 US states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Until the US decriminalizes cannabis at the federal level, there is a challenge in developing and distributing analytical testing for safety, including food safety. Despite these challenges, cannabis food safety testing labs and methods have been developed and marketed by food safety testing labs and scientific instrumentation industry leaders.
Product Safety Marketing
While end-user sales are a business-to-consumer (B2C) market, the marketing of food safety testing products is a business-to-business (B2B) market. Product safety issues related specifically to cannabis can take several forms:
- Inherent safety of the product. Consumers expect their cannabis products to be free from pathogenic bacteria, mycotoxins, chemicals such as pesticides, and physical contaminants.
- Potency. Though it’s still difficult to determine exact dosage requirements because of physiological differences between users, potency as measured by THC content is important to give a user the right experience. This is especially true with edibles which have a latent effect, causing users to consume more product than prudent, leading to trips to the ER.
- Edibles are a food safety concern. Edibles carry all of the safety burden of the two issues mentioned above, along with the additional burden inherent in the processing of cannabis into food and beverage products. Spoilage, for example, can be an issue. Edibles are considered food by the FDA, and must conform to the same safety guidelines of any other food product sold in the US.
Who’s Taking Risks and Seizing Opportunities?
Because cannabis is a United States Federal Schedule 1 drug, samples can’t be shipped across state lines, making it hard to test or develop applications for the testing of products.
Without samples, test kit manufacturers or analytical instrument makers cannot develop applications or methods for testing the use of their products. Despite the obstacles, several scientific instrument industry leaders have developed the methods and applications needed for testing labs to adopt their technology.
- Waters. Analytical instruments and methods for testing for pesticides, mycotoxins and quantitative strength of product (potency).
- Bio-Rad. Microbial testing solutions for bacteria, including Salmonella, E. coli and Enterobacteriaceae, using real-time PCR methods.
- Shimadzu. Analytical instruments and methods for testing for pesticides, residual solvents, quantitative strength of product (potency), as well as heavy metals and mycotoxins.
- PerkinElmer. Analytical instruments and methods for testing for pesticides, residual solvents, quantitative strength of product (potency), as well as heavy metals and mycotoxins. PE is also offering genetic selection services for plant breeding using marker-assisted breeding (MAB).
Analytical testing labs are offering cannabis testing services as well — most notably Eurofins. In-state testing labs where cannabis is legal eliminate the need for shipping samples across borders.
The best way to market testing products and services to the budding cannabis industry is to develop and market your expertise, applications and methods. Once the market understands how your products are applied, they will purchase your products or services. While cannabis edibles are different from standard food products, they are still food, and still regulated. Content marketing will showcase your applications and draw in your target market. Cannabis is a very complex matrix, and a lot is still unknown about its compounds and chemicals. Nonetheless, for any foodstuff or human consumable, we know what we need to keep out: pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and spoilage organisms. The food production market buys results, not testing products. Regardless of what you are marketing, remember that your marketing messages should highlight what you deliver — results, not just products.
Need help refining your marketing message strategy to highlight results, not products? Contact us.