CannabisWise program to ease consumer concerns ahead of legalization

Vancouver dispensary owner Buddha Barn said a national standard is exactly what the industry needs.

Marijuana consumers are likely to have a flood of options when pot becomes legal next summer and now a not-for-profit group is stepping in to help determine which products to trust.

The National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education said its CannabisWise certification will test businesses on quality and safety guidelines, similar to the way other voluntary programs regulate pharmacy services or fish products in Canada.

The institute’s CEO, Barinder Rasode, said they’ve heard concerns that Canadians are looking for clarity when it comes to buying quality marijuana that is sourced ethically and adhering to laws from all three levels of government.

“People want certainty and want to know how they’re going to be able to trust products on the market and companies that are entering the space,” Rasode said.

The certification program is based on 12 standards that focus on quality control, compliance to the new laws and regulations, and the promotion of responsible cannabis use.

Any business interested in having their product certified will have to apply, provide the necessary documents and pay a fee.

Rasode said they haven’t yet established the cost of the annual certification.

Trained inspectors will scrutinize businesses and facilities in person before approving the credentials, she said.

The owner of the Vancouver dispensary Buddha Barn said a national standard is exactly what the industry needs.

Jessika Villano said there are many “fly-by-night” organizations popping up in attempt to take advantage of the potential for a booming industry.

Marijuana growing practices also vary, and Villano said while her dispensary tests for pesticide use, consumers aren’t given that guarantee elsewhere.

“I love smoking weed and I don’t want to smoke pesticides and I wouldn’t want any of our members to,” she said.

A national standard would help improve practices and get rid of uncertainty for consumers, Villano said.

Rasode said pesticide use and organic production are among the factors CannabisWise will test.

A method for testing and certifying edible cannabis products will also be added to the CannabisWise program to meet federal standards that are expected to be implemented 12 months after legalization is introduced, she said.

“I think the whole question of edibles is going to create quite a challenge from a regulatory perspective,” Rasode said. “How people metabolize edibles is quite different.”

She added there is also a question of the quality of the other ingredients in edibles and the process of how they’re made that will need to be regulated.

The institute is looking at examples in the United States where marijuana has been legalized, as well a model created by the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries.

As regulations are announced by every level of government, Rasode said she’s confident the CannabisWise program will be ready to accept applications by the end of April and issue certificates in time for legalization.

Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press

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