It’s an exciting time for the nation’s cannabis industry. A Pew Research Center poll conducted in January showed that 61-percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana. That was in January, long before April, aka “everyone wants more weed month,” where we saw near-daily headlines highlighting some of the major players on Capitol Hill throwing their support behind various forms of legalization.
However, as with every industry, the bigger it gets, the more it needs to be regulated, and some smaller growers in Washington are afraid they’re in for a harsh dose of reality. Yes, you can sell your marijuana legally, but, like just about every other good in this country that is commercially manufactured and sold for consumption by the general public, testing is required. And testing costs money.
As of now, California, Colorado and Oregon have laws in place that require cannabis cultivators to submit their products for pesticide testing, for both medicinal and recreational cannabis. These regulations don’t exist in Washington—at least for now.
It was recently reported that marijuana business owners in Washington are lobbying for regulators to require testing. Several industry groups, including the Washington CannaBusiness Association and the Cannabis Alliance, have approached the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board and asked that the agency adopt mandatory pesticide testing. It’s no surprise really. For larger growers and business operations, the benefits far outweigh the cost—testing offers validity and legitimacy. “We shouldn’t have this great reputation of some of the best weed in the world and not back it up with scientific testing,” said Shawn DeNae, CEO of Washington Bud Company in Smokey Point.
For smaller growers though, many of which are already feeling their bottom lines squeezed by falling marijuana prices, required testing is just another expense. For some, an expense they can’t afford. “Fundamentally, requiring pesticide testing doesn’t bother me,” said Mark Greenshields, a cannabis grower in Seattle, “but technically, increasing the costs, that’s a problem.”
Now, just to be clear, Washington is not the Wild West of Weed. Regulators conduct random pesticide checks already, and the state requires that adult-use cannabis producer test for potency (THC and CBD levels), microbials (think mold, fungus, bacteria), mycotoxins (the byproducts of certain species of microbials), and water activity (which measures the probability of developing issues with mold and fungus). The state currently has a little more than 1,000 licensed producers.
And it’s not that growers in Washington want to sell dirty weed. The smaller growers are just afraid that they won’t be able to afford the testing. “A lot of people have cut their margins down so short they wouldn’t be able to survive the tests,” DeNae said. “That’s a downfall of people not understanding what their bottom line is.”
A spokesman for Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis board has said that, as of now, the state is not pursing implementing mandatory testing. But if the state is looking to legitimize it’s industry and get on the same level as the other power-house cannabis states like California, Colorado and Oregon, mandatory-testing may very well be in the near future. It looks like some of these smaller growers are learning about capitalism the hard way.
The legal cannabis industry has grown fairly rapidly from a small pond to a pretty big ocean. The big fish swim, and the small fish get eaten. As the saying goes, them’s the brakes.