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  • Writer's pictureGreenHaul Solutions

Combatting Illicit Cannabis Sales: How Independent Cannabis Sampling Firms Strengthen Our Industry and Encourage Legal Sales Through Trust.




Discussion around illicit business is ubiquitous in New York Cannabis these days. It’s on our social feeds, in our magazines, and it’s even heard on the local evening news. Lately I find myself approached increasingly by Cannabis lay people seeking out an informed opinion on the issues. They ask questions like “why is it so important to buy from a licensed dispensary?” and “what’s the difference between legal weed and illegal weed?”. Typically, my response is “licensed dispensaries sell legal Cannabis that’s grown and processed right here in New York State. Legal Cannabis products are tested for potency and safety before they’re allowed on shelves. When you shop legal you can TRUST in what you’re getting. You wouldn’t buy tequila for your skinny margarita from Bob’s Backyard Cactus Shed on the outskirt of town, would you?”

Ok, some of you might buy from Bob’s Backyard Shed. It’s what you’ve done for years. You “know” Bob. You may even consider Bob a friend (even though he’s notoriously bad with time management). However, it’s the unconditional trust in consistent product quality and safety that sets your local liquor store's offerings apart from Bob’s bathtub gin. When you "buy legal", not only can you TRUST in what you’re getting, you can also TRUST in where it came from and where it’s been. The same principles apply to legal New York Cannabis. That’s because the NYS Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), despite all of its recent criticisms, has implemented a pretty robust set of rules and regulations aimed at building confidence in our legal supply through product safety and quality assurance. Some of these regulations include a holistic approach to cultivation, GMP compliant processing, ISO certified testing, and OCM-approved, independent firms employing cannabis sampling technicians. These technicians are responsible for selecting, transporting, and delivering unbiased and representative samples of Cannabis products to OCM approved labs for compliance testing. Cannabis sampling technicians are tasked with meticulously documenting the entire process, and collecting stakeholder signatures every time the product changes hands. Receiving annual data integrity training, and bound by legal commitments to honesty and transparency, one could say that independent Sampling Firms and their technicians are the checks and balances of the testing ecosystem. Arguably, they are the unseen bedrock that supports TRUST in our legal market.

Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair

Lab shopping. It’s a term known to many within the Cannabis supply chain but few outside of it. Just ask some of our out-of-state industry peers about lab shopping and you’ll quickly learn about the importance of honest and transparent compliance testing processes. In a nutshell, lab shopping is the practice of submitting a cannabis product to different laboratories and then choosing to partner with the lab that reports the most favorable test results. Since many uninformed consumers base their purchasing decisions solely on THC %, products with higher THC content will command greater demand and a higher price point. Unscrupulous labs based in some of the maturing markets outside of New York realized this and began inflating THC results in order to incentivize customers to use their services. Over time, this practice has had a compounding effect on certain state industries. Honest lab operators like CannaSafe in California, and Aurum Labs in Colorado have had to shut their doors in large part due to the downward sales pressure resulting from their refusal to engage in lab shopping. The subsequent proliferation of inflated product results has led to an erosion of public trust in the marketplace. In fact, since California’s Department of Cannabis Control started enforcing new rules requiring all labs to test the same way, the market recorded a 7% drop in median THC potency over the last quarter of 2023.

As some of our country's early adopter states grapple with their own precipitous fall in Cannabis market confidence, New York State and OCM have the duty to build trust in our nascent industry. Without trust, there’s little incentive for consumers to choose legal, regulated products over potentially more accessible and less expensive alternatives. Independent Cannabis Sampling Firms and their unbiased Technicians give our state a real opportunity to build the market trust that we so desperately need in order to flourish.

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