This past October, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law three unique bills making up the new California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA). This is great news as it means new, robust regulations will be put into place to protect the California cannabis consumer. Going forward growers, distributors and product manufacturers will no longer be able to operate within gray areas of legality. The MMRSA will affect almost everyone involved in the state’s cannabis industry, forcing industry players to operate within the boundaries of new state laws and robust regulatory compliance.
The three bills focus on different aspects of the industry, but seek to create a framework for regulating everything from dispensary licensing, taxation on products to consumer safety. In regards to consumer protection, three topics are of particular interest which include accurate labeling, appropriate childproof packaging and comprehensive lab testing on products. The bills have gone so far as to detail areas such as licensing and growing, but have yet to define the specific rules and systems for labeling, packaging and lab testing. What we do know is that they will be addressed and ultimately if done well, the consumer will be much safer for it.
Dixie has become one of the largest, most well known product manufacturers within the cannabis industry. Since its inception in 2010, it has placed emphasis on being a trusted source for both innovative and safe products, advocating on behalf of consumer safety. Starting in Colorado, a state with much stricter regulatory compliance rules, Dixie’s products already go to market with detailed labeling which includes accurate dosage information, child resistant packaging and extensive lab testing. Lindsay Topping, Dixie’s Marketing Director, took time out of her busy schedule to give Dixie’s view on the new California regulations and how they may benefit cannabis consumers.
During the past year, Dixie began servicing patients within California in addition to its production in Colorado and many other legal states. What are Dixie’s views on California’s new consumer protection regulations put forward this past October by Governor Jerry Brown?
California is a well-established market, which has been around for 20 plus years. At Dixie, we believe that a stricter regulatory environment will result in better consumer empowerment. The new California regulations, which are expected to come into effect in 2016 and beyond, will hopefully help consumers know exactly what is within a product, allow consumers to be more exact with dosages, provide child resistant packaging and demand comprehensive laboratory testing. All of these changes will work to ensure a higher quality, safer product at the end of the day.
As most people know the laws from state to state differ in regards to cannabis. From the beginning of legalization, Colorado’s regulatory oversight has focused on making sure consumers know what is in a product, and that that information is verified and that the packaging is safe. All of this is meant to protect the consumer and to ensure that the product is safe for consumption. This is very important to us at Dixie as we always want to ensure the consumer is safe with any one of our products. Consumers should be able to trust all products that are currently on the market.
1. Accurate Dosage Information
Why is accurate labeling and dosage information important for consumers?
Dixie has worked hard within the state of Colorado to provide accurate dosage information to all consumers. Knowing correct dosages per product is currently very difficult for consumers in California’s marketplace. Dosages are very different from product to product and this makes it difficult for a patient to find what is right for them. In addition, a product manufacturer can say what a dose is, but if this is not checked by a lab, then this can really be arbitrary as no one is verifying it is correct.
In general, edibles are a good example of why current dosage information is misleading. A patient might find an edible that works for them and their specific condition. It may take a period of time to find what the right dosage is through trial and error. If they happen to switch to a different edible, it unfortunately ends up not being apples to apples or comparable at all with the previous dosage. The patient needs to go through another period of trial and error to find the correct dosage. Streamlining the labeling of products will allow patients to know exact milligrams and other important information. At that point, they can work with their doctors and care givers more reliably.
One of the hot topics we hear doctors and caregivers discussing is micro dosing. Micro dosing is about starting with the minimum amount of a product and working up to the dosage that is right for the individual, for their particular needs. It is hard to reliably micro dose a patient without having a good baseline of what is within the product. Appropriate regulatory changes will help to get patients more accurate information.
When it comes to product information and education, the cannabis industry often operates within a gray area. Patients today are not able to ask questions of their bud tenders, caregivers and doctors and be assured that they are getting the best, most accurate information. As a result, this does not always make consumers comfortable with cannabis. We at Dixie would like to see this change so that every patient, in every legal state has the best information possible.
2. Child Resistant Packaging
What is Dixie’s stance on child and pet resistant packaging & how do you feel this type of packaging will protect consumers?
At Dixie we feel very passionate about child and pet resistant packaging. Unfortunately, children and pets do get into cannabis products, not because people want this to happen, but because the products are not resistant to their efforts. An edible, such as a chocolate, may lie around the house and eventually a child or pet may find their way to it. We believe that child and pet resistant packaging is not only safer, but will help people feel better about having these products in their house.
This type of regulation will help everyone and decrease the possibility of an accident occurring. Currently, California legislation has written broad regulation covering this, and over the next year we will see how the more detailed nuances plays out and what will go into effect. When it comes to cannabis, child resistant packaging is the trend across the country. We believe California tends to have very strict consumer advocacy regulations in other areas, and as a result will lean this way in regards to packaging. Dixie has always taken child resistant packaging very seriously, incorporating it into our products from the get-go. We hope regulatory changes will force other manufacturers to address this issue comprehensively as well.
3. Lab Testing
Why is lab testing of products so important in regards to consumer safety?
In Colorado, Dixie already tests for mold, mildew, microbials, residual solvents, and pesticides within all of our products. We hope as regulations take effect in California in 2016, that patients will start to feel more secure about the products they are ingesting. A patient should not have to worry about what is in their product and whether it is safe. Today they do need to think about this, or at least they should be thinking about it. Clearly, many products on the market are not safe enough for consumption. For instance, there is no other industry where pesticides are used and end up in the final product, which is ingested, where it is not disclosed to the consumer.
In California, Dixie tests for toxic elements with SC Labs, our chosen laboratory. Lab testing is critical for knowing what is in your end product. It is not only important to know the potency and dosage of your product, but to know that the plant material that went into product is safe and there are no residual pesticides or residual solvents such as butane and propane. Patients should never ingest residual solvents as this is obviously dangerous to your health. The patient should be able to trust that the product is safe and that regulatory oversight is doing its job. Ultimately, the patient should feel they are protected.
Dixie already incorporates many of the elements that will be asked of product manufacturers within the new California regulations. What else does Dixie think will be needed for regulatory control to be successful in California?
Yes, for sure Dixie is ahead of the game in California in that we have already focused on more accurate dosage information, child resistant packaging, and stringent lab testing. We believe that California regulations will require all of this, as it is not only common sense, but also what is best for the cannabis consumer. California is now in the tricky place of figuring out their regulatory oversight without over-regulating the industry.
Education is also a big part of this. Patients need to understand what is changing and why it is changing. In a market like California, you have so many people that have been using cannabis regularly and successfully for medical conditions for a long time. The last thing regulators want to do is make it hard for people to get their medicine and send the last twenty years of progress backwards. This is a very tricky line to walk and so far government has been working well with the industry to figure out the path to success. Regulatory oversight, when done well, is our friend. It will allow for better products to get to more people, ensuring everyone’s safety.