First Medical Marijuana Businesses in Arizona, New Mexico Gain National Certification Patient Focused Certification program brings quality, safety standards to medical marijuana industry

June 11, 2014 | Kris Hermes

Phoenix, AZ & Santa Fe, NM -- Three businesses in Arizona and New Mexico were certified today by a new nationwide program that verifies the quality and reliability of medical marijuana produced, analyzed, and sold. The state-licensed dispensary New Mexicann of Santa Fe was the first in the state to be certified by the Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program for its production and distribution practices. The licensed dispensary Harvest of Tempe was the first licensed medical marijuana business in Arizona to be certified, and AZ Med Testing of Phoenix is the first laboratory in the country to be certified by the PFC program.

The PFC program is a project of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the only nonprofit, third-party certification for the medical marijuana industry based on new quality standards issued by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the American Herbal Pharmacopeia (AHP).

"Americans for Safe Access has a long history of working to ensure the safety of medical marijuana for the patient community," said Steve Cottrell of AZ Med Testing, the Phoenix-based laboratory just certified by PFC. "AZ Med Testing also believes that the safety of patients comes first, which is why we place so much importance on PFC certification and raising patients' confidence in the medicine being sold in Arizona."

Today's PFC certifications come as media attention has recently focused on the regulation of edible marijuana products, after New York Times columnist wrote about her experience with marijuana in Denver, Colorado. One of her main complaints had to do with the accurate labeling of marijuana products, a category heavily scrutinized by PFC. Although significant work lies ahead for PFC to certify the thousands of businesses across the country, the program shows that the medical marijuana community is serious about implementing health and safety standards in order to better protect patients.

With more than one million qualified medical marijuana patients in 22 states and the District of Columbia, a new industry has developed in order to meet the needs of this rapidly growing population. Many states and localities have created regulations to govern the location, size, taxation, and even the ownership and management of the businesses and organizations that serve patients, however PFC can now ensure adherence to the regulatory guidelines AHPA and AHP have established for the purity and identity of the products being sold and the methods for producing and distributing them.

Last year, AHPA issued a series of recommendations for state regulators, providing standards for the medical marijuana industry in the areas of manufacturing, packaging and labeling, dispensary operations, and laboratory practices. AHPA has since issued standards for commercial medical marijuana products, as well as the reliability and quality of related services. More recently, AHP released a cannabis monograph that set standards for the plant's identity, purity, quality, and botanical properties.

ASA has been offering trainings to the medical marijuana industry for over a decade and holds a permit from the District of Columbia for mandatory industry trainings. PFC industry trainings are co-produced with the Cannabis Training Institute (CTI) and certify cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, and laboratory technicians to ensure adherence to AHPA and AHP standards. Such trainings are mandatory in some states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, and the District of Columbia, but the PFC program is still available in all 22 states and the District of Columbia.

The certification process, which is overseen by a review board of scientists, doctors, and industry and regulatory experts, includes a scheduled physical audit, a staff training audit, a complaint process and at least one surprise audit annually. PFC-certified products and businesses will exhibit the PFC seal on their marketing, promotions and packaging to help patients make educated purchasing decisions. In addition to today's certifications, 16 licensed medical marijuana businesses in six states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, and Washington) and the District of Columbia have been, or will soon be, certified by PFC.

Further information:
Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program: http://PatientFocusedCertification.org
AHPA Standards: http://safeaccess2.org/sites/patientfocusedcertification/standards-development/apha-guidelines
AHP Cannabis monograph (Abridged version): http://www.safeaccessnow.org/ahp_cannabis_monograph_preview

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