National Medical Marijuana Group Certifies First Dispensaries in Effort to Bring Quality Standards to the Industry Two California dispensaries are first to complete certification program with pending certifications in six states

February 20, 2014 | Kris Hermes

San Francisco, CA -- Patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) certified the first two dispensaries in the country today for its new nationwide program that verifies the quality and reliability of products sold at licensed medical marijuana businesses. The certifications issued today to Berkeley Patients Group and SPARC of San Francisco are based on the Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program, 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).

"The Patient Focused Certification program is long overdue," said Sebastopol Mayor Robert Jacob, who is also director of Peace in Medicine and SPARC, the San Francisco-based medical marijuana dispensary certified today. "Patients deserve to know that the products they receive are of the highest standard," continued Mayor Jacob. "As Mayor of Sebastopol, I am relieved to know that there are product safety standards established by a trusted national organization to help guide local governments."

With more than one million qualified medical marijuana patients in 20 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.

"In every city I visit across the country, patients say product safety and quality assurance are the issues they care about," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "As a patient advocacy organization, it was a natural fit for Americans for Safe Access to fill this much needed gap," continued Sherer. "With our independent, third-party certification, patients, healthcare providers, and regulators will be able to depend on reliable, high-quality medical marijuana products and services."

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. Following a successful beta phase over the past few months, the program is now available to the medical cannabis industry in all 20 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, there are pending applications in six states, including Harvest of Tempe in Arizona; BASA and Peace in Medicine in California; Werc Shop Laboratories in California and Washington; Remedy Compassion Center in Maine; New Mexicann and Page Analytics in New Mexico; and The CPC, Dockside Co-op and Solstice Co-op in Washington.

Further information:
Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program: http://PatientFocusedCertification.org
PFC brochure: http://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/PFC_Brochure.pdf
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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