Just two months after announcing a program to verify the safety and quality of medical marijuana, Americans for Safe Access announced the first two dispensaries to pass the certification process

Katie Rucke, MintPress News

About two months after the medical marijuana patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access announced that it would launch a program to verify medical marijuana products sold at licensed businesses, the group announced the certification of the first two dispensaries in the country: Berkeley Patients Group and SPARC of San Francisco.

The certifications are issued to dispensaries by the Patient Focused Certification Program, the only nonprofit, third-party medical marijuana program in the industry. The program issues certificates to those businesses that are proven to sell products that are both high-quality and reliable, according to standards set by the the American Herbal Products Association and the American Herbal Pharmacopeia.

According to ASA, the certification process is overseen by a review board of scientists, doctors and industry and regulatory experts, and it includes a scheduled physical audit, a staff training audit, a complaint process and at least one surprise audit annually.

In a recent interview with MintPress, Steph Sherer, executive director of ASA, said the group pushed for the program because more regulation is needed in the industry. She said patients want to know that their medicine is as safe as possible, which prompted testing for contaminants such as mold, mildew and pesticides.

Sherer told MintPress that many companies do a great job of checking for contaminants along with the potency of a specific strain of marijuana, but there are some dispensaries that could improve — especially because as the industry and demand for marijuana grows, the plant is being produced in larger quantities and stored for longer periods of time.

“In every city I visit across the country, patients say product safety and quality assurance are the issues they care about,” Sherer said.

Although there is some research on how the human body is affected by mold and mildew ingestion, “we know very little about how pesticides react to the body,” Sherer added.

With the industry starting to flourish, Sherer said researchers are looking more into the effects of contaminants on the body. She pointed to the findings of a study released last month in the journal Toxicology, which showed that when a person uses marijuana that has pesticides on it, the pesticides enter the user’s lungs.

“Every industry in this country that has a commercial sale component has regulation,” Sherer explained, adding that this is why ASA believes it’s important that the marijuana industry follow in the footsteps of other botanical and herbal medicine regulations.

“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.”

Sebastopol, Calif., Mayor Robert Jacob, who is also director of Peace in Medicine and SPARC, the San Francisco-based medical marijuana dispensary certified on Thursday, applauded the program, saying, “The Patient Focused Certification program is long overdue.”

“Patients deserve to know that the products they receive are of the highest standard,” Jacob said. “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.”

Though the 20 states that have legalized medical marijuana thus far, along with the District of Columbia, have all created regulations for the marijuana businesses in each jurisdiction, ASA, along with PFC and the Cannabis Training Institute, have offered programs to ensure medicinal marijuana sold in each dispensary meets the AHPA and AHP’s standards.

The training is mandatory in some states such as Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Nevada, as well as the District of Columbia. Thanks to ASA, the program is now available wherever medical marijuana is legal in the United States.

Though the two dispensaries are both located in California, ASA says 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.