Marijuana Rescheduling Implications for Testing Labs


After recent news broke that the Biden administration will be moving to reschedule marijuana under federal law, many are left wondering what this means for the industry. 

To put it simply, rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug will open the door for more research opportunities. Cannabis businesses may see the most impact, seeing as they will be able to officially take federal tax deductions that they’ve been barred from under an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E. 

But what about testing labs? In light of this recent news, PathogenDx CEO and co-founder Milan Patel provides insight on the implications that rescheduling will have for cannabis testing labs.

The FDA’s Possible Involvement

Seeing as marijuana will remain federally illegal, the states in which the substance is legal already have their own regulations in place, which testing labs will continue to follow. But, Patel notes, if the FDA decides to get involved after the rescheduling, there would be more stringent and thorough testing. 

“Even though certain states already have their own safety regulations, the requirements at the state level are going to be different than at the federal level,” says Patel. “Things like pathogens, bacteria and other microbes — all of these will need more sophisticated requirements if the FDA gets involved.”

An Opportunity for Synergistic Partnerships

As marijuana gets descheduled, Patel believes pharmaceutical companies will jump in, opening up opportunities for synergistic partnerships. 

“The knowledge at the testing and grow levels need to come together nicely in order to do clinical research in pharma,” he says. “The different cannabinoid profiles and terpenes — all of the specifics on how the plant helps from a medicinal or therapeutic perspective — can come together and be unblocked with a partnership.” 

Collaborating with the pharmaceutical industry will also help to drive capital into marijuana research, according to Patel. 

“Money will pour in from the pharmaceutical industry, but you also need the knowledge and domain expertise for clinical research that testing labs can offer,” he says. “At the end of the day, the pharmaceutical companies know how to go through clinical studies to get something on the market, so you do need that information and capital from the financial sector. But you also need the knowledge of the plant itself, which the pharmaceutical companies don’t know.”

Marijuana has the potential to help out so many consumers that suffer from migraines, anxiety, chronic pain and other medical issues — we just need the research to back it up. Marrying the knowledge and experience from the testing lab side with the financial benefits from the pharmaceutical side can really push the industry forward. 

“The biggest and most exciting thing to come from marijuana rescheduling is the funding and additional capital avenues for research,” adds Aaron Riley, CEO of Certified Testing and Data. “The interesting thing to me is the fact that some drugs that have gone through FDA requirements are based on cannabis and are already on the market. The potential for other medical discoveries are huge — we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.”

How Testing Labs Can Prepare for Rescheduling

Since testing labs will still need to abide by their state’s testing requirements, not much will change once marijuana is rescheduled, but Patel states there are still ways in which labs can prepare themselves. 

“Labs will need to have their processes, methods and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) completely nailed down,” he advises. 

Patel suggests that labs should also begin keeping reports on any adverse effects, events and recalls of the products. If and when the FDA gets involved, this is the information they will be looking for. 

“While it does cost money to get all of this information, being able to understand the systems, processes and reporting requirements under the FDA guidelines and regulations can greatly help labs to get ahead and be fully prepared,” he mentions. “Even if you can’t spend the money today, just understanding the costs and effort needed to get to that level is important.”