At the 2015 Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, held last year in Las Vegas, keynote speaker and longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader provided words of warning to the cannabis industry.
“Proper regulation is the best aspirin you could ever have, other than marijuana,” Nader said, to a ripple of laughter. “We’ve got to have standards of inspection, for, say, pesticides, for fungus, for rot. We have to have standards of advertising and truth, so we don’t get hit with lawsuits.”
The lawsuits Nader presciently predicted have already arrived. More importantly for the purposes of this discussion, however, are Nader’s comments on testing labs. Marijuana Business Daily reports that Nader stressed the importance of testing labs being independent from the companies that they were testing so as to limit the possibilities for corruption.
While not allowing the same business to own the means of production and the means to approve the product produced as safe for consumption is a no-brainer, the tougher question is: How can cannabis testing labs – which are privately-owned entities in each state that they exist – truly be independent if they are beholden to the ultimate goal of generating profit from their activities? Keep in mind that legal cannabis systems in every state are functioning without the federal standards and regulations to which other agricultural and manufacturing enterprises are subject. That means that these private labs are, for the most part, the primary guardian of public health and safety for the tens of millions of medical patients and adult consumers who can obtain cannabis legally in states from California to Connecticut. Nader commented on the privatization of services meant to serve the public good – rather than shareholders or owners – and alluded to the Volkswagon emissions scandal:
“Why do you think [the Volkswagon scandal] happened? It’s because under federal law, they allowed private labs to do the testing,” Nader said. “Watch out for control of these labs by your industry. That’s when the problems are going to start.”
It turns out that Nader was right again.