ICYMI (March 18 – 27, 2023)

Deep Dive of the Week

TL;DR Emerald Scientific awarded ACS Laboratories another round of badges after issues with potency and contaminants testing in Florida.

What Happened: Emerald Scientific calls it ‘The Emerald Test’, the gold standard in cannabis testing. It recently awarded another round of badges to ACS, one of Florida’s first certified cannabis testing laboratories. 

Where We Are: ACS has had public issues in proficiency testing, potency inflation, and accreditation for contaminants testing.

Implications: How much can proficiency tests like ‘The Emerald Test’ tell us about lab performance?

Deep Dive: Emerald Scientific’s Most Accredited Laboratory, ACS Laboratory

Recently I wrote an article about formal laboratory accreditation processes, and another time I’ve written about the importance of blind proficiency testing (especially at the state level, where actual high-content THC products can be used). Emerald Scientific runs ‘The Emerald Test,” a proficiency test for cannabis labs. Emerald Scientific awards badges to participants that are able to produce results within a particular tolerance. ACS, a testing lab in Florida, is proud of its 82 Emerald Scientific Badges. 

On April 10, 2019, ACS Laboratories was created as an LLC in the state of Florida. Just nine and a half months after inception,it was ‘one of the top 5% in the United States in Cannabis and Hemp Testing, according to Emerald Scientific (and Emerald’s PR). Five months later, ACS was certified with two others to be the initial cannabis testing labs in the state of Florida. 

According to documents released to Eye on Cannabis as part of public records request to the state of Florida, May 14, 2021, ACS failed a Proficiency Test for isopropyl alcohol and total xylenes, which are residual solvents in cannabis extract manufacture. Florida requested two additional proficiency tests in addition to an internal audit before they could resume testing for those solvents.

Three months later, on August 13, 2020, the state informed ACS of a failed compliance inspection of their Florida facility. The issues included (1) an inaccurate floor plan, (2)  all cannabis was not stored in a secured, lock room or a value in a manner that does not accelerate spoilage or degradation, (3) matrix spikes and duplicates were not present for each laboratory batch, (4) CoA’s did not include all information necessary such as cultivation or processing facilities, and (5) issues with the facility’s cameras.

While these issues were ongoing, there was also correspondence about issues in a data packet that was sent to the state. Specifically, the packets had several issues that the state and ACS had some back and forth on. These issues were still ongoing as of a letter from Florida to ACS on October 26, 2021, noting that ACS still needed to take action.

Three months later in January of 2022, ACS was certified as a hemp testing laboratory in Colorado

On July 26, 2022 the state wrote to ACS to inform them of a $5,000 fine. On July 7, 2022 Trulieve sent Florida a notification of destruction. At issue is the fact that ACS did not inform the state of a failed test, as per regulation. 

Just a couple of weeks later, on August 12, 2022 Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use once again wrote to ACS. This time, the issue was the inaccurate THC potency information on 5 COA’s, for which the state levied a $5,000 total fine.  

A few weeks later, on August 30, 2022, it was time for another letter. This time it was for using PCR tests to test for yeast and mold. The issue was that ACS wasn’t accredited for these types of tests (remember, accreditation is for each test run, as it examines standard operating procedures and other information!). They were fined $20,000.

Don’t worry about ACS, folks! Just 3 months later, they dropped an NFT, and 5 months after using unaccredited methods for testing for yeast and mold they were awarded enough Emerald Scientific badges to bring their total to 82.

Other Headlines You Should Know About

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What I’m Reading 

Costs of cannabis testing compliance: Assessing mandatory testing in the California cannabis market – PMC

Comparison of State-Level Regulations for Cannabis Contaminants and Implications for Public Health

Challenges and Barriers in Conducting Cannabis Research

Review of corruption in the health sector: theory, methods and interventions