The cannabis industry is compliance-driven. Are you prepared for the eventual inspection or audit?

There’s no shortage of obstacles and challenges when it comes to owning and operating a commercial cannabis grow operation. Countless threats could send your business up in smoke.

However, one of the most severe pitfalls is entirely avoidable; noncompliance.

If you haven’t deployed compliance management, you’re probably not identifying your operations and product’s consistency, quality, and safety. Noncompliance virtually guarantees steep fines, or worse.

The cannabis industry is constantly evolving. Your commercial grow room is subject to scrutiny and audits from building inspectors, banks, fire departments, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and more.

Proactively keeping up with each state’s regulations and laws can feel exhausting, but it’s necessary for success – and survival. 

Here are some simple steps to help your cultivation program stay compliant and thriving.

Document EVERYTHING!

We can’t stress the importance of documentation enough; excellent record keeping is critical for facility compliance. Maintaining meticulous, well-organized, and easily accessible records is the best way to stay out of hot water. 

You want to have your bases covered when you find yourself in front of an inspector. Plan to have at least five years of documentation ready, including:

  • personnel records,
  • receipts for every business transaction,
  • inventory records,
  • maintenance logs,
  • lab results,
  • seed-to-sale movement, 
  • and previous facility inspection records.

Excellent record-keeping ensures compliance and helps your operations run smoothly. Meticulous and organized records also help you monitor business progress for future expansion. 

You should document everything about your commercial cannabis cultivation facility. If it’s not written, it’s not done.

You should conduct routine internal audits. 

You must be able to address, evaluate, and correct compliance issues before a third-party inspection. When you conduct routine self-audits, you can quickly identify your facility’s weaknesses, strengths, and areas for improvement. 

Internal audits are a fantastic way to gauge the overall health of your business, from your documentation processes to the consistency of your day-to-day operations and procedures. 

Consider the areas of your facility that will be subject to more scrutiny during an inspection. Use sample inspection reports as a guide; they’ll give you a better understanding of what to expect during a third-party audit.

If you’re unsure of where to start, do a simple audit of a finished product. Choose a completed dried flower and review all of the documentation from the first stages of production to the end product.

These audits will give you the insight needed to improve and provide the inspector with an impressive roadmap that shows you take compliance seriously.

Become Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certified. 

Good manufacturing practices are an integral part of quality assurance, and anything food or pharmaceutical-related has FDA-developed recommended GMP guidelines.

There are still no cannabis-specific GMP guidelines, but with federal legalization on the horizon across North America, it’s only a matter of time before GMP certification becomes necessary for compliance. Today, in most circumstances, state lawmakers develop these rules and procedures with little uniform guidance.

Still, intelligent cannabis brands utilize the FDA’s GMP guidelines as a blueprint, including their Quality Systems Approach. Applying these regulations to your grow room is an easy step toward maintaining compliance.

You must develop standard operating procedures. 

It’s surprising how many commercial grow facilities fail to sufficiently train their employees. Untrained employees are an oversight you can’t afford. 

Your typical cannabis cultivation facility has many hazardous materials and equipment. And in the hands of untrained employees, your high-pressure sodium lamps, CO2 enrichment systems, butane extractions, and pesticides (organic or otherwise) become recipes for disaster. 

You must conduct intensive training to ensure workers understand essential cannabis cultivation tools and processes. Developing (and following) readily available standard operating procedures (SOPs) is the only way to remain compliant. 

Your people must know how to grow, when to grow, what to use when growing, how to use equipment and the importance of documenting the entire process to create uniformity and mitigate compliance issues.

When creating SOPs, you should include:

  • documentation explaining why you are performing the process, 
  • process roles and responsibilities, 
  • the materials and equipment necessary to complete the tasks, 
  • and comprehensive instructions to perform a given task. 

Your SOPs should also include health, safety, and emergency procedures and a place where staff can record data and verify their work with a signature. 

Validation testing is the best way to ensure your SOPs are effective. Repeat a procedure several times, and gather the necessary data on the process. When your information shows consistent success, congratulations, you have a valid SOP.

Test your product.

You must always test your products to operate a compliant cannabis brand (we’ve talked about it before). Legal adult-use cannabis states require third-party testing throughout the cultivation process. They also need a certificate of analysis to demonstrate that your products have passed state-determined testing requirements. 

The results printed on your certificate of analysis tells consumers your products are consistent and safe. 

You can leverage in-house testing before sending your products to an accredited facility for third-party tests. In-house testing gives you complete control, so you know exactly what you’re growing and selling. It also helps you validate the third-party testing facility’s accuracy (and legitimacy – even state-accredited testing facilities run afoul occasionally). 

Cannabis compliance is eternal. It’s a continual process requiring proactivity. Fortunately, we can help you regularly audit your cultivated products with our affordable, easy-to-use, in-house testing solutions. Don’t leave anything to chance; know what you’re growing, buying, selling, or consuming. 

Is your cultivation facility compliant? Let’s find out, get in touch for a free cultivation facility assessment today.