Tag Archives: documentation

Ask the Expert: Q&A with Steve Stadlmann on Cannabis lab Accreditation

By Aaron G. Biros
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Steve Stadlmann has an extensive background as an analytical chemist working in laboratories since the early 90’s. He is now a sales specialist at PerkinElmer, an analytical instrument manufacturer that provides instruments for cannabis testing labs, in addition to a host of other industries. With over two decades of experience working in environmental testing labs, food and beverage labs and agricultural testing labs, Stadlmann is extremely familiar with the instruments used in cannabis labs.

Steve Stadlmann, sales specialist at Perkin Elmer

In 2014, he started working in the cannabis space with TriQ, Inc., a technology solutions provider for cannabis growers, where he worked in product development on a line of nutrients. In April of 2016, he started working at Juniper Analytics, a cannabis-testing laboratory in Bend, Oregon. As laboratory director there, he created their quality manual, quality assurance plan, SOP’s and all the technical documentation for ORELAP accreditation. He developed new methodologies for cannabis testing industry for residual solvents, terpene profiles and potency analysis. He worked with PerkinElmer on pesticide methodology for the QSight™ Triple Quadrupole LC/MS/MS system and implemented operational procedures and methods for LC-UV, GCMS and LC-MS/MS, including sample prep for cannabis products.

He left Juniper Analytics about two months ago to work with PerkinElmer as a sales specialist. With extensive experience in helping get Juniper’s lab accredited, he is a wealth of knowledge on all things cannabis laboratory accreditation. PerkinElmer will be hosting a free webinar on September 12th that takes a deep dive into all things cannabis lab accreditation. Ahead of the upcoming webinar, Getting Accreditation in the Cannabis Industry, we sit down with Stadlmann to hear his observations on what instruments he recommends for accreditation, and processes and procedures to support that. Take a look at our conversation below to get a glimpse into what this webinar will discuss.

CannabisIndustryJournal: How can cannabis labs prepare for accreditation with selecting instrumentation?

Steve: Finding the appropriate instrumentation for the regulations is crucial. Ensuring the instrumentation not only has the capabilities of analyzing all the required compounds, but also able to achieve appropriate detection limit requirements. In addition, having an instrument manufacturer as a partner, that is willing and able to assist in method development, implementation and continued changes to the testing requirements at the state level (and potentially national level) is key.

Another consideration is robustness of the equipment. The instrumentation must be capable of high throughput for fast turnaround times of results. Unlike the environmental industry, the cannabis industry has consumer products with expiration dates. Clients demand quick turnaround of results to get product to market as quickly as possible and avoid sitting on inventory for any length of time.

To add to the robustness need, sample matrices in the cannabis industry can be quite challenging in relation to analytical instrumentation. Equipment that is able to handle these matrices with minimal downtime for routine service is becoming a requirement to maintain throughput needs of the industry.

CIJ: What are the most crucial procedures and practices for achieving ISO 17025 accreditation?

Steve: Development and documentation of processes and procedures following Good Laboratory Practices and procedures is essential to a successful accreditation process. Great attention must be paid to the quality objectives of the laboratory as well as associated documentation, including tracking of any errors, deviations, updates, complaints, etc.

Data integrity is a key component to any accrediting body and includes implementation and/or development of appropriate methods with support data proving acceptable results. In addition, documentation of all procedures and processes along with tracking of all steps in the process during routine laboratory work should be a priority. The ability to show a complete, documented trail of all procedures done to any sample is important in ensuring the results can be reproduced and ensuring no deviations occurred, in turn potentially causing questionable results.

Last but not least: training. Laboratory staff should be well versed in any procedures they are involved in to ensure high data quality and integrity. If any laboratory staff does not receive appropriate training in any operating procedures, the data quality becomes suspect.

CIJ: What are some of the biggest obstacles or pitfalls cannabis labs face when trying to get accredited?

Steve: Not fully preparing to meet any agency and testing regulations and requirements will cause delays in the accreditation process and potentially more work for the laboratory. From documentation to daily operations, if any aspect becomes a major finding for an auditor, additional data is usually required to prove the error has been fixed satisfactorily.

Taking the time early on to ensure all documentation, processes and procedures are adhering to any regulatory agency requirements is important for a smooth accreditation process. It is easy to overlook small details when building out the operating procedures that might be essential in the process. Again, going back to data quality, the laboratory must ensure all steps are outlined and documented to ensure high quality (reproducible) data and integrity.

A new employee should be able to come in and read a quality manual and standard operating procedure and produce equivalent data to any laboratory analyst doing the same job. With difficult or challenging operating procedures it becomes even more important that training and documentation are adhered to.


PerkinElmer’s free webinar will dive into these points and others in more detail. To learn more and sign up, click here.

The Practical Chemist

Building the Foundation of Medical Cannabis Testing – Understanding the Use of Standards and Reference Materials – Part 2

By Joe Konschnik
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In the last article I referred to the analogy of the analytical reference material being a keystone of the laboratory foundation, the stone upon which all data relies. I then described the types of reference materials and their use in analytical testing in general terms. This article will describe the steps required to properly manufacture and deliver a certified reference material (CRM) along with the necessary documentation.

A CRM is an exclusive reference material that meets strict criteria defined by ISO Guide 34 and ISO/IEC 17025.  ISO is the International Organization for Standardization and IEC is the International Electrotechnical Commission. These organizations work together to set globally recognized standards. In order for a reference material to be labeled as a CRM it must 1) be made with raw or starting materials which are characterized using qualified methods and instruments, 2) be produced in an ISO-accredited lab under documented procedures, and 3) fall under the manufacturer’s scopes of accreditation. Verifying a CRM supplier has these credentials is easily done by viewing their certificates which should include their scopes of accreditation. Restek_accredit

There are many steps required to produce a CRM that meets the above three criteria.  The first step requires a review of the customer’s, or end-user’s requirements to carefully define what is to be tested, at what levels and which analytical workflow will be used.  Such information enables the producer to identify the proper compounds and solvents required to properly formulate the requested CRM.

The next step requires sourcing and acquiring the raw, or starting materials, then verifying their compatibility and stability using stability and shipping studies in accordance with ISO requirements. Next the chemical identify and purity of the raw materials must be characterized using one or more analytical techniques such as: GC-FID, HPLC, GC-ECD, GC-MS, LC-MS, refractive index and melting point. In some cases, the percent purity is changed by the producer when their testing verifies it’s different from the supplier label. All steps are of course documented.

restek_CRMThe producer’s analytical balances must be verified using NIST traceable weights and calibrated annually by an accredited third party provider to guarantee accurate measurement. CRMs must be prepared using Class A volumetric glassware, and all ampules and vials used in preparation and final packaging must be chemically treated to prevent compound degradation during storage. Next, CRMs are packaged in an appropriate container, labeled then properly stored to maintain the quality and stability until it’s ready to be shipped. All labels must include critical storage, safety and shelf life information to meet federal requirements. The label information must be properly linked to documentation commonly referred to as a certificate of analysis (COA) which describes all of the above steps and verifies the traceability and uncertainty of all measurements for each compound contained in the CRM. Restek_CRM2

My company, RESTEK, offers a variety of documentation choices to accompany each CRM. Depending on the intended use and data quality objectives specified by the end-user, which were defined way back at the first step, three options are typically offered:  They include gravimetric only, qualitative which includes gravimetric, and fully quantitative which includes all three levels of documentation. The graphic to the right summarizes the three options and what they include. 

It’s important to understand which level you’re purchasing especially when ordering a custom CRM from a supplier. Most stock CRMs include all three levels of documentation, but it’s important to be sure.

Understanding what must be done to produce and deliver a CRM sets it apart from other reference material types, however it’s important to understand there are some instances where CRMs are either not available, nor required and in those situations other types of reference materials are perfectly acceptable.

If you have any questions or would like more details about reference materials please contact me, Joe Konschnik at (800) 356-1688 ext. 2002 by phone, or email me at joe.konschnik@restek.com.

mcseriesipad

Documentation & Compliance: A Q&A with Michael Shea, ConformanceWare

By Aaron G. Biros
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mcseriesipad

Cannabis safety throughout the supply chain requires active documentation tools for business owners to keep up with standards and regulations on the local and state level. Michael Shea, founder and president of AccessQMS and chief executive officer of Upshot’s ConformanceWare, provides consulting support across multiple industries with independent referral services to compliance professionals. With quality, safety and efficiency at top of mind, ConformanceWare’s design team developed the Medical Cannabis Series (MC Series™) to help cannabis business owners make the task of compliance easier. The documentation tools in the program are individually tailored to address needs in cultivation, processing, analyzing and dispensing.MC series

The MC Series-Analyze Edition is currently in use at Canalysis Laboratories and NV Cann Labs, both operating in Nevada. According to Tara Lynn, chief executive officer at NV Cann Labs, the product helps them meet all of their documentation needs. “I appreciate all of the development using the MC Series- Analyze Edition and look forward to developing even more of a relationship through the years to come,” says Lynn. We sit down with Michael Shea to learn more about his product and how cannabis business owners can stay on top of regulatory compliance.

CannabisIndustryJournal: How will the MC Series help cannabis laboratories, cultivators, processors and dispensaries navigate regulatory compliance?

Michael Shea: To open a sustainable business involving cannabis goes beyond submitting applications, paying fees and focusing on profit alone. As laws adjust and tighter controls are put in place, more and more business owners are realizing what preserves and sustains their business is, in fact, compliance.

True sustainability is driven by forward thinking that values documenting and following best practices to ensure quality, safety and efficiency. Ambiguity concerning where to turn or how to correctly produce this documentation not only poses a difficult dilemma, it can put one’s investment at risk as well.mcserieslaptop

Finding a remedy for the situation begins with an expansion of perspective. Businesses will benefit most by actively working toward compliance from the onset. This approach eliminates having to face non-compliance and the enforcement that goes along with it.

MC Series™ is designed for this purpose and will greatly help businesses precisely document how their method of operation demonstrates full compliance with applicable laws and standards. Each MC Series™ edition is developed using Microsoft Word and Excel, which is then customized to mirror each organization’s processes, procedures and instructions.

Being user friendly, we have built in numerous hyperlinks for navigating and managing files and documents so that the documentation behaves like a website. This enables each user to access, edit, save and retrieve information instantly.

CIJ: How does your product utilize CMC’s, FDA, ISO, FOCUS, AHPA and EPA standards to help business owners?  

Michael: Businesses handling cannabis are subject to strict regulations and are expected to show full compliance with regulatory protocols. Setting up your business correctly means playing by the rules and operating with the proper documentation and structural foundation.mcserieslaptop2

By applying established best practices from the start, business owners will be able to minimize risk for investors, tighten efficiencies and quickly adapt to regulatory changes with minor adjustments. This serves two primary functions: Business owners will now have the protection they need and the means to promote their brand as a world-class operation.

Because laws surrounding cannabis are in such a state of flux and revision, what is most valuable to know is what technical documents lawmakers select for the purpose of writing regulations. Putting this knowledge to work, the MC series uses a variety of guidance documents designated by regulatory and standards bodies for best establishing compliance.

Developed with regulations in mind, each series edition accurately defines the scope of applicability required for your business model. Whether you’re a grower, processor, cannabis testing service or dispensary the MC series has a solution. It significantly helps business owners to achieve compliance by providing the required documentation with an operations framework.

MC series merges regulatory best practices with internationally accepted standards to deliver a complete solution with a very quick turnaround time. Designed to ensure public safety and protect human health, the MC series provides a much-needed tool that bridges the gap between compliance and profitability.

CIJ: How might you be ahead of the curve in looking toward a rescheduling or a schedule 2 cannabis framework?

Michael: Being ahead of the curve simply translates to knowing the regulatory landscape and what’s involved moving forward. When the goal is to legalize cannabis for its great many uses and benefits, public health and safety must come first. Now is the time for business owners to get serious and effectively address the process of legitimizing it.

As with anything available for consumption, standardization is the method and regulators have a long established process for putting controls in place to ensure the health and safety of consumers. We have a lot of experience in this area, and our MC Series™ is an exceptionally useful tool for people who don’t. It is our way of contributing to assisting and accelerating the process.

Essentially, we are saying to business owners, operate your business as if cannabis is already legal. Managing your operations in compliance to existing regulatory best practices will speak volumes to lawmakers. You will be effectively demonstrating to Federal and State governments that you understand the importance of regulations to ensure public health and safety and are making compliance top priority.

This will make your business fluid in relation to regulatory changes and prepare you for Schedule II and beyond.

CIJ: Why should business owners be proactive in navigating regulatory compliance with a documentation management system?

Michael: With so many regulations targeting the cannabis industry, it is hard to keep track of and adjust accordingly. Many business owners are getting excited about being involved and making a difference. Amidst all this enthusiasm, the importance of best practices is often times overlooked and prioritized for when business is good and finances improve.

At this point, business owners can no longer afford to position best practices for future use.

For businesses handling cannabis, taking a future stance will always increase risk.. This leaves you legally exposed to unforeseen costs and complications. More importantly, it will exponentially increase the potential for watching your investment, hard work and business be out paced by the competition, or even worse, closed down permanently.mcseriesipad

Alternatively, being proactive will yield different results. Great benefits will come by adopting and following best practices to operate your business. In doing so, you now have an effective method to ensure quality, health and safety, environmental stewardship and sustainability. As a rapidly growing industry, these areas of discipline are absolutely critical for cannabis to reach its full potential and be fully accepted.

In many industries, legitimate and successful companies see best practices as simply part of doing business. Many see it as a tool that provides a useful roadmap for continually improving their operations and strengthening their position in the market.

When the legal obligations have been taken care of, success becomes a matter of setting realistic goals, planning well and delivering with impeccable timing. Operational performance can now be measured and improved for unhindered growth. Everyone involved or tied to your business is now on the same page and in areas of supervision, micromanagement is replaced with a documented system. Documentation should clearly define everyone’s roles and responsibilities, so that when errors occur, there are corrective action procedures available to fix them.


Editor’s note: For more information you may reach out directly to Michael Shea at 313-303-6763 or info@conformanceware.com

Marijuana Matters

A Guide to Documentation and SOPs for Start Ups

By David C. Kotler, Esq.
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As your company grows, or whether you want to have certain documentation to make an application for licensure and/or for outside entities looking to invest, it is necessary to handle issues from a documentation standpoint. Learning how to handle situations with staff through proper employee manuals and how to establish and practice standard operating procedures can help businesses avoid common pitfalls with a little forethought.

Beginning with standard operating procedures (SOPs), there are many resources available to get assistance in crafting them. You can consult with individuals such as safety content producers, business consultants, lawyers, technical writers, and even borrowing SOP writers from other industries. I am aware of a Connecticut producer who tapped pharmaceutical SOP writers as consultants with the focus of establishing their standard operating procedures. I am not convinced that there is any proper person or method by which an entity may want to consider an SOP. As a threshold, however, it is important that a proper format is created, i.e., simple steps, hierarchical steps format or perhaps even a flow chart format.

One would want to consider the audience who will be reading the SOP and the information to impart to that audience. It is also important to consider SOPs that you want to update as practices evolve or change.

It is possible to create SOPs internally, and frankly, this may be the most recommended route. If the SOPs are being used for guidance and not just to support the license application process, this is particularly important. It is a time-consuming task and if created from the inside out, it can be most effective.

It is possible to get lost in the minutia by documenting every step taken within a particular process. I have seen SOPs number in the hundreds just for cultivation and processing operations. One particular entity in Colorado created over 63 SOPs within the past year. If you are writing your own SOPs, it is important to understand the scope and applicability, i.e. why a particular process is performed and how it is used, then the procedures and/or steps that are necessary to accomplish that particular process, clarify any terms that are necessary so that the reader is able to follow the steps throughout a particular outline, cover health and safety issues, address equipment and supplies and provide emergency procedures.

The process that I can attest to as being fruitful is interplay between an employee who is actually responsible for a given task and a third party looking from a 1000-foot view. For instance, have the employee who completes a number of tasks within the organization provide a list of what they do on a general day-to-day basis. From that list, have the third party extrapolate what topics might be covered, often times borrowing from other well known standard operating procedures that are seen across industries and come up with a master list of the SOPs which are desired. It is important for the employee and third party to collaborate to finalize SOPs.

Employee guides or manuals provide information on benefits, when time sheets are due, paydays, holidays, vacation days, sick days and more. For employees, it helps mitigate risk by providing guidelines for conduct, discipline, and local practices in the states in which you operate. Employee guides are most effective when they are created to match your company’s needs. When it is tailored to your company, you are certain that the policies meet the laws of the places where your offices and employees are located. It allows you to provide input so you can ensure that you have developed policies that your company will follow. Unwritten policies are unwise as they may cause issues and can potentially lead to lawsuits. There are three types of multi-state employee guides: a guide with favored nations status, meaning that the most liberal laws in one location apply to the entire organization; an employment guide for each location in which you operate; or you can create one guide with a local practice section.

Creation of employee guides is a time consuming and arduous practice, but once completed, they help guide the relationship between employee and employer. Employees should review the employee manual and sign off upon receipt and review. This will serve to protect the employer in the future should an issue covered by the manual arise.

An effective employee guide might include (but certainly not be limited to) the following:

  • An “employment at will” disclaimer
  • An anti-harassment policy
  • An internal grievance procedure
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
  • Employee benefits
  • Paid time off (vacation, personal days, sick leave)
  • Unpaid leaves of absence
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (for employers with more than 15 employees)
  • Jury duty, military leave
  • Hours of work
  • Introductory/probationary period
  • Legally mandated language concerning pay deductions
  • Proper E-mail/Internet usage
  • Professionalism/dress code
  • Drugs in the workplace
  • Social media policy

There are many other policies that would be included in order to comply with requirements that might be mandated by a particular regulatory scheme i.e. security compliance. The guide should be a living, breathing document that evolves over time based on new knowledge, changes in laws and business fluidity.

Both standard operating procedures and employee manuals or guides are integral to the viability of a cannabis related business whether a hands on the plant license holder or an ancillary company. I encourage my clients to craft self-created content that they have invested their time and knowledge into, with some help where necessary. Purchasing forms online does not provide a workable format and will only lead to problems in the future. You get what you put in and creating these documents internally and from the ground up gives more control to the business.