To considerable fanfare – and the occasional stumble – the legal recreational marijuana industry opened for business in Washington state last week. So far, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) has issued the state’s first 24 marijuana retailer licenses, representing the first of 334 licenses allotted by the WSLCB for retail sales who have successfully completed the Initiative 502 licensing process. Now that sales of legal marijuana and marijuana-infused products have commenced in the state, many are asking about the quality and safety of these products.

Like other food and beverage items we ingest, marijuana products can contain mites, molds, and even foodborne pathogens such as E. coli. In order to stave off potential health and safety risks, WSLCB mandated that all marijuana products undergo rigorous quality assurance testing by certified labs. In fact, as Dan Flynn at Food Safety News reports, “Washington state is off to a safer start than Colorado.” According to Flynn:

The Evergreen State is subjecting all forms of marijuana — edibles, concentrates, and the smoking variety — to the same microbiological testing it imposes on all food and beverages.

Colorado allowed the edible industry to get underway without requiring edible manufacturers to pass tests for such dangerous pathogens as E. coli and Salmonella. Later this fall, Colorado’s pot industry will have to play by those rules just as conventional food and beverage manufacturers do. In the meantime, millions of products have been sold without the testing used by the conventional food industry.

Under Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Section 314-55-102, the general body of required quality assurance tests for marijuana flowers and infused products may include moisture content, potency analysis, foreign matter inspection, microbiological screening, pesticide and other chemical residue and metals screening, and residual solvents levels. More specifically, marijuana producers and processors must contract with certified labs to complete the following required quality assurance tests:

Quality Assurance Checklist

Unless the marijuana flowers or marijuana-infused products have successfully completed all required quality assurance testing, the products may not be sold or transported in the state. Any usable marijuana or marijuana-infused product that passes the required quality assurance tests may be labeled as “Class A.” Only “Class A” usable marijuana or marijuana-infused product will be allowed to be sold.

Importantly, producers and processors may only use WSLCB certified third-party testing labs that meet certain accreditation criteria under the I-502 regulatory system. Certified labs will receive a certification letter from the Board and must conspicuously display this letter in the lab in plain sight of the customers. The WSLCB intends to furnish a list, via our website, of accredited labs for producers to contract with for testing services.

In addition to testing, the WSLCB is also requiring members of the legal marijuana industry to use a comprehensive traceability software system that will trace product from “seed to sale.” The Initiative 502 rules require that all “key” events be tracked and uploaded into the state’s traceability software system which includes quality assurance test results, transportation and sale of product, sampling and handling of waste.

If you have any questions about the quality assurance testing process, you can contact me at or (206) 386-7698.