As a young, innovative, and tech-oriented industry, cannabis companies are growing a whole new multi-billion dollar industry in almost no time at all. But in such a quickly expanding sector, only recently legalized in Canada and other jurisdictions, it’s more important than ever for cannabis companies to ensure that their products are safe to consume. With the right outlook and the right technology, securing public trust and producing the best product on the market are two wholly compatible goals.
Look to Canada for Cannabis Regulations & Compliance
As cannabis becomes legal in more and more places worldwide, the biggest bureaucratic shift will be toward regulation in an industry that has never been regulated before. Many governments are unsure how to proceed, especially when cannabis occupies a grey legal area as a product with limited legality (e.g. if only medical cannabis is legal or if it is federally illegal, as in the US). For this reason, it is practical to look to Canada, the first G7 and G20 country to legalize marijuana, for a safer path into the future.
Since cannabis was legalized in Canada in 2018, companies that wish to produce or sell cannabis have to comply with many regulations, including filing a monthly report with 477 fields. There is every reason to expect that as legalization rolls out, stringent oversight will be a necessary part of a business’ survival – and it must go far beyond the GMP certification that is a basic component of most food safety regulations. As those in the food industry know, GMP can be the beginning of compliance, but it is never the end.
The Clue is in the Edibles
More than any other industry, cannabis companies know that even the slightest shortcoming in safety compliance is a sure way to slam the door on success. It is here that the food industry can give cannabis companies an invaluable clue – and invaluable tools – to look ahead and embrace the possibilities of the future.
It is also here that Canada can point the way forward yet again. Edibles will only become legal in Canada this fall, a full year behind other types of cannabis products. According to Deloitte, the market is estimated to be worth $2.7 billion annually. And while there is a good argument for treating all cannabis products (which come from a plant that must be grown and harvested) like a food product, the edibles industry is certainly about to be hit with the regulatory requirements from the food industry.
In fact, the control measures that the government is requiring of edibles manufacturers are, in the words of Health Canada spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau, “in large part drawn from and align with requirements that apply to food under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.” These regulations are designed to specifically reduce the risk of food-borne illness and contamination by requiring edible and extract producers to create, among other things, hazard analysis (5.2.13) and preventative control plans (5.2.14) starting on October 17, 2019.
The writing is certainly on the wall: the government is taking its regulatory cues from the food industry, and cannabis companies that succeed must follow along. The good news is that, unlike many of the regulatory software for the cannabis industry, there is no need to start from square one.
HACCP: The Future of Cannabis Compliance
The gold-standard of the food industry, required in Canada since the Safe Foods for Canadians Act was passed into law in 2012, is the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) program. While it’s not a certification itself (more so a systematic approach to identifying hazards and creating plans around them), most food safety and quality certifications do require or build upon it, including higher-level certifications like SQF. Business partners generally require HACCP to do business all over the world, particularly in North America.
So if HACCP is increasingly a prerequisite for business in the food industry, you can bet that most cannabis regulations will draw from it. And while much of the food industry still uses outdated, manual approaches to HACCP that take months or years to implement, the cannabis industry is perfectly situated to jump ahead and adopt the new technologies that are specifically geared toward compliance.
From Food to Cannabis: Automated One-Click HACCP Plans and Traceability
In fact, the cannabis industry is already looking to compliance and traceability technology built specifically for the sector. But those software systems don’t treat cannabis as a food product – and so miss a huge opportunity to anticipate the needs of the industry (like the necessity of robust traceability) and capitalize on the knowledge and experience of a parallel and even intersecting one (that is, food).
An ERP like Icicle, designed for the food industry and seamlessly adapted for cannabis businesses and supply chains, transforms the process of implementing HACCP from spanning months or years to just weeks, and takes what once took shelves and shelves of binders, and now puts it all in one digital space.
- Manage compliance and traceability from seed to (whole)sale: Streamline traceability down to the farm level, generate traceability reports in seconds, and protect businesses throughout the supply chain from costly and dangerous recalls.
- Generate HACCP plans and other compliance documents in one-click: Automate those 477-field reports and other types of documentation with a single, interconnected ecosystem for your entire business — sales, shipping, safety, traceability, and beyond – that can update in real-time.
- Implement a sustainable system that will grow with your business: The fastest solution is also the best and most forward-thinking one. Icicle provides complete licensing documents and related SOPs so you can achieve full compliance with the Cannabis Act, including any changes down the road and requirements in new markets, because we will get you set up the right way.
Visionary thinkers and leaders understand that these changes are coming, that they should be embraced, and that part of embracing higher standards of safety and quality means adopting automation solutions that help you get ahead of – and even mostly eliminate – paperwork, recalls, and inefficiencies.
Cannabis companies need to move beyond the basic pharmaceutical and GMP requirements and start thinking about the long-term implications of upping their food safety game. And those that are the first to adopt HACCP plans will gain access to massive market share potential long before their slower competitors.
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