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ICYMI: Adding Marijuana to a NIST Handbook


Few people are excited about revisions and updates to the very dry National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) manuals. For example, NIST Handbook 44 contains “Specifications, Tolerances, and Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices.” The manuals are adopted each year at the annual meeting National Conference on Weights and Measures (“NCWM”). This year’s NCWM interim meeting thrilled the cannabis crowd and looks to the future where, for the first time, marijuana is actually seen as a textbook addition.

What does this mean and why should you care? This could mean the feds are finally gearing up for legalization and interstate commerce around marijuana.

The NIST Handbooks: Committee Review

The NCWM’s Laws and Regulations (L&R) Committee develops “laws and regulations ranging from the basic Weights and Measures Act to specific laws and regulations for weighers, commodity regulations, price scanners , unit prices, motor fuel and automotive lubricants, etc. “. Additionally, the L&R Committee deals with “testing procedures to verify the actual net quantity contained in packages offered for sale”. The Specifications and Tolerances (S&T) Committee is dedicated to issues related to design, testing, tolerances and user requirements for commercial weighing and measuring devices.

The NIST Handbooks: Cannabis Task Force

The NCWM has a cannabis task force already which “submits its recommendations to the S&T committee and the L&R committee for consideration by the members of the NCWM”. Eventually, “the products of this effort will be included in the NCWM’s Interpretations and Guidelines for Cannabis.” The real mission of the working group is to “[c]create uniform guidelines for states, the District of Columbia and territories as legalized cannabis sales spread.

The working group works in 5 different areas:

  1. Relevance of scales
  2. Sales method
  3. Product packaging and labeling
  4. Security for inspectors
  5. Loss of moisture from the prepackaged product.

At the interim meeting, the L&R agenda contained a variety of cannabis-related items for consideration at Block 3. The two items that will be up for vote at the annual meeting this summer (for consideration in NIST Handbooks 130 and 133) are:

  1. “Establish[ing] a clear definition of cannabis and products containing cannabis” and
  2. “Establish[ing] an acceptable net weight allowance for cannabis, which is tied to MOS Water Activity Form 15 and Packaging and Labeling Form 15, Sections 2 and 10.”

S&T agenda also contained a proposal to “establish uniform adequacy requirements across states for cannabis sales.” However, this proposal was not retained for a vote and will continue to be discussed.

Cannabis is coming to NIST

Undoubtedly, NIST is embarking on the state-legal cannabis agenda, essentially realizing that national product and information quality assurance standards are necessary for safety, consistency, and enforcement. NIST is also no stranger to flirting with uniform marijuana standards where in 2020 it launched CannaQAP to “help ensure the quality of routine testing across the cannabis industry” (and that we have writing approximately before).

We are happy to see his continued efforts to bring order to the chaos of state-legalized cannabis, hopefully in view of possible interstate commerce following legalization. It happens.



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