Committee Blog: National and International Standards & Regulatory Bodies Relevant to the Cannabis Industry
By Eric Myers
March 26, 2021
/ Education

Committee Blog: National and International Standards & Regulatory Bodies Relevant to the Cannabis Industry

by NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee

The cannabis industry benefits from the accumulated knowledge and established standards developed by many of the organizations listed here. Understanding the regulatory ecosystem is essential for cannabis operators as well as for those who strive to shape the regulatory future of the cannabis industry.

Listed below are some of the major regulatory bodies and standards agencies that have some relevance to the cannabis industry.

Table of Contents


American Herbal Products Association - AHPA

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) was founded in 1982 to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products to ensure that consumers continue to enjoy informed access to a wide variety of herbal goods. Their seminal Herbs of Commerce (HoC) (first published in 1992) was officially incorporated by the US Federal Government into the Code of Regulations (21 CFR 101.4) establishing consistent naming of botanical ingredients for dietary supplements. With precedent for federal recognition, their active Cannabis Committee is actively paving the path for safe and consistent use of cannabis products.


The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers - ASABE

The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) is an educational and scientific organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agricultural, food, and biological systems. ASABE develops standards through its standards committees. Relevant cannabis committees include:

  • ES-300 Energy Utilization & Application: Leads and coordinates the activities of ASABE in matters related to electro-technology as related to agriculture energy efficiency, electrical wiring systems, and electrical utility programs.
  • ES-310 Ag Lighting Group: Leads and coordinates the activities of ASABE in matters related to agricultural lighting systems (combined with ES-311 Electromagnetic Radiation Application for Plants) 
    • The ASABE Standards Committee ES-311 X644 Working Group is developing Draft Standard ASABE X644 Performance Measures of Electromagnetic Radiation Systems for Plants.

ASABE Plants, Animals, and Facilities Systems (PAFS) Technical Community is working with ASHRAE (through its Plant and Animal Environment technical committee) to develop x653 related to HVAC and lighting for indoor plant growth without sunlight.


American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers - ASHRAE

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is a professional organization seeking to advance HVACR systems and design. 

The ASHRAE Multidisciplinary Task Group coordinates technical activities related to the design of indoor plant production facilities and their HVAC&R systems and considers deliverables created by Technical Committees like:

  • Technical Committee 2.2 on Plant and Animal Environment (concerned with the relationships of environmental conditions and the growth, health, and reproduction of plants and animals).

Link to standards relevant to cannabis production:


American Society for Testing and Materials - ASTM

Established in 1898, ASTM International formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of voluntary consensus standards. Working in an open and transparent process and using ASTM’s advanced IT infrastructure, our members create the test methods, specifications, classifications, guides, and practices that support industries and governments worldwide. ASTM Committee D37 on Cannabis has 1,000 stakeholders from 30 countries working together to advance the industry by addressing quality and safety through consensus standards.

Examples of standards that have already been approved for the cannabis industry use include:

D8250 Standard Practice for Applying a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) System for Cannabis Consumable Products

D8222 Standard Guide for Establishing a Quality Management System (QMS) for Consumer Use of Cannabis/Hemp Products

D8197 Standard Specification for Maintaining Acceptable Water Activity (aw) Range (0.55 to 0.65) for Dry Cannabis Flower Intended for Human/Animal Use


DesignLights Consortium - DLC

The Design Lights Consortium (DLC) is a non-profit organization that promotes high-quality lighting solutions in collaboration with utilities and others and establishes standards for different lighting types.


The European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group - EHEDG

The European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) was founded in 1989 as a non-profit consortium of equipment manufacturers, food producers, suppliers to the food industry, research institutes and universities, public health authorities, and governmental organizations.

The EHEDG mission is defined as:

“Raise awareness of hygienic engineering, develop guidance and solutions, and provide a platform to promote EHEDG expertise that facilitates networking between hygienic engineering experts from around the world.”

EHEDG actively supports European legislation, which requires that handling, preparation processing, and packaging of food is done hygienically using hygienic machinery and in hygienic premises according to the food hygiene directive, the machinery directive, and the food contact materials directive (see EC Directive 2006/42/EC for Machinery, EN 1672-2 and EN ISO 14159 on Hygiene requirements for the design of machinery). While EHEDG is European Initiative, the EHEDG Certification Logo is becoming more widely seen on food processing equipment sold in the US as a product differentiator, offering assurances of sanitary design, cleanability, sterilizability, and bacterial tightness. It is considered more stringent than other stamps or marks. Auditors or Regulators who might be inspecting a cannabis facility, if they understood this Certification Logo, should have an impression that the operator has invested in more hygienic equipment.


ENERGY STAR from the Environmental Protection Agency

ENERGY STAR® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. With oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency, this program certifies the energy usage and energy efficiency of products, homes, buildings, and industrial plants. By using a common set of metrics objectively applied across categories, companies and end-users can make comparative decisions based on energy efficiency.

In many localities, the use of ENERGY STAR® certified products or achieving certification for a building or industrial plant may qualify for rebates from local utility companies. Cannabis company eligibility to participate in these programs will vary depending on local laws, products in use, and rebates offered by local utility companies.


Electronic Testing Laboratory - ETL - Intertek

Founded by Thomas Edison in 1896 as the Lamp Testing Bureau and renamed to the Electrical Testing Laboratories (ETL) in 1904, ETL certifications demonstrate compliance to the requirements of widely accepted product safety standards, as determined through independent testing and periodic follow-up inspections by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). The company is now known as Intertek.

The ETL Listed Mark indicates to distributors, retailers, and customers that a product has been tested by Intertek and found in compliance with accepted national standards. Acceptance of ETL certification varies by locality though it is widely recognized across the United States and Canada.


Food and Drug Administration - FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the safety of all food, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics in the United States through the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Despite the current status of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, the guidance provided for analogous products, particularly current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) align with global best practices that industry can follow to ensure product quality and integrity as well as prepare for potential federal legalization. Resources on the current approval process and research pathways have been published by the FDA on their page:  What you need to know about cannabis compounds, CBD, cannabidiol, products containing cannabis, scientific data, development & approval process, and much more!

Some states require compliance with The FDA Food Code in their cannabis regulations, but some reference 2013, some 2017. The next issue is expected in 2021. Be aware that The Food Code is for retail and foodservice segments of the industry. Many in the cannabis sector anticipate that when Cannabis is legalized at the federal level,  FDA will apply the regulatory approach suitable to manufacturing, such as: 

  • 21 CFR 111 Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packaging, Labeling, or Holding Operations for Dietary Supplements
  • 21 CFR 117 Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food

      This is a very complex topic, and depending on how the sector for THC and CBD products evolve and how the products are sold and labeled. Other regulations may become relevant, such as: 

  • 21 CFR 211 Current Good Manufacturing Practice for Finished Pharmaceuticals. 
  • FDA regulations for topicals — cosmetics and soaps, which include 21 CFR 700, 701, 710, 720, 740 and others.


Global Food Safety Initiative - GFSI

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a private organization that oversees and approves different auditing platforms as meeting their criteria for safe food processing. This criterion provides a universal gold-standard of recognition to specific food safety audits. There are currently 10 global GFSI schemes that can award certifications. Cannabis eligibility for certification varies based on scheme and jurisdiction. Some states are requiring a GMP audit, “such as GFSI” in their cannabis regulations.


GlobalG.A.P. - Good Agricultural Practices

GLOBALG.A.P is a globally-recognized certification program that began as EUREGAP in 1997 to help the supermarkets in Europe address consumer concerns about the safety of agricultural practices and products. GLOBALG.A.P. is the world’s leading farm assurance program, with over 100 countries following the requirements of Good Agricultural Practices (G.A.P.). It focuses on globally accepted criteria for food safety, sustainable production methods, worker and animal welfare, and the responsible use of resources such as water, compound feed, and plant propagation materials. As of 2020, they have begun a feasibility assessment of bringing their G.A.P certification program to the cannabis industry. Cannabis and hemp businesses that are focused on cultivation of the plant would greatly benefit from incorporating these global best practices into their operation.


International Code Council - ICC

The International Code Council (ICC) has developed a guide for Applying the Codes to Cannabis Facilities, which covers IBC (International Building Code), International Fire Code (IFC), and many others. IBC released Chapter 39 on Processing and Extraction Facilities for the industry to follow.


Illuminating Engineering Society - IES

The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) is a community of lighting experts seeking to improve the lighted environment by bringing together those with lighting knowledge and by translating that knowledge into actions that benefit the public.

  • The IES Horticultural Lighting Technical Committee researches and develops best practices for horticultural lighting using climate-based annual daylighting and electric lighting with lighting and shading controls, with a focus on greenhouses, vertical farms (plant factories), and building atria. 
    • The committee produces Recommended Practices documents, including one for professional lighting designers who are tasked with horticultural lighting.


International Standards Organization - ISO

The International Organization for Standards (ISO) is an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 165 national standards bodies that was established in 1946. Today, it has nearly 800 technical committees and subcommittees that manage the standards development process.

ISO standards focus on the business management of an organization and how information and data are reported and responded to.  Some of the most common ISO standards relevant to the cannabis space are:

  • ISO/IEC 17025 – General Requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories
  • ISO 9001 – Quality Management Systems
  • ISO 22000 – Food Safety Management
  • ISO 45001 – Occupational Health and Safety


ISO is actively developing cannabis standards in the following three areas: 

  • Safety of cannabis facilities, equipment and oil extraction operations.
  • Secure handling of cannabis facilities, operations and transportation.
  • Good production practices guide for cannabis.
  • Demonstrate competence of testing and calibration laboratories to ensure validity of testing results.

National Sanitation Foundation – NSF

National Sanitation Foundation - NFS

The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) originally brought together key stakeholders back in the 1940s to develop the first consensus standards for restaurant equipment sanitation. Public health inspectors liked what they saw, and began requiring product certification to NSF/ANSI standards. Currently, many states approach cannabis regulation from a foodservice perspective and the NSF Mark is desirable for equipment in the Cannabis processing room, such as sinks, rolling stock, dishwashers, and if available for cooking and packaging equipment.  Even when cannabis is legalized at the federal level and the FDA regulates following Food Safety Modernization Act regulations from 21 CFR, the NSF Mark will continue to provide assurances of the sanitary design of much of the equipment used to produce Marijuana Infused Products (MIPS)  However, after federal legalization, Certifications from the manufacturing perspective, such as 3-A or EHEDG, will become, most likely, more relevant.


With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to assure safe and healthful working conditions for all workers by setting and enforcing standards. Additionally, OSHA provides training, outreach, education, and assistance. With steep fines that can exceed $50,000 for repeat violations, this commonly overlooked agency actively inspects cannabis facilities in all states. A free Guide to Worker Safety and Health in the Marijuana Industry was developed by a State of Colorado workgroup that cannabis businesses, regardless of state, can utilize.

RII / Cannabis PowerScore

Resource Innovation Institute - RII

Resource Innovation Institute is a non-profit research and advocacy organization providing guidance and data for cultivators and their project partners to use to optimize facilities for efficiency and productivity.

Cannabis PowerScore, RII’s resource benchmarking tool, is both a voluntary performance ranking system and in some jurisdictions where benchmarking is required PowerScore is also specified as a way to report energy and water information to regulators.


Underwriters Laboratories - UL

UL LLC (formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories) is a global safety certification company approved by the Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL).

The UL Listed seal means that the product has been tested by UL to nationally recognized safety and sustainability standards. Additionally, it has been found to be free from a reasonably foreseeable risk of fire, electric shock in a Division 2 environment.

In addition, UL published ANSI/CAN/UL/ULC 1389, the Standard for Safety for Plant Oil Extraction Equipment for Installation and Use in Ordinary (Unclassified) Locations and Hazardous (Classified) Locations.


United States Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has had a significant impact on the cannabis sector through the 2018 Farm Bill, which provided authorization for the USDA to oversee the cultivation of cannabis containing no more than 0.3% THC (i.e. hemp / CBD biomass).

Additionally, the USDA would most likely be involved after legalization if Cannabis producers decided to launch Cannabis-infused meat products. So far this has not happened and the regulatory impact would be difficult to anticipate.


U.S. Green Building Council - USGBC

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non-profit organization that promotes high-performance buildings through the creation of voluntary certification systems for projects and credentialing programs for professionals.

  • The third-party green building certification Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), is the most widely used green building rating system for commercial buildings.

The Green Business Certification Inc (GBCI), implements the LEED Accredited Professional (LEED-AP) program to support the construction of LEED-certified buildings.


US Pharmacopeia - USP

The US Pharmacopeia, formed in 1820, is an independent, scientific, nonprofit public health organization devoted to improving health through the development of public standards for medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements, and related programs. Over 150 countries recognize the standards set by the USP, with more than 40 integrating USP standards into law. The USP formed a Cannabis Expert Panel in 2016 to support the industry with data-driven recommendations on cannabis quality attributes for human use. The 2020 paper on Cannabis Inflorescence for Medical Purposes: USP Considerations for Quality Attributes (Sarma et al., 2020) is available for download.

WELL Building Standard

WELL Building Standard

The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) has created the WELL Building Standard is a standardized metric for buildings, interior spaces, and communities seeking to implement, validate, and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.

WELL was developed by integrating scientific and medical research and literature on environmental health, behavioral factors, health outcomes, and demographic risk factors that affect health with leading practices in building design, construction, and management.

Video: NCIA Today – March 26, 2021

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