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know Your Medicine: How to be a smart medical marijuana consumer

Consumer Safety Problems

Marijuana is very safe, but there are consumer safety issues that emerge when any product is produced at a large industrial scale.  In the case of marijuana there are particular concerns about accurate labeling, the presence of high levels of pesticides or alternatively mold. Many of the these problems are of greater concern to medical users.


Medical marijuana consumers rightfully want to know how much THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, and other marijuana components are in their medicine. While a handful of states require labeling to identify levels of different cannabinoid components in medical marijuana products, consumers unfortunately face a great deal of uncertainty about what they are buying. This problem is particularly pronounced in the area of edible products.  A recent study found that of the entire batch of edible products examined only 17% accurately reported the level of THC. Significant numbers of products both under and over reported the level of THC. Some medical marijuana patients are known to prefer edibles but cannot use them without facing great uncertainty about dosing.


Another important area of consumer concern is overuse of pesticides. Pesticides are an important health concern for all commercially grown plants and marijuana is no different. Studies have shown that even the process of smoking marijuana does not completely eliminate potentially harmful chemicals found in pesticides. Most marijuana is grown indoors, however the guidelines that growers rely on to guide their use of pesticides assume that pesticides are used outdoors where they will dissipate more quickly. The result is potentially higher levels of pesticides than regulatory guidelines would allow. Finally because marijuana is often not well regulated few state-level guidelines exist that prohibit harmful use of pesticides.

Moving Forward

More than one-third of the US population lives in states with medical marijuana laws and over one million Americans are legally using medical marijuana under the care of a physician. While many states and localities have created regulations to govern the location, size, and taxation of these businesses, they primarily do not address the quality and safety of the products being sold. Patients have the right to know how their medicine has been produced, that it is free of contaminates and should be able to feel confident that the medicine they are receiving has been handled using the highest quality standards.

Some states have shown praiseworthy efforts beginning to reform consumer safety standards for  medical marijuana, but too many have ignored these issues all together. Similarly there are several companies taking leadership on the area of testing potency and monitoring pesticides levels as well as following safe practices that protect patients, but most patients face great uncertainty when making consumer choices. Both state regulators and businesses should continue to monitor these issues and educate the public to build awareness.

Patient Focused Certification

While Americans for Safe Access works with state governments to write their laws in ways that protect medical marijuana consumers, the most immediate thing consumers can do is look for the Patient Focused Certification (PFC) seal. PFC is American for Safe Access’s way to offer medical marijuana patients the confidence they deserve when choosing their medicine. Through PFC ASA certifies the cultivation, laboratory, distribution and manufacturing processes used in the medical marijuana industry.

When you see the PFC seal at a distribution center or on a product label, it tells you that the quality of products and services has been verified through our rigorous certification program.

PFC means that the company’s staff are well trained in best practices, their products and services have been tested for contaminates, all products and services meet legal requirements as well as the American Herbal Product Association and American Herbal Pharmacopoeia standards they have recall protocols in place.

Our auditors perform examinations of facilities (including surprise audits), test products in PFC certified labs,  maintain a consumer complaint database and only the the PFC seal to be used on products that meet PFC criteria.

You have the right to know how your medicine is produced, that it’s free of contaminants and is handled using only the highest quality standards. Ask your dispensary about PFC certification on your next visit.

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