ICYMI: Adding Marijuana to the NIST Handbook

Not many people get excited about revisions and updates to the very dry National Institute of Standards and Technology  (“NIST”) handbooks. The NIST 44 Handbook contains the “Specifications, Tolerances, and Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices.” It is adopted every year at the annual National Conference on Weights and Measures (“NCWM”). This year’s interim NCWM meeting has the cannabis crowd pretty stoked and looking toward the future where, for the first time, marijuana is actually being considered as an addition to the handbooks.

What does this mean and why should you care? It could mean that the Feds are finally preparing for legalization and interstate commerce around marijuana.

The NIST handbook: committee review

The Laws and Regulations (L&R) Committee of NCWM develops “laws and regulations that range from the basic weights and measures law to specific laws and regulations for weighmasters, commodity regulations, price scanners, unit pricing, engine fuel and automotive lubricants and more.”  Additionally, the L&R Committee addresses “test procedures for verifying the actual net quantity contained in packages offered for sale.” The Specifications and Tolerances (S&T) Committee is dedicated to issues related to the 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 that “submits its recommendations to the S&T Committee and L&R Committee for consideration by the NCWM membership.” Eventually, “the products of this effort will be included in the NCWM Interpretations and Guidelines for Cannabis.” The actual mission of the task force is to “[c]reate uniform guidance for States, the District of Columbia and territories as legalized sales of Cannabis spreads.”

The task group is working in 5 different areas:

Suitability of scales
Method of Sale
Package and labeling of products
Safety for inspectors
Moisture Loss of prepackaged product.

At the interim meeting, the L&R’s agenda contained a variety of cannabis items for consideration at Block 3. The two items that will be voted on at this summer’s annual meeting (for consideration in the NIST Handbook 130 and 133) are:

“Establish[ing] a clear definition of Cannabis and Cannabis-containing products” and
“Establish[ing] an acceptable Net Weight allowance for Cannabis, which is related to the MOS Form 15 related to water activity and the Packaging and Labeling Form 15 Sections 2 and 10.”

The S&T agenda also contained a proposal to “establish uniform scale suitability requirements among the states for sales of cannabis.” However, this proposal didn’t get picked up for a vote and will continue to be discussed.

Cannabis is coming to the NIST 

Without a doubt, NIST is getting with the program on state-legal cannabis, essentially realizing that national standards for product quality assurance and information are necessary for safety, uniformity, 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 analysis throughout the Cannabis industry” (and which we’ve written about before).

We’re glad to see its continued efforts to bring some order to the chaos of state-legal cannabis, hopefully in preparation for eventual interstate commerce on the tail of legalization. It’s coming.

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