In our latest episode of Call Me Cannabinoids, Pete spoke with Tony Ferrari, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer and co-founder of SunFlora, Inc. They discussed CBD legislation, product safety, and what measures SunFlora is taking to ensure its customers receive safe CBD products.
SunFlora currently has 405 affiliate storefronts nationwide across 38 states, with 76 set to open within the next month.
Working to define a safe CBD product
When Tony first started the company, he was handling most aspects of the business on his own, including talking with health department and law enforcement officials in different states.
“That experience led us to answer a problem that this industry has: what is a safe CBD product?” he says.
“How do you create a safe product as a manufacturer? What does that look like, from a chemistry standpoint? What tests are relevant, and are those tests being done at the right time during product development?”
Tony has had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Department of Agriculture and State Department officials to talk about the direction their regulations may take–and to offer advice based on his industry experience. The SunFlora team also goes above and beyond to stay a step ahead of where they think the regulations will go in the near future.
SunFlora CBD products feature a scannable QR code that allows customers to view a full-panel lab test that reveals potency information about each batch. Tony’s team takes different pieces of state legislation from around the country into account, too, as they move forward.
“For us to grow and scale across different parts of the country, we have to incorporate different pieces of legislation into our process,” he says. “For example, in Florida, it’s now required for the QR code to be tied to a lab report. That’s an example of legislation that has followed our trend–but we had already developed that system before the law was passed.
“We feel like we’re helping to create what it means to have a safe CBD product.”
Lab tests: when should CBD companies conduct them?
Tony says one major issue regarding CBD safety lies in when products are tested for purity. A product that has tested to be safe in a lab, for example, might be poorly stored and later test for microbial growth or mold. According to Tony, that raises questions about whether multiple rounds of testing should be incorporated throughout the process.
“When do we spot check?” he says. “Is it enough to spot-check at the farming level, do a full panel when the CBD has been extracted and batched together, or one on a finished good?”
SunFlora has begun to incorporate more spot-checking procedures (Tony calls them “secret shopper lab tests”) at their storefront locations. They ensure the products haven’t been repackaged or stored improperly so that the “product maintains its integrity through its lifetime,” according to Tony.
“We’re hoping to streamline our certificates of analysis for the end-user so that they’re clear and more user-friendly,” he says.
When it comes to safe CBD, Tony says that ultimately, more transparency across the board is best.
“I think that’s where the industry is going: more transparency through every single piece of the manufacturing process, because if you’re doing it correctly, why not show that to the consumer?”
Industry standardization on the horizon
Tony hopes to see the CBD industry begin conforming to standards across the board that ensure safe products for consumers. Rather than competing with one another, he says it’s imperative that the industry is elevated as a whole.
“We hope the industry adopts standardized procedures so that everybody becomes elevated across the board when it comes to product quality,” he says.
Because there isn’t a wide variety of scientific studies on CBD available, Tony says it falls on the industry to ensure their customers’ safety. He also believes that competing with other companies in the space is detrimental to the industry.
“A bad experience with CBD isn’t just an experience with the CBD from a specific company,” he says. “It calls the overall industry’s integrity into question.
“We have to work together with information and data. We need to make sure we’re demanding safe CBD products across the board, not comparing ourselves at this point.”