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HIGHLIGHTS
  1. Canada is the only jurisdiction with legal recreational cannabis without a specified limit on batch sizes
  2. Experts say the larger the batch size, the more difficult it can be to determine whether a sample being tested accurately represents the entire batch
  3. Other jurisdictions have strict batch size limits, which experts say helps ensure higher overall product quality

Overregulation is a common complaint to hear from Canada’s legal cannabis industry insiders, but how much marijuana can be grown in a single batch is one area experts say Canada has not regulated enough.

“Health Canada allows the producers to define the batch size and basically that means the producer is taking the risk of, if you define you batch size at 200 kilograms and anything goes wrong with that one batch, you have to destroy all 200 kilograms,” Kaveh Kahen, CEO of Sigma Analytical Services, said during a panel discussion at the O’Cannabiz Conference in Toronto on Thursday. “Some of the recalls that we have seen, especially with yeast and mould, because you can have a large batch size and some part of the batch could pass any kind of test, but not the whole batch, and I think this policy might be creating some safety and quality issues.”

Canada already places limits on batch sizes for most agricultural products, from apples and berries to spinach, in order to avoid having a margin of error between a sample that gets tested and the rest of the batch​. No specified batch size limit exists for cannabis production, however, allowing individual producers to decide for themselves, with many choosing to invest in multimillion-square foot cultivation facilities in order to maximize their scale.

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Jurisdictions in the United States with legal recreational cannabis markets do not give producers the same discretion. The upper limit for batch sizes in California, for example, is 50 pounds, according to the cannabis cultivation branch of the golden state’s Department of Food and Agriculture. Washington state law, meanwhile, says a batch of dried marijuana may not exceed five pounds.

“If I were the person writing the regulations, I would put an upper limit to avoid some bad behaviours,” Dr. Kahen said. “I'm sure a lot of good producers are following good manufacturing and production practices and are going with reasonable batch sizes and all that, but it is always preferred when regulations are clear about these things.”

While Dr. Kahen says Health Canada should be the one setting the standard for batch sizes, Jeff Zimmer argued during the same panel discussion that batch size limits should be one area where the industry should be able to effectively self-regulate.

“That is an area where the industry can really collaborate and determine what is the best batch size for the industry and for consumers,” said Mr. Zimmer, manager of the Saskatchewan Research Council’s Analytical Environmental Lab. “It shouldn’t be trade secrets, there is an opportunity to really collaborate here."

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