The Story Of CSQ
The CSQ story began much like many others- we identified an area of opportunity and a significant gap in the cannabis industry that we knew we could fill. When looking at the cannabis and hemp market, we saw a blossoming under-regulated industry needing a trusted safety and quality standard. We witnessed countless recalls and regulatory warning letters to companies that were misleading consumers on their labels, among other red flags that the food and beverage industry has learned to mitigate. As food safety experts, we’ve witnessed enough recalls on lettuce to understand the toll they take on consumer confidence. It only takes one E. Coli outbreak to stop consumers from buying lettuce altogether. Since the legal cannabis industry is still relatively new, many consumers have yet to establish trust in the wide range of products on the market. We know that if this industry doesn’t self-police, it will remain just another vice in the eyes of the skeptical public.
Once we realized this need, we began researching different standard development techniques and ISO requirements and visiting dozens of cultivation and manufacturing facilities. We noticed the intricacies within cannabis production facilities that set the industry apart from others, requiring much more than merely following current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). The CSQ Standard would need to be more stringent and closely tailored to meet the industry’s unique needs. It would need to go above and beyond, meeting ISO requirements, Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) requirements, and regulatory cannabis requirements from seed-to-sale.
Two years of R&D later, we put our heads down and began writing the CSQ certification program and audit requirements, along with internal procedures for scheme management. We announced the CSQ Standard to the public in July of 2020, allowing a public comment period to ensure all of the industry’s needs were being met. After solidifying the standard based on suggested revisions and much deliberation from CSQ’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), we were ready to conduct pilot certification audits against the CSQ standards. In September 2020, we initiated our pilot program and put 10 cannabis facilities to the test. Out of those 10 facilities, only two passed. Throughout this process, we learned several important takeaways, including the industry’s severe lack of HACCP programs that help assess risk and evaluate where preventive controls are needed. These observations informed CSQ’s training program for its third-party auditors that began in December 2020. By the time 2021 rolled around, we were ready to officially begin our efforts to help cultivators, extractors, and manufacturers minimize risk, protect their brand, and provide the best product for their consumers.