Keeping Scales in Compliance for Medical Cannabis Trade in San Diego

By: Eugene Davidovich and Marcus Boyd

SAN DIEGO – In a continuing effort to keep the community safe and in compliance with all possible state, city, and county laws, today we will be discussing the San Diego County requirements for scales and their use at dispensing collectives throughout San Diego.

First we want to thank every single collective and cooperative out there for providing safe and legal access to the many thousands of patients who rely on cannabis as their medicine. Your courageous efforts and work despite overwhelming adversity by the District Attorney have not gone unnoticed, and the community and patients truly thank you for being here.

Over the last few days San Diego Americans for Safe Access has received phone calls from our members around the county, telling us that facilities have been visited by County Weights and Measures Inspectors to have their scales certified for trade.

To shed a little more light on the issue for everyone in San Diego, we decided to do a little research and share our findings with you here:

“The State of California Dept. of Measurement Standards sets the standards that measuring and weighing devices must meet, in accordance with national standards. Each county in California has a sealer for weights and measures whose responsibility it is to ensure that measuring and weighing devices meet state standards.

Before using a weighing or measuring device for commercial purposes, the device must be inspected by the county sealer. If the device passes the inspection, the sealer will affix a sticker to the device indicating it has passed the inspection”. http://www.sandiego.gov/cityattorney/pdf/cepunewsjune09.pdf

Today we called the Department and received a little clarification. The folks we spoke to were very kind and provided answers to a lot of questions we had about these inspections, the laws, as well as the certification process. They explained that on a regular basis, the county sends out inspectors to visit, inspect, and certify businesses and organizations that use scales in their trade. The inspections are pretty much random and are based on zip codes of the location.

As most of us already know medical cannabis typically in collectives and cooperatives, is dispensed either by being weighed out the medicine right in front of the patient, or by providing it to the patients already weighed out and prepackaged. Both are legitimate ways of providing members with their medicine.

The folks we spoke to at the Department of Weights and Measures explained that If at a dispensary, the medicine is being weighed out in front of the patient, then the scale used must be certified and in compliance.

According to the San Diego City Attorney’s office, “anyone who uses for commercial purposes an incorrect weighing or measuring device or a device that has not been sealed by the County Sealer is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

In order to see if your scale is in compliance visit www.ncwm.net/certificates

If the medicine is prepackaged and not weighed out in front of the patient, then the scale does not need certification. In that case however, the weight and all the other required information on the package must be in compliance.

One of the facilities visited recently by the inspectors was The Holistic Café. We contacted members of the collective who explained that the inspectors called ahead of time, scheduled an appointment, and when they arrived, the whole appointment took less than 20 minutes. They were very pleased with the interaction with their officials and are excited to provide safe, accurate, and certified amounts of medicine to their patients.

When describing how the inspection went, members told us “we unplugged the scale, brought it out, the inspector took a look and complimented us on the scale, provided the certification and that was it”.

Today when I spoke with the Department of Weights and Measures, I asked what happens if a collective is not in compliance when you arrive for the inspection?

The explained “they would receive a letter of violation, and the issue would be dealt with from there”.

They were curious to know how many collectives weigh out vs. prepackage their medicine. I explained to the person on the phone that it really varied, that a large number of collectives employ one method and a large number employ the other as well.

To get a better understanding of the labeling requirements for collectives that pre package their medicine, we took a look at a 2009 Memo issued by the San Diego City Attorney’s office http://www.sandiego.gov/cityattorney/pdf/cepunewsjune09.pdf regarding Weight and Measures, the memo states that “packaged consumer goods must indicate the net quantity of the contents in both inch-pound and the metric system. This rule does not apply to foods that are packaged at the retail store level. Products that are sold by weight or volume but are not in packages, like gasoline, can be sold by the gallon or pound”.

FAIR PACKAGING AND LABELING:

Every packaged product offered for sale to the public must have a label that meets California law. The label must state:

  • The identity of the product
  • The name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor
  • The net quantity of contents on the principal display panel

It is unlawful to add qualifying words to the statement of the net quantity, like “about 16 ounces.”
The package of a product must also be constructed in a way that does not facilitate the perpetration of deception or fraud. This includes:

  • Using a false bottom, false sidewalls, or a false lid or covering
  • Using non-functional slackfill to make a product look larger than it is. Nonfunctional slackfill is the empty space in a package that is filled to less than its capacity when that space is not otherwise necessary. If the packaging allows the consumer to see the contents of the package, then this provision does not apply.
  • More detailed information about labeling requirements can be obtained from the California Department of Food and Agriculture: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/dms/programs/qc/qc.html including detailed labeling specifications and requirements.

If a collective would like to schedule an appointment for their scale to be inspected, they can call 858-694-2778 and to download the application and more information about the county’s weights and measures department visit their website at http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/awm/wm.html

We hope that this information helps keep you in compliance and around to continue to provide safe access to medical cannabis in San Diego.

San Diego Americans for Safe Access
www.safeaccesssd.com

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