Oregon Cannabis Quality Gets A Boost

Oregon Health Authority

Starting August 30, 2017, every batch of usable marijuana must be tested directly for pesticides according to the Oregon Health Authority’s testing rules in order to be compliant. This includes product that was sampled prior to August 30.

The state of Oregon is continuing to lead in terms of standardizing quality in the cannabis industry. As of August 30th, cannabis cultivators and producers test and qualify 100% of batches going to dispensaries from an ORELAP (Oregon Laboratory Accreditation Program) accredited testing laboratory. These labs undergo a biennial review from the state to ensure that the laboratory has procedures in place that adhere to internationally recognized standards.

Raw flower and concentrates including edibles must pass testing for pesticides, water activity and moisture content, potency of cannabinoid compounds, and microbiological contamination. Oregon Health Authority has created an overview of the testing and reporting requirements.

Before the mandate was in place, only 30% of batches required testing before approval to be sold in local dispensaries. In a bulletin published this week, cannabis organizations will be required to test all harvest and production batches of cannabis before going to market.

Initially, the reduced testing requirements were the consequence of a limited number of accredited testing laboratories. Currently, for a lab to be certified to test cannabis or its products it needed to be accredited by the ORELAB and licensed by the OLCC. The number of labs has increased from 5 to 10 since the initial requirements.

Since last year, there have been 3 instances of recalls in the state of Oregon. Two recalls were initiated by the Oregon Health Authority and 1 by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. In our article, The Downfall of a Recall, we identified how all of these instances could be avoided with the proper quality systems in place.

The increase in inspections definitely has the patients and consumers best interests at heart but these inspections are simply filtering out the defective products. Quality can never be inspected into a product, rather it must be inherently incorporating into the production process. Oregon and the rest of the country must continue to push for standardization of the industry and regulation for the manufacture of cannabis and cannabis products.

To learn more about quality by design and creating processes that bring inherent quality to your products contact us at info@oriongmp.com or visit our website for more information.


Long Term Manufacturing – Cannabis Cultivation

Cannabis cultivation is a manufacturing process that is very different than most products that make their way to shelves for consumer purchase these days. Medicinally grown and recreational cannabis are no different in their processes that brings the seed to a high-quality product that is ready for sale in a dispensary. The only difference lies in the requirements to be considered a patient in a medicinal state or in fewer circumstances an adult consumer in a recreationally legal state.

Although cannabis is a different type of manufacturing process it is not unique. Industries that also have similar long term processes include aged alcohols such as scotch, whiskey, and fine wine. Even though the final products are different, the operational requirements are very similar. These industries require a high capital expenditure to cover the costs of equipment, operational space, and other start-up costs. Unlike other industries that spread the cost of the initial expense over thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of items that come to market quickly after the processes begin, cannabis will have additional months until a viable product can be sold to recoup some of the initial losses of initial start-up costs. Even with high volume manufacturing applications the return on investment (ROI) is several years if not more, however, in the case of cannabis this ROI period can be even longer. The path to positive sales and achieving ROI can be completely rerouted if a single crop does not make it to market.

The long cycle time between seed germination and sale of cannabis flower gives countless opportunities for problems to occur that could ruin the entire crop. The cycle time can be defined as all the value and non-value added activities that bring the product from seed to sale. The nature of the cannabis flower and the means of consumption creates a somewhat unique circumstance for what can cause a crop to be scrapped or discarded. The time in the growth cycle that problems arise can severely impact the likelihood of recovery.

Generally, in growth and vegetative stages the plants have much more  potential to recover from nutrient deficiency or pest infiltrations. This is due to the fact once in flowering stage pesticides should be avoided at all costs and any nutrient deficiency will harm yields since the shorter time-period of this stage does not allow for the plant to achieve its maximum potential. At no point in the process should it be necessary to use pesticide if careful considerations are taken to eliminate pests in the first place.

Risk mitigation is the best approach to being proactive in the unfortunate event a pest infiltration does occur. Cannabis plants in different stages should always be segregated from one another in order to reduce the risk of losing an entire grow operation. Creating physical barriers along with carefully considered flow paths reduces the risk of pests from one cultivation stage to another. HEPA filtration and environmental monitoring can reduce the spread of pathogens which are more difficult to control in connected facilities. This creates an environment where the lose of a single stage only creates a set-back of weeks not months and limits the turnaround time due to sanitization and root cause analysis to hundreds of square feet instead of the entire facility.

Being proactive is the key to success as the feedback loop of cultivation is slow and determining when the crop is beyond recovery can be difficult. The point of no return will vary depending on the situation considering the uncertain nature of horticulture. Well trained employees are key in the identification of problems as cannabis is absolutely not a store-it and forget it industry like those mentioned earlier. Cannabis has a consistent addition of value added activities through the entire grow cycle. Value added activities can be identified by the inputs that a customer is willing to pay for such as watering and nutrient additions since these activities are vital to the growth and well-being of the plant. However, even these activities can cause problems without careful considerations.

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Quality Management Systems (QMS) can all but eliminate all of the problems discussed. Long term manufacturing processes such as cannabis are perfect for the application as risk mitigation and risk analysis of activities are key aspects of these programs. Orion GMP Solutions specializes in consulting and assisting cannabis growers and processors in avoiding these pitfalls through quality by design. Cannabis cultivation is a process unlike most others but can be managed to produce consistent results without many of the risks that can make failure an option. Orion carefully considers all aspects of the process and can help businesses proactively manage their process by reducing risks to tolerable levels so that success is achieved. Risks can never be fully eliminated but careful planning and designing the process with quality in mind means businesses can plan for success.

I’ve been in Denver for about 6 months now. It’s an awesome place where I keep meeting more and more people in the industry. If you’re looking to get into the industry, this is the place to be, if you’ve got the hustle.

I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow chemist, master grower, and consultant, Christopher Sloper a few weeks ago. He came in to advise on some issues at a site I’m working at, and he brought along a few copies of his book, “The LED Grow Book – Better. Easier. Less Watts.”

In Christopher’s book, he describes LED lights, how they work, why they work, and finally how to work with them. His book, however, goes much further than that as he explains his growing philosophy.

The book focuses on the basics to successfully cultivate cannabis under LED lights. His Good Gardening Practices (GGP) set the tone of his methods.

The reasons why LED Lights are a win:

LED lights can be designed to drive photosynthesis and photomorphogenesis to levels greater than HPS while using much less watts.

Not only can LED lights deliver the proper PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) levels for plants, they also distribute the light properly by focusing the light downward, rather than in all directions. This reduces the wasted photons scattered into the open environment, and focuses the light on the plants.

LEDs dramatically reduce the amount of energy used compared to old High Intensity Discharge technology. Add in that the cost of electricity is only going up, and you again seal another reason to go LED.

LEDs are easy to use because of their low heat emissions, and take away the need to use expensive and cumbersome air conditioning units. A huge win!

Myths about LED Grow Lights

Christopher busts down the myth that lumens are proportional to photosynthesis.  To be clear, photosynthesis is directly related to the number of photons the plants receive. Christopher describes the concept of PPFD (photosynthetic photo flux density) which is the proper way to describe how many PAR photons are hitting a given surface of plant at any point in time.

Christopher busts several other myths about the perceived benefits of LEDs and clarifies arguments both for and against the new technology.

How LED Grow Lights work

Christopher explains the exact mechanics of how an LED emitter works. From the point of power going into device, to how photons are released, to how those photons are focused towards the plants, the explanation sets up the understanding for how LEDs function.

Christopher goes on to discuss how LEDs can be controlled. They produce less heat because they don’t operate in the Infrared (IR) region of the light spectrum. This leads to discussing if LEDs need tunable spectrums, and how this changes the need for gardeners to optimize the height of the light relative to the canopy.

LEDs do not put out the same amount of heat to generate the same light levels as other technologies, and therefore greatly reduce one of the most important considerations for properly controlling the growing environment – air conditioning.  This saves energy and major complications of installing expensive systems that may only be used for a short amount of time.

Safety also hits the radar with LED lights – the chance of killing your garden due to overheating caused by failed ventilation or air conditioning is greatly reduced, not to mention the chance of burning your operation down due to fire.

LEDs and Photosynthesis

This section is where a chemist or biochemist can geek out, where it’s explained how photosynthesis works when using LED grow lights. He explains the chemistry of photosynthesis, how the different light waves affect the photoperiod and light signaling for inducing flowering as well as the growth characteristics.

Choosing an LED Light

This is where it gets into all the details you must consider when choosing an LED light. This is a very important section, and I hope all readers would pay close attention to it. Making the right choices here will greatly improve your chances of success.

The first consideration is the size of your garden, and your gardening goals. Are you a hobbyist, small commercial, or large commercial gardener?

Next up, what wavelengths do you need? Depending on your needs, you can focus on specific light absorbing molecules within the plant, and thereby increase different growth characteristics. This is an essential question for truly dialing in the growth of your plants – are you trying to veg the strongest plants, or grow out the biggest possible buds? This section alone may be worth the cost of book.

Downstream considerations look into the physical construction of the LEDs. What is the beam angle that best serves your gardening needs? 90˚ or 45˚? Tall plants, or short plants?

Heat is still an issue with LEDs – you’re running electricity into a box that converts it to light, and no device is able to turn all that energy into light – some of it will be converted to heat energy. The LED you choose should have the appropriate cooling system by way of heat sinks. Making the right choice here will make a big difference in the lifetime of the light.

While HID lamps have a ballast, LEDs have drivers. There are different types of drivers – cheap equipment will have a resistor based driver that can easily break over time due to temperature shifts. Constant current drivers, however, can produce a completely different result – their output is not dependent upon temperature, which means that a constant brightness is achieved regardless of environmental temperature. This is an important consideration I wouldn’t have realized, had I not read this book.

LED Emitters

“Not all LED emitters are created equal,” and is dependent on the manufacturing process. Was emitter quality the manufacturer’s goal, or was it cost savings? Well, you can tell by paying attention to the BIN codes, according to Christopher.

LED Grow Light Designs

Christopher discusses the four different types of LED Grow Light Designs.

Single-Surface LED Grow Lights, LED Light Heads, Clusters/Rosettes, and Tube-Style LED Bars are all thoroughly explained, and the considerations for using each of the different types. Christopher tells you the advantages, disadvantages, and what to look for in each of the different designs. This is an important consideration, and will give you the knowledge you need before you drop the money to buy your own LED lights.

How many LED grow lights do you need?

Another very important consideration. Ultimately, this is dependent on your gardening goals. Christopher explains the considerations, and how you should think about the options that will make the best choices for your garden.

There is much information that fills in between the choice of the light you use and the way you garden. Christopher points out many concepts that you should be familiar with to successfully cultivate cannabis.

It turns out that Christopher’s gardening philosophy lines up very well with the goals of Orion GMP and Hemphacker – here it is in one sentence: “Quality per Harvest/Gardening Zen.” I love this! “Indoor gardening is about the largest quantity of the best quality you can for the least expenditure of resources.” Do yourself a favor and paint that on the wall next to your garden – think about it every time you face a decision, and ask yourself how that decision will affect the end product.

Skunkpharm Research LLC

I want to take a moment to give praise where it is rightfully due and shout out to the mad scientists over at Skunk Pharm Research out of Portland, OR. Graywolf, Joe, and Carla (Eloquentsolution) discuss the popular topics on the subject of at home cannabis products and how to SAFELY go about creating them. It is the responsibility of the readers to not attempt activities they are not qualified to perform. Being an engineer myself I completely agree with this point of view. We can’t stop others from being stupid and limiting ourselves in an attempt to protect the less than Einstein group of people – that is just going to be futile in the end.


These guys do a great job of not only giving abundant details on how to go about recreating their Frankenstein Cannamonsters, but go above and beyond explaining the science of the processes and the reasoning that makes it work. This is definitely not the norm in this space and most individuals just want to tell how awesome the contraption they came up with is, and how they made 3x the yield of any known process. Not the case with these guys, they are upfront, open, and honest about their creations. My take is that they are here to help spread knowledge and make the world a better place one extracted cannabinoid at a time. We actually have many clients that quote their research and have directed us to their articles when discussing various extraction methods and why they chose to go that route. It is very humbling to see so many people getting information from a group that claims to be experts of nothing but are obviously very gifted in the realm of engineering.


The subjects are generally focused on different extraction techniques and the methods to go about replicating them. Their most recent article was on the subject of health and safety highlighting the fact that small amounts of contamination can be a big problem when you get into concentrates. This blog is never limited in the amount of useful information it produces and the wide range of topics covered.


We look forward to many more great articles and hopefully getting to meet up with them discussing how many wrong directions someone can take or the fact people never fail to surprise you with idiocracy. Intelligence should never be wasted but ability will always be the limiting factor. For now check them out at Skunk Pharm Research LLC.


Don’t forget to check out Orion GMP Solutions for updates on GMP’s in the cannabis industry.

It’s never a good day when you find your webpage hacked. Well, it happened to HempHacker, and it’s been a challenge to get everything back in order. At present, everything is secured.

Fortunately, I’ve been so busy with consulting that I haven’t had time to work on HempHacker content. Unfortunately, my inattentiveness has brought on this hack. “Nothing to do,” as my mentor would say.

That said, I’m working on fixing up the site and bringing everything back to speed.

As usual, if you have any questions, you can reach me at andrew@oriongmp.com.

All the best!


It’s always a pleasure when I get an email from someone asking how to break into the industry. I can appreciate the feeling – I was once there. I had hustle, and always worked hard, but I didn’t have a clear vision of the end game.

Ultimately, building yourself up in any industry requires experience. You dig into the work and make a name for yourself. There are many ways to get there, but it’s usually a nonlinear process.

I got my start in the industry in an unlikely place – as a Sergeant in the Marine Corps. I realized during my last tour in Iraq that the cannabis industry was in my future. I had my own personal reasons that drove me towards it, but I saw things lining up. I was honorably discharged in 2006, and I immediately got to work on my education in both cannabis and chemistry.

I hadn’t taken a math class in 5 years, and I had no real background in the sciences. Despite that, I started from the bottom and worked my way through all the liberal arts, math, chemistry, and biology courses. I hustled, and my work paid off with the rewards of leading chemistry study groups – I found that teaching is one of the most rewarding things I can do.

I attended the University of Michigan where I studied Biochemistry and spent my free time learning about the physiology of the endocannabinoid system. I wanted to learn everything about how cannabinoids affect the body and their therapeutic potential. I graduated with my B.S. in 2011 and tasted the accomplishment of my hard work. I planned on going through to a PhD program in Biomedical Sciences, but I first wanted to solid foundation in scientific research before jumping into it.

That’s where some luck comes into play. I landed a job in a biochemistry/genetics laboratory at the University of Michigan where I had the best mentors a young scientist could have. I had all the tools of the trade for HPLC, column chromatography, mass-spec, and a project that needed me to use all of them. I was a protein chemist. Every purification started with extractions, and moved on through multiple steps of column chromatography that ended with HPLC purification.

Andrew - Research day - 2014 poster - Final

I scaled up processes and thought of myself as the Henry Ford of protein purification… Perhaps it was grandiose to think that way. Nonetheless, it’s where I learned to apply the scientific method on a daily basis, and I where I got my basic understanding for extracting and purifying compounds.

I found that a career in academic science was not for me. It is a surprisingly political atmosphere, and I’m not one for bickering. I was accepted into a PhD program, but dropped out just days before the program started. I knew it wasn’t right for me, and, besides, I had an awesome job in the pharmaceutical industry as a Good Manufacturing Practices Quality Control Chemist. It was there, that I realized Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) are the future of the cannabis industry – I finally had my clear vision of the end game.

I always kept myself busy moonlighting in the industry while working as a chemist by day. I put the two together, and found that my best bet was to share information and help other people. HempHacker has become my means of teaching people about different aspects of the industry that aren’t fully covered elsewhere.

Since my last job as a GMP QC Chemist, I’ve been doing GMP Consulting for the Cannabis industry. It aligns all my criteria for a job that’s good for me. I’m able to travel, meet new people, help them with their projects, and do a lot of networking in the industry. It’s also very satisfying to know that my work has a positive impact on the quality of products. It’s a very rewarding job for me.

I’m happy with the way it happened, but I know that I would have different advice for someone starting out now. In my next post, I’ll give my suggestions for people getting their start in the industry. I hope it’ll help people get an advanced start.

GMP Cannabis vs. Extraction content on HempHacker

Last week I sent out a survey to subscribers on the HempHacker email list. The goal was to find what content interests readers the most. The numbers and comments speak for themselves. Overall, everyone loves actionable content, but they would also like to see more blog posts about what’s going on at HempHacker.

The people’s choice is extraction content. If the people will have it, it shall be done. However, I am looking for an experienced writer and cannabis alchemist to join the HempHacker team to write for the crowd. My time is being placed mostly on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) consulting lately, and I haven’t been able to focus on extraction content.

I received some very helpful constructive criticism, which I greatly appreciate. It helps me understand how I could do my job better. It’s slightly difficult to scale it for all situations since there are different variables for each system, but I understand the need for specific parameters in doing extractions. I will work to improve this.

64% want more extraction content

  • New extraction techniques on the market
    • Wiped film evaporation
    • Short path distillation
  • Specific parameters for supercritical extractions – i.e. useable parameters
    • Amounts to be extracted
    • Solvents used
    • Temperatures
    • Pressures
  • Solventless extractions
  • SFE vs BHO comparisons

36% want more GMP Cannabis related content

  • How to establish GMP systems in your facility
  • GMP Training
  • Good Documentation Practices (GDP)
  • Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) Practices

While I understand the majority want to see more extraction content, GMP consulting pays the bills, and is my primary focus. I really hope that the GMP Cannabis content will also be useful to people doing extractions. It is the definite future of the industry, and I would like to help everyone learn the practices before the FDA regulates the production and processing of cannabis and its extracts.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey. Your feedback is very useful to me. As usual, you have an open line of communication to me at andrew@hemphacker.com.


Who We Are

HempHacker.com is supported by Orion GMP Solutions, LLC. We write on this open-source platform to share our thoughts on the standardization of cannabis manufacturing.

We have a team of experienced scientists and engineers, with backgrounds in Department of Defense Consulting, Aeronautical Engineering, Organic Chemistry of Natural Products, Plant Biology, and Pharmaceutical Manufacturing.

We bring our perspectives and direct experience with standardized cannabis manufacturing to our readers, hoping to give something to the international cannabis community in return for the great opportunities is has provided us.

What We Do

We are constantly involved with the international cannabis community. We speak to groups around the world about standardized cannabis manufacturing, with the full intention of ensuring social equity in the process. We work with small farmers up to publicly traded corporations. We adjust our price based on what is a fair an equitable price, and we deliver what we say we will.

Our entire group participates in the ASTM D37 Cannabis Standards Committee, where Andrew serves as the chairman of the Quality Management Systems Committee. We work by helping our clients implement standards, preparing them for GMP audits, and we are proudly the first cannabis consulting firm with a focus on Good Manufacturing Practices for Cannabis.