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  December 7, 2017

NACB member and Aunt Zelda’s Co-founder Mara Gordon shares thoughts on the measures that must be taken to ensure cannabis product safety.


As the founder of several cannabis businesses focused exclusively on understanding and treating medical conditions, two of the biggest questions I am often asked are:

  1. Is there a difference between medical and adult-use?
  2. What steps are needed to guarantee safe cannabis medicine?

It has been claimed that all cannabis use is medical, and from a metabolic point of view, this is correct. When dabbing a high THC shatter, for example, the endocannabinoid system doesn’t care about your objective before activating your cannabinoid receptors. THC will activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors regardless. Where the lines diverge is in choice of products, dosing, and the user’s intention.

Safe cannabis is a win-win for consumers, regulators, and businesses alike. With a safe product comes consumer confidence, regulator disinterest, and business profit. Because anything that goes in – or on – the body needs to be safe, it is imperative that scrupulous standards are met at each stage of production. This includes safe growing methods, clean processing, and rigorous lab testing to ensure what is on the label is in the product. With more cannabis-naïve consumers entering the market, it is imperative that product makers comply with ethical and responsible manufacturing practices. Pesticides and heavy metals are not good for anyone, and mycotoxins carry serious health hazards - even in small doses. Nothing says buzz-kill like liver cancer!

For cannabis products to be safe for all users, the following steps must be taken –

  • Start with raw material that has been accurately tested for cannabinoid and terpene content, as well as microbials, pesticides, heavy metals and bacteria;
  • Process in a good manufacturing practice (GMP) facility following rigorous standard operating procedures (SOP) utilizing organic solvents to create high-quality medicines (each batch tested) so it can be dosed at the milligram level;
  • Have medical-use patients consult with medical professionals who are educated in the endocannabinoid system;
  • Understand appropriate medical-use dosing strategies for different diagnoses;
  • Ensure budtenders and dispensaries have access to proper information when recommending products; and
  • Conduct clinical trials. This last point may not be essential for the adult use market. However, the consumer still has the right to products that have been well researched and tested.


I’m looking forward to working with the other members of the National Association of Cannabis Businesses (NACB) to create standards around critical issues that state laws haven’t addressed sufficiently. As a medical cannabis advocate, I’m particularly energized at the prospect of establishing standards that consider what I have outlined above. 

Author Bio

Mara Gordon is the Co-Founder and Chief Process Engineer at Aunt Zelda’s. She specializes in the development of cannabis extract treatment protocols for seriously ill patients in California. Prior to Aunt Zelda’s, Mara worked as a process engineer, helping Fortune 500 companies create intelligent software by utilizing the Rational Unified Process. This experience has enabled her to take a detailed and scientific approach to medical cannabis. Recognizing a need for patient focused software, Gordon founded CDRMed. Gordon sits on the boards of Zelda Therapeutics, #illegallyhealed and New Frontier.