Marijuana: Now Officially As Normal As Steel, Cement, and Rubber

Industry standards group ASTM adds pot to its portfolio.


ASTM International

Mark another milestone in the mainstreaming of marijuana: One of the world's largest and oldest organizations for developing technical standards is now making space for the pot business.

The group is ASTM International, a hub of consensus-based self-regulation. Originally founded in 1898 to work out testing and material standards for the steel used on railroad lines, the organization soon branched out beyond steel, debating and adopting guidelines for cement, petroleum, rubber, and more than 100 other areas. As of June, when its cannabis committee first meets, those areas will include marijuana. Different subcommittees will tackle such topics as pot horticulture, quality management, processing and handling, security and transportation, personnel training, and even terminology. In an industry where federal regulations consist mostly of penalties for possessing or selling the goods, setting these standards means working out an elaborate collection of best practices from the ground up.

The most important effect will be to bring more stability to the industry and more predictability to its products. But don't discount the cultural change that this represents too. You know you're a long way from the just-say-no years when a video like this can exist:

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  1. Wake me when Underwriters Laboratories puts its stamp of approval on my blunt.

  2. Before you applaud ASTM’s “consensus-based self-regulation” as the free market at work, here’s an article about how the private law-making process works in Canada. ASTM standards, like ASHRAE or the NEC or the AMA become incorporated by reference into the law. Don’t conform to their standards and the government won’t issue you a license to do business. Want to know what this law is you’re required to follow? Prepare to fork over some major bucks for their publications. It’s related to the crap about various states selling off printing rights to their codes and thereby granting copyright to the laws to a private company. That’s not what we mean when we talk about privatizing government.

    1. That’s why I’d rather full decriminalization rather than legalization. Legalization leads to taxes and regulations, etc. Do people really want the USDA inspecting cannabis grow ops and all the associated expense that entails?

      1. But decriminalization means that it’s still contraband, even if you don’t get criminal charges for having it.

        Sadly, I think people do want the USDA (or someone) inspecting cannabis and taxes on cannabis and all that. So that’s probably the best we can hope for. It seems like almost everyone I talk to who is pro-legalization is all excited about the taxation possibilities. Which is sad, but not too surprising.

    2. Well Ok, but ASTMs were first developed by the railroads so that they could ensure the uniformity of materials used for construction. I mean, the fact that some governments may have usurped that later sucks, but it still shows how private entities can still come up with a way to regulate how they do business without involving government (much like the aforementioned Underwriters laboratory).

      In fact it was perfectly within their interests to do so to ensure quality-it’s a good example to use to show the “regulate everything” crowd what alternatives might emerge if the state keeps its big nose out of it.

      1. Is spec # ASTM A 420 taken yet?

        1. aw crap: This specification covers wrought carbon steel and alloy steel pipe fittings of seamless and welded construction for use in pressure piping and pressure vessel service at low temperatures.

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