If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?
That’s debatable, but according to Matt Regusci of CSQ - Cannabis Safety and Quality, when it comes to cannabis compliance if you don’t write it down, it doesn't happen.
“If you don’t document it, it’s like it never happened,” Regusci said.
Regusci said that “I’ve been to a lot of CSQ audits and the number one thing that people have a hard time implementing is the logs,” adding “very many companies have no problem implementing the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), but very few of them track what they do. It’s the second step that gets missed so frequently. It requires changing the culture of the job.”
Regusci currently works as the Chief Technical Director of CSQ - Cannabis Safety and Quality. The CSQ Standards were built in 2020 to meet ISO and Global Food Safety requirements, and the company was the first cannabis certification program to be compliant with GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) requirements.
Before joining CSQ, Regusci co-founded Azzule, an online compliance supply chain data management company. He also was an owner of the certification body WQS and the Chief Relationship Officer at RizePoint and served as Director of Growth and Public Relations at ASI, one of the largest food safety providers in North America. He is also a father of 9, a job that could certainly benefit from good recordkeeping and organization.
"They're not documenting anything"
Speaking to Rootwurks last week, Regusci did not hesitate to point out recordkeeping as the compliance shortcoming that he most frequently encounters in the field.
“They’ll have SOPs that are beautifully written that match what I see in the facility in terms of their processes but they're not documenting anything,” Regusci said.
When asked why he thinks companies so often fall short on recordkeeping in the workplace, he said “it’s because recordkeeping is not common sense, recordkeeping slows down the flow and it's just not something people think about so when you're adding that to the culture of your facility then it really has to be a cognisant effort to change people to actually document things. They have to be trained and then they have to be constantly followed up on.”
And when recordkeeping isn’t properly maintained, it can make all the difference if and when a compliance violation happens.
“It doesn't matter how amazingly clean your product is or your facility is. The FDA, the USDA, and the state departments will find something that is wrong. Something will happen, someone will do something stupid that's outside of their training, or cut corners, something may be in the facility that’s not supposed to be there. They’ll find something and they'll do something punitive to you if they feel that they need to.”
But proper recordkeeping can make a major difference.
Minimizing the impact of compliance violations
“If you have records that you're constantly upkeeping all the practices in your SOPs both through training and physically in your facility and with your supplier program then it minimizes the impact of any punitive action or tort that can come either from regulatory or class action attorneys,” Regusci said.
This is also part of the compliance code in some legal cannabis states.
Take, for instance, Colorado.
According to the state's cannabis code, if a company is found to have violated a compliance rule, there are several “good faith measures” that can be considered mitigating factors when weighing penalties.
Among others, these include “regularly-provided and documented employee training” and “Standard Operating Procedures established before the Division’s investigation and which include procedures directly addressing the conduct for which imposition of a penalty is being considered.”
In other words, if a company is found to be in violation of a specific regulation, having documentation that shows how the company has routinely fulfilled that requirement can help them avoid a severe penalty.
And keeping records can also avoid potentially worse fallout, according to Regusci.
“If something does go wrong and you have no way of proving that you have been doing things the right way for however long you've been operating then the negative press for your brand could ruin you. You might win a lawsuit, you may be able to fight any type of punitive action from a regulatory stance but if the consumers believe that your brand is not trustworthy then you still could go out of business.”
But recordkeeping can also help companies better understand their business and help it run more efficiently, saving time and money.
Making your operation run more smoothly
“The more recordkeeping you have the more you understand your operation. Let’s say that there are four people in charge of sanitation. What happens if someone has already done it and someone comes in late and does it again? Now you've wasted time and money and time equals money and you're slowing down an operation,” Regusci said.
He also described how recordkeeping can help a cannabis business “if you have a supplier that is constantly providing bad products you're not going to be able to go back in time and see how often that supplier had issues. All of these things add up to make your operation run more smoothly and allow you to make better decisions moving forward.”
End-to-end recordkeeping is a central component of the Rootwurks Learning Experience Platform (LXP). The platform allows companies to track employee training and how SOPs are being utilized in day-to-day operations. The platform not only keeps careful track of compliance tasks, but also allows managers to assign, schedule, and track employee training and create personalized learning plans for employees, as well as certificates for course completion.
And if a company is found to be in violation of a cannabis compliance regulation, the LXP can instantly produce records to indicate just how seriously the company is adhering to all of its regulatory obligations - even if it fell short this time.
To hear more from Matt Regusci about the importance of record keeping in cannabis, join us on March 28th for the Rootwurks webinar "Tips and Tricks for Documenting Cannabis Compliance." Just grab your spot here and we'll see you on the 28th.