Why UL Certification Matters in Cannabis Extraction Equipment

Why UL Certification Matters in Cannabis Extraction Equipment

Products with UL certification offer the highest level of compliance and product quality. And for the cannabis industry moving from the underground into a regulated framework at a rapid pace, these assurances are paramount. They also lend legitimacy to your operation, creating opportunities to partner with organizations across the U.S. and around the world.

What do extractors need to know about UL certification and how it impacts their processes? Here, we’ll detail how and why UL certification carries weight for the cannabis industry.

What is UL Certification?

Put simply, UL certification indicates whether extraction equipment has been tested by a third-party and verified to meet UL safety standards. A UL certified machine – or any product -- will display a small UL label, verifying that it has been tested by a third third-party engineer to ensure compliance with these safety standards.

<a title="Underwriters Laboratories, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:UL_Mark.svg"><img width="512" alt="UL Mark" src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/42/UL_Mark.svg/512px-UL_Mark.svg.png"></a>

Any brand that relies on UL certified equipment in its processes, or produces goods with the UL seal, makes a public declaration for its dedication to quality and safety. This promise extends both to employees who work with the equipment each day and to consumers who will enjoy the final product. Managed by the Underwriters Laboratories, the certification process covers a range of different manufacturing processes and operational tactics, including safety considerations regarding everything from cannabis vape pens to fire alarm systems.

As opposed to UL recognition, which generally only covers the components of larger machinery or systems -- such as sprinklers in alarm systems or the circuitry of a centrifuge -- UL certifications serve to validate market-ready, customer-facing products, be that manufacturing equipment or household goods. When it comes to extraction equipment, this includes full pieces of equipment like decarboxylation ovens and freeze dryers.

It's also important to note that UL certification follows a pass-fail format. When products and equipment are tested against UL’s standards and specifications, they either meet the mark and become certified or they do not.

What does UL stand for?

UL refers to Underwriters Laboratories, a third-party certification company responsible for verifying safety compliance within various industries, including cars, healthcare, energy, and industrial manufacturing. Typically, UL certification covers everything from electrical products to fire prevention methods to validate the safety protocols of an organization and the reliability of its equipment.

The role of UL certification in the cannabis industry

UL testing is conducted for cultivation, extraction, and manufacturing facilities. The popularity of cannabis products continues to rise, both in markets where THC has been legalized and those where only industrial hemp derived CBD is available. As the cannabis industry matures, UL certification is critical to validating its legitimacy, especially in the extraction sector. However, because cannabis remains federally illegal in the U.S. and prohibited in many national markets throughout the world, there is often uncertainty regarding the rules and standards for manufacturers entering this space.

With UL certification, companies can verify that their products are manufactured with quality and safety top of mind. Without UL certification (and other forms of standardization such as GMP and NRTL testing), customers have no way of knowing the safety standards used while manufacturing a product. And because these certifications come from expert third party organizations, customers can be sure that the process is neutral, thorough, and honest.

Setting operational standards

The UL certification accounts for the safety of equipment and procedures implemented within cannabis manufacturing facilities. For example, a UL certified alarm system within an extraction facility would verify that the alarm system was installed properly and will continue to be maintained, tested, and monitored following the most up-to-date codes and standards.

In addition to product and methodology safety measures, the UL also sets standards for companies regarding innovation and manufacturing. If a manufacturer requests a UL rating for a product design that is not covered by existing standards, a staff member will need to review the details to determine any further requirements. New and innovative product testing information is particularly important to the cannabis industry, considering its constant evolutions as the legal market develops. For example, there may not be pre-existing safety standards in place for each new and innovative design of extraction or manufacturing equipment

To ensure the safety of innovations, UL performs continuous testing to ensure newly developed products meet the highest safety standards. For example, UL testing will review new extraction equipment to determine whether the device functions safely and as intended. This may include stress-testing equipment under adverse conditions above and beyond what is typically expected in a manufacturing facility.

Achieving GMP certification

Obtaining UL certification is a great way for companies to demonstrate electrical safety and compliance when applying for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification. GMP certification verifies whether a company's products are consistently produced according to comprehensive quality standards. UL certification can help cannabis companies obtain GMP certification. While this is not the only way to do so, it’s safe to assume that if a product is not certified as electrically safe under UL ratings (or a comparable equivalent), it’s unlikely that they would pass GMP standards, either.

How to obtain – and retain – UL certification

Manufacturing companies must go through an extensive process to become UL certified. When a company’s application for the rating is accepted, Underwriters Laboratories reviews product or equipment information and works with companies to estimate the extent and timeframe of the required testing procedures.

The testing process is costly, however, and many companies do not take the time to undergo it. The exact cost and time frame of the certification process are dependent on the products, equipment, or procedures undergoing testing. Many companies may claim they are “UL compliant” without undergoing testing, which is significantly distinct from truly UL certified products or equipment.

It's also important to note that while different companies use different underwriting, they follow the same guidelines. For example, products that are Electrical Testing Laboratory (ETL) certified can be considered UL approved.

To remain UL certified, cannabis companies must maintain the equipment and procedures in place during their UL testing. All cannabis businesses, plant-touching and ancillary alike, should maintain consistent standards of safety to ensure they retain their rating.

Ensure compliance with Holland Green Science equipment  

Most Holland Green Science cannabis extraction equipment is ETL and CE certified, which are comparable standards to those maintained by UL while supporting attestation for GMP certification. In addition to offering our customers safe and verified extraction equipment, we are here to help your company develop and maintain safety procedures that can help you become a UL certified manufacturer. With these standards under your belt, opportunities around the globe follow.

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