Can you live without GMP certification? 

July 14, 2023 | Category : Cannabis Knowledge | Posted By : Deon Maas

We have written a lot in the past about GACP (and GMP). We have even written about them in the same article. We have been talking to a lot of cultivators and investors over the past few months and the one topic that comes up more often than not is the cost and time of getting a GMP certificate. Some people feel that the effort is not worth the reward, especially smaller cultivators. So, we did some reading to bring you some options. 

In the past you grew your crop and sold it to your client. Now people are talking about quality standards and GACP and GMP and a whole lot of other acronyms that you have to Google before you know what’s going on. Or perhaps you are new to this business with some money you want to invest and you are looking at which ones make the most sense. 

The Good Manufacturing Practices or GMP is the final process in having your crop accepted as medicinal product for import into the European Union. This is a costly and time-consuming enterprise that adds a lot of zeroes to your initial financial outlay. For a lot of people, it’s also a deterrent because of the difficulty in getting the certification. 

The idea that you can do without it has never really been discussed but now even some of the bigger companies are deciding that going for GMP certification is just not worth it. Instead of trying to get the certification, they are merely taking their flowers to a certain stage of drying and then selling it on to a company that can achieve the GMP status.  

This idea has advantages and disadvantages and there may be even more options available to cultivators who are careful of this last step. Let’s take a look and then let you make a decision with all the information at your fingertips. 

Let’s start off by looking at what the difference between GACP and GMP is 

Good agricultural and collection practice (GACP) are the rules and regulations that applies when you are growing or cultivating your crop. I guess the “agriculture” part of it should be a dead give-away. Once you have harvested, the GACP aspect finishes, and you can get your certificate for that, or you agree into an audit process from your buyer. When it comes to the drying stage, and depending on the regulations of the Country where you are selling your flower, you can continue doing it under GACP or you will have to do it under a GMP Licence. Once the dried flowers are being processed to use as medicines, the GMP rules definitely kick in. So it comes to two different sets of rules that apply to two different phases of the process. It is important to understand that it will be very difficult to sell your crop to a GMP certified manufacturer if you do not have a GACP certificate. And we mean very difficult.  

Why is the GACP certification considered important 

People want to know where stuff comes from, what conditions it has been grown under and if there were any problems, especially if they have to adhere to the super high standards that is applied by pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical regulations. So, in a market where (at the moment at least) supply outstrips demand, potential customers have a wider choice and can therefore be more choosy when they decide who they want to deal with. Your shortest and easiest route to sell your crop therefore is a GACP certification, either verified by your buyer, or from an independent certifying entity. Keeping a record is vital. And let’s have a quick commercial break here: This of course is why using Cannavigia software makes your life so much easier and quantifiable. Track and trace always makes you sexier and in an opaque business slowly edging its way to respectability, showing that you are responsible always scores points.  

So what are the various options? 

One of the biggest mistakes new cultivators make is to want it all and to have it now. There are different business models that need to be looked at before a final decision is made. If you are striving for GMP certification, your facility may end up costing two to three times more than if you only did it for GACP certification. That is a huge knock for smaller cultivators or people starting out. At the same time, you’ll also get two to three times more for your crop if it is GMP certified rather than only GACP certified. That is a huge difference. But just because you don’t have the money now doesn’t mean you are making a commitment for life on this decision. 

Option 1 

Start a co-op or service agreement  

Nothing prevents you from forming a co-op with x-amount of other cultivators to collectively use your own GMP-certified facility. This means extra expenditure on your side, but not even close to the amount you’ll spend by running it on your own. By sharing it, it means that you are sharing expenses which lessens it, but it also means sharing space and time which can influence the amount of produce that you are putting through the facility. A co-op has both its ups and its downs and you need to look at this carefully and make sure that your partners share the same values (and growing hygiene) that you do. It will also be important to involve a lawyer that draws up a water tight contract between the partners and a proper schedule to make sure that no-one is standing in the queue outside while someone else is still using the facility.  

Option 2 

Save up 

Instead of buying the Ferrari or the chalet with your first paycheck, you can always invest in growing your company for the future. Growing a small business to something bigger does not only benefit you financially but also helps keeping boredom at bay. After the big struggle of the first crop is over, it’s always good to reward yourself, but let’s make sure the reward is not too big. If you want to have a bigger income after next year’s crop or investors are pushing for a higher dividend, growing the company by investing in a GMP facility may be your wisest choice. 

Option 3 

Just do the GACP-part 

Not getting involved in the GMP part of the operation will cost you a chunk of income, but it also means that you have a lot less headaches and bureaucracy. Perhaps you feel that life should be enjoyed more and that profits aren’t the only thing to measure success by. It’s a quick and easy way to live with a lot less stress. Before you make this decision, it is important to check the rules of the various countries, because what is acceptable to one, is not necessarily acceptable to another. In some cases there is an overlap between the GACP and GMP. A lot of cultivators will dry their crop halfway, sell it and then it gets rehydrated on the other side after the sale. In some countries this is fine, other (like Germany for instance) do not allow this practice. In other words, even within the EU there are different rules for different countries. This will obviously complicate your life. One of the solutions is to use a GMP-certified partner in your own country and then have it exported.