California Cannabis Labs Raising the Crest?
At midnight on January 1, 2018, Californian’s didn’t hit the beach to surf. Instead, they could legally possess cannabis. The question is: How did legalization affect the state’s testing labs? Samantha Miller, President and Chief Scientist at Pure Analytics, made time to talk about the impact on her business.
When asked if the testing volume changed since the start of 2018, Miller says, “Absolutely!” She adds, “It’s difficult to say how much it will increase over the long term, but I don’t think it would be out of the realm of possibility that within six months my business will have doubled.”
The increase started even before the legalization. “At the end of 2017, a significant number of cultivators and manufacturers were concerned with seeing how their products would fare against the upcoming regulations,” Miller explains. “They came to us for testing and advice around new requirements like moisture content, pesticide or bacterial requirements that they didn’t look at in the past.”
Investing in cannabis testing equipment
The changes in testing requirements also triggered Miller to update the capabilities of her labs. “About nine months ago, we made capital equipment purchases to meet the proposed state testing requirements,” she says. “It required taking some risks and making educated guesses about where they would land, but we had a clear enough view to make the right moves at the right time.” So, her lab added a triple-quadrupole mass spectrometer in May 2017. “It’s great for doing trace pesticide analysis for a large number of compounds the state requires to be included,” Miller notes. “We use other specialized equipment, like [gas chromatography-electron capture detection, GC-ECD], to analyze specific classes of contaminants, such as chlorinated pesticides, to achieve the best detection and identification methods possible.”
For all requirement changes that California added, testing labs need to accommodate them, and that can take some effort. “Anything new the state asks us to do, we have to work that into our accreditation,” Miller explains. “Each change requires we have an auditor come out to verify the method validation and audit the process.”
Cannabis testing customers are changing
It’s not just the equipment that’s changing. “Before the first of the year, dispensaries were a significant part of our customer base,” Miller says. “After the first of the year, the mix of who is testing has changed rapidly to very few dispensaries continuing with their independent testing programs and submissions to labs occurring more exclusively in the manufacturing and distribution segments.”
The changes in California’s cannabis market create a new confidence about the future for testing labs. “It’s an exciting time of transition,” Miller says. “The greater level of oversight and requirements for quality control hopefully support the expansion of a burgeoning cannabis market by increasing the environment of permission for consumers new to cannabis to try it for the first time—now with the confidence of a greater level of consumer safety and government oversight.”