Florida Regulators Fine More Cannabis Labs For Testing Violations
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Several cannabis testing labs in Florida have been reprimanded by the state’s regulator in recent months.
Labs such as AccuScience Laboratories and Cannalytics received notices of violation from the Florida Department of Health for breaching regulations, and three labs – ACS Laboratory TerpLife Labs, and Method Testing Labs – were fined thousands of dollars for offences such as listing “false” information on their certificates of analysis (CoAs) and missing proper documentation from their data packages.
Fined in Florida
The relevant notices from Florida Health were sent between October 2022 and March 2023.
According to the documents seen by Analytical Cannabis (following a freedom of information request), several labs were found wanting in the following ways.
After state regulators inspected Cannalytics’ Florida facility in October 2022, the lab was told its floor plan was “not accurate” and that its cannabis samples weren’t stored in a “secured, locked room or a vault” to avoid spoilage.
Responding to Analytical Cannabis, Karrissa M. Miller, director of client services at US Cannalytics, said the following:
“Cannalytics FL is committed to the safe handling and storage of cannabis samples at every level of our operation. This includes our designated vault space with additional security and monitoring parameters, as required in statute.”
“During our October 2022 inspection, it was noted our floor plan did not accurately depict camera placement throughout the vault. The floorplan was promptly updated and submitted to the OMMU [Office of Medical Marijuana Use], satisfying the inspection finding without further action.”
On November 1, 2022, AccuScience Laboratories was told by regulators that a CoA of its didn’t “include compliant total weight or volume of the Final Product received for testing”.
“We put the corrective action in place immediately,” Harry Behzadi, CEO of AccuScience, told Analytical Cannabis. “And we notified [Florida Health] and they accepted [the corrective action].”
Neither lab was fined for its transgressions; they were asked to submit a written corrective action plan to Florida Health to outline how they would resolve their violations.
On the same day AccuScience was notified, Method Testing Labs was also informed by Florida Health that its data packages didn’t include proper documentation. Many sample tests by the lab reportedly failed recovery criteria for several pesticides. The lab was later fined $8,000 on March 6, 2023.
Method Testing refuted the allegations and has since requested a formal administrative hearing with the regulator.
“We take this very seriously,” Keith Browning, CEO of Method Testing Labs, told Analytical Cannabis.
“We’ve read all the rules that they [Florida Health] have put in place, and our interpretation is that we met the rules,” he added. “So that’s why we want a hearing with the state.”
On November 4, Americanna Laboratories was told to immediately halt all testing of the pesticides captan, chlorfenapyr, and pentachloronitrobenzene in cannabis flower samples after Florida Health deemed its testing of the compounds “unsatisfactory”. In order to resume such testing, the lab was told to conduct an internal investigation to determine the cause of the unsatisfactory results.
Responding to Analytical Cannabis, Steven Perez, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Americanna Laboratories, said the following:
“Upon receiving unsatisfactory results for the pesticides captan, chlorfenapyr, and pentachloronitrobenzene from the 3rd party Proficiency Test (PT) Provider, and several days before the November notice was issued by the OMMU, we initiated a joint investigation in accordance with our policies and procedures.”
“The investigation concluded that the PT Study itself was flawed in its design. The PT Provider requested the OMMU to withdraw and invalidate the submitted results. The OMMU granted the withdrawal and reinstated our ability to test for the three pesticides.”
“We continuously strive to improve our processes and maintain compliance with all regulatory requirements.”
On December 15, TerpLife Labs was also asked to submit a written corrective action plan after the state regulator found multiple “deficiencies” in its submitted data packages, including improper execution of the Medicinal Genomics PathoSEEK Total Yeast and Mold Detection Assay.
The same lab was also initially fined $23,000 by Florida Health on January 6, 2023, for reporting false information on 23 CoAs (a $1,000 fine for each CoA). Under state law, usable whole flower potency must be reported at the moisture content – not the dry content – on a CoA. According to Florida Health, TerpLife Labs breached this law on its 23 CoAs.
“Yes, Terplife received a NOV [notice of violation] from OMMU. We were incorrectly reporting THC % on an adjusted for dry weight basis instead of as received,” Kevin Dunham, CEO of TerpLife Labs, told Analytical Cannabis in an email.
“The reason for this was that after we received our CMTL [certified marijuana testing laboratory] certification we confirmed reporting with OMMU and were inaccurately told we were reporting correctly.”
“OMMU recognized extenuating circumstances and reduced our fine from $23,000 to $2,300. We are awaiting a revised letter that will remove ‘false’.”
“We adjusted our reporting to include ‘as received’ for THC.”
On the same day that TerpLife was fined, ACS Laboratory also received a $24,000 fine for a similar violation. According to Florida Health, the lab reported usable whole flower potency calculated in percentage at dry weights and total milligrams THC reported at wet weight on 12 CoAs seen by the state regulator. The lab was thus fined $2,000 for each “false” CoA.
Responding to Analytical Cannabis, a representative of ACS Laboratory said the following:
“The 12 COAs that were referenced in the fines have correct results. The Total Active THC and Total Active CBD summary by received weight was presented in the table but not totaled, which was a clerical error.”
“The client requested the results be reported in dry weight and the change in reporting format caused the clerical error.”
“While other laboratories report cannabis THC results in dry weight, ACS has not reported in that format since this client’s request in September 2022.”
These recent reprovals from Florida Health follow similar fines and notices issued to labs in September 2022.
Back then, ACS Laboratory and Green Scientific Labs were fined $20,000 each for using an “unapproved” polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method to test cannabis samples for yeast and mold.
Speaking to Analytical Cannabis at the time, Rafael Bombonato, chief compliance officer and interim CEO of Green Scientific Labs, made clear that he broadly supported Florida Health’s actions.
“We support public health and safety. So, I would like to start with that; we don’t have any problems with the Department of Health and how they enforce their rules.”
But while content with the actions of the regulator, Bombonato did question the heft of Green Scientific’s fine, especially given that, only a week earlier in September, ACS and Method Testing Labs came afoul of fines worth $5,000 and $6,000, respectively, for reporting “false information” on their CoAs.
“The amount that we were fined, I believe it’s a little bit excessive,” Bombonato added, “when you compare to fines that were issued a couple of weeks ago, which included manipulation of data.”
“But then again, I’m not the person that’s making those decisions. Just, in my opinion, I think that may send the wrong message to the industry.”
*Update. This article was updated on May 2, 2023, to include a response from US Cannalytics.