By: Cecil King
Cannabis Testing Labs: Missouri’s Achilles Heel Of Legalization
The day after Missouri citizens unlock the economic potential of legal marijuana with a successful victory vote, the hard work of implementing a brand-new cannabis law will begin.
Alaskans have already “been there, done that.” Retail cannabis sales will start later this fall. However, a few unforeseen kinks in the Alaskan rollout have developed. Future Missouri cannabis business owners should take note.
Think, cannabis testing labs. In the entire state of Alaska at the end of June there were only two newly licensed cannabis testing labs.
One of those labs was shut down, temporarily, while Steep Hill Labs, Oakland, CA, upgrades their equipment to “industry standards” and renames the company Steep Hill Alaska through a licensing agreement.
Under Alaskan regulations, retail cannabis must undergo certified analysis from a testing lab for mold, pesticides and other adulterants.
On June 9, the Marijuana Control Board (MCB), the regulatory agency in control of cultivation, manufacture and sale of cannabis, issued two dozen commercial cannabis cultivator licenses. Those new growers are anxious about selling their crop. If the Board fails to issue more testing lab licenses in the coming months, their crops could sit in storage until they are certified for sale.
Cynthia A. Franklin, Executive Director of the Marijuana Control Board is quite aware of the difficulty cultivators will face testing cannabis in Alaska. In addition to the scarcity of testing labs, the distances are expansive in the state and pose another challenge.
A new cannabis grower located in the popular inner passage cruise destination of Ketchikan, AK, for example, would have to send product test samples 1,675 miles to Anchorage for analysis.
Under Alaska’s new retail cannabis law, transporting cannabis products by air, through federal waterways, through the U.S. Postal Service or any private packaging service is prohibited. Very few low-cost options remain for cannabis growers located off-road.
The MCB hasn’t provided guidance for rural marijuana supply channels. Executive Director Cynthia Franklin suggested at an April meeting that sending small amounts of marijuana through the U.S. mail might not anger the feds, if they even notice.
No future Missouri cannabis cultivator would want to be in that economic “rock-and-a-hard-place.” For a Missouri grower, the Ketchikan example would be the equivalent of transporting cannabis test samples from Kansas City to Los Angeles, or 1,618 miles one way.
Missouri’s hopeful, soon-to-be cannabis dispensary and cultivation business owners will want to factor into their business plans the availability, or lack of, experienced cannabis testing labs.
Many Missouri bio-science labs and manufacturing facilities would be precluded from participating in cannabis testing or edible cannabis product manufacturing activities.
Pharmaceutical developer Euticals, Inc. would fall into this category. Their Springfield, MO drug manufacturing plant maintains federal registrations with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to manufacture, research and export DEA controlled compounds with Schedule I, II and V designations. Their products include opioids, amphetamines and phenidates (a drug chemically related to amphetamine).
Cannabis is still a federally scheduled substance and handling it in any form at Euticals would be incompatible with DEA licensing edicts.
In Columbia, MO, Analytical Bio-Chemistry Laboratories, Inc., has the capabilities for testing cannabis samples. Plus, they have years of experience developing consumer pharmaceutical products. Recently acquired by Evans Analytical Group, it is unknown if any limiting FDA or DEA relationships are in effect to preclude cannabis testing there.
Testing labs are the critical key in building customer confidence for cannabis products. Many potential Missouri customers may not know anything about a cannabis product. A consumer would have to rely on a lab’s certificate of potency and cannabinoid profile as a purchasing guide.
Often, cannabis testing labs provide additional services to cultivators and manufacturers including product development strategies and limited-run prototype products. An established cannabis testing lab would have years of experience with strain genetics, extraction techniques, and hands-on familiarity with the hundreds of cannabis phenotypes already established in the cannabis marketplace.
Legalized cannabis in Missouri would present a huge business potential for testing labs to develop within the Show-Me State.