DON’T SMOKE THE MESSENGER: Can the Labs Keep Up?
Especially in the United States, it is not even a second thought for people when they go to the grocery store that the fresh fruits and vegetables they buy are going to be safe for consumption. Well, usually (wash that spinach, who knows how long it has been in that plastic bag, growing e.coli!).
It is comforting to know that cannabis has even more stringent requirements before being allowed to be sold in a dispensary. Even better is that these requirements are not only for the safety of consumers, testing for things such as mold and pesticides, but also the safety of the environment, ensuring that organic practices are used.
As the marijuana programs in Oregon ramps up, with so many medical growers already and now hundreds of recreational producers starting to get their licenses, the state’s labs are about to experience a pretty significant bottleneck this year.
The Messenger had a moment to speak with Bethany Sherman and Joel Glimpse from OG Analytical, a lab based out of Eugene, with an office in Southern Oregon located at Biological Crop Solutions in Phoenix. They explained that The Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ORELAP) is charged with approving and accrediting labs that want to test recreational cannabis. According to Sherman, ORELAP, a state program under the umbrella if the Oregon Health Authority, started with only 4 auditors. As a results, they have not been able to keep up with the demands of getting all the labs that have applied to test cannabis, as well as keep up with their other duties of accrediting labs all over the country and world that do testing for the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. They need to hire more staff to keep up with the demand. But it will take a legislative fix to make it so that a portion of the $14.9 million collected just between January and June of in recreational cannabis taxes this year actually can make it to ORELAP to hire those folks. Oops.
Nine labs have been accredited so far, and they are working as fast as they can, but this year could prove tricky.
Helpful advice for growers- get an appointment NOW. Each lab has limited capacity about how much they can test, and how quickly it can be done. Each test takes a certain amount of time to complete, and appointments for October and November are already filling up. Also, check to see what the lab’s testing accredited abilities are- some may only be testing for potency, while others might only be testing for molds, pesticides, or moisture content. Some, like OG Analytical, have full accreditation, and can performs all the necessary tests.
Overall, they surmise, the labs are going to have a tough time keeping up this year.