NEW YORK (MainStreet) In a move celebrated by businesses and activists, Washington state took its next move to implement a fully legal medical and recreational market in the last week of May. The State Liquor Control Board approved Analytical 360, which operates an existing medical lab in Seattle for the state's medical growers, to become the first state certified legal testing facility as of the first week of June. The move comes barely two months before the state swings into its widely anticipated launch of its new recreational market.
Analytical 360 uses liquid chromatography and ultraviolet spectroscopy to determine the levels of cannabinoids present in extracts and plants. Other methods such as gas chromatographic testing are far less accurate, according to the company. In this case, tests which use the same are unable to measure the amount of both THC and CBD present very accurately. Another method used in the industry, THC or "thin layer" chromatography is also employed, and Analytical 360 says the process is less accurate than the process the company uses because it does not measure concentration levels.
Analytical 360 may be the first state-certified lab in Washington, but this is just the beginning. The State Liquor Control Board is also considering other licenses now.
"There are currently about 40 license processors and producers, but as of yet there are no licensed retailers," said Kevin Oliver, executive director of Washington state's branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "Given that there will ultimately be hundreds and hundreds of retailers and thousands of producers and processors, it is clear that dozens if not hundreds of more testing labs are going to be needed as well."
Testing products is one of the first stalwarts of a safe state industry and in proceeding this way Washington State seems to be learning valuable lessons from Colorado in particular. Since legalization, the issue of testing and edible packaging in particular, in addition to accurate labeling, has sprung up not only in Colorado but in markets like Oregon as well.
In Washington, which has the most liberal home-grow laws in the country, this may become an issue for those who do package edibles, and as in other situations, Washington takes its lead from Colorado. In Colorado, the seven approved and state-licensed labs can no longer test samples from medical caregivers and samples from home growers as of early May.
After a high-profile death involving an African student on spring break in the Mile High State who ate a marijuana infused cookie and a man who consumed infused candies shot his wife, the issue of product strength is also a major issue. It is likely that such regulatory oversight will migrate to Washington sooner rather than later.
The evolving market for products, tinctures and oils that is beginning to differentiate between different concentrations of both CBD and THC will also be a driver of stricter lab testing in Washington and beyond. With recent discoveries and advances across the country with regards to medical marijuana given to children, consumers and regulators are likely to become more stringent about the concentration and strength of non-smokeable products in particular.
--Written by Marguerite Arnold for MainStreet