Cannabis Testing Labs Give Perspective

OG Analytical and Evio Labs Give Perspective at

Emerald Trade Alliance

 

Meeting Recap: 12/21/16

Written by Christina Ketchum
Edited by Noah Persin, Maxwell Davis

The Emerald Trade Alliance had the pleasure of hosting Bethany Sherman of OG Analytical alongside Lori Glauser of Signal Bay and Henry Grimmett of Evio Labs. This conglomerate of labs came together to discuss misconceptions, speculations, rumors and misunderstandings surrounding current issues with lab prices, protocols, wait times and sample sizes.

It was an insightful meeting with the keynote speakers agreeing on the difficulties of adapting to constantly changing legislation. Having to buy, install, break-in and receive training on any new equipment required to stay compliant with new rules was a big hurdle that many labs had to overcome. Others simply had to close shop altogether or join forces, as was the case of Evio Labs acquiring four smaller laboratories. In turn, these unavoidable (but temporary) market factors have served to create the longer turnaround times and price increases both labs and their clients have been experiencing.

Price increases were of course a hot topic at the meeting Wednesday night. Both OG Analytical and Evio commented on the highly uneven playing field labs were forced to compete on prior to October 1st. Every lab could be using different equipment with vastly different quality control and underlying expenses/ overhead costs. All the while the market for testing was highly competitive, resulting in labs having to charge less than the tests actually cost in order to keep a foothold in the market. According to Glauser, “Some people say Oregon has some of the most comprehensive and strictest testing requirements in the country, I disagree.” She commented this while Grimmett spoke about potential new requirements to come; such as heavy metal testing. “Up until recently, we were giving away moisture content analysis for free,” Sherman added after Grimmett and Glauser spoke about the testing subsidizing they were giving away prior to October to help keep their prices down for their customers. They reiterated that labs are small businesses as well, and with equipment costs of commonly over $500,000 and lengthy break-in periods, they have to raise costs just to keep their doors open. Unfortunately, with the higher demand for the accredited laboratories, many have had to increase their staff size, adding even more additional costs. The labs said they are very aware of this expense and the role it plays in the business models for producers and processors. While the market will become leveled as rules and regulations stabilize, expect a higher permanent testing cost as to adhere to new state requirements, specifically pesticide testing, according to Grimmett. He also commented prices may come down after the labs have been accredited for some time, especially when equipment is no longer being loaned. Sherman commented, “We want to see all of our customers succeed. As people, we don’t like giving bad news to anyone. As businesses, the better our customers are doing, the more likely they are to get further testing done.”

The labs touched on the new sample laws. Each lab issued a request to the OLCC that the labs be allowed to give any unused samples back to their customers. “It costs us to store your product and it costs us to dispose of your product. It makes more sense for us to give it back to you, so you can use it and make something out of it.” Sherman commented. She added, “We attempted to give products back to our first customer after the Oct. 1 deadline and were immediately slapped on the wrist by METRC.”. That’s not the only regulation the labs agreed was “unscientific”. Although the sample size increase was to ensure homogeneity, “If you’re looking at a roto-vac and it’s all liquid and it’s all mixing together – you don’t need a test to prove it’s homogenetic. Humans have known this for 400 hundred years,” Grimmett added. One of Grimmett’s lab employees was on the sampling committee and said the original rules the Department of Justice and the Department of Environmental Equality proposed were stifling. The rules that were released were “slightly less stifling than the original,” and the definition of increment was defined differently in the proposed rules than the released rules. Sherman said she was not on the sampling committee, but now takes these sorts of issues up with the OLCC directly and not ORELAP , since has suffered employee losses and is less able to handle its work load.

The labs were asked what their businesses and other OLCC businesses could do to help them speeding up the testing process and/ or reduce testing costs. “Test your soil, test your water, test your nutrients before using any of these products with your plants,” Glauser suggested. Grimmett strongly advised asking for certificate analysis’s for each product you buy ensuring that the product has what it says it has in it. Insisting soil and fertilizer companies provide analysis prior to purchase sends a clear message from the consumer that they will have to do their due diligence on pre testing source materials prior to labeling and selling products to the public. “Really read and understand the products you’re using. Understand what is on the OMRI list and why it’s there. Triple rinse everything.” Grimmett added. He also said that while a product may be OMRI listed, it may still not pass a test. He encouraged everyone in the industry to start paying attention to what is and isn’t allowed on Oregon’s banned list and research what products those chemicals may be present in and how those chemicals breakdown. A member of the ETA crowd warned that local soil companies may use mulch from yard debris with pesticides and some pesticides can take up to five years to breakdown. Because of this, those soils will likely produce a positive  tests for pesticides. It is very important to know where any and all of your soil and nutrients are coming from and what is in them.  Another suggestion coming from all three presenters is to take the time to know the testing requirements. When the labs are on the phone with their customers giving them free consulting to figure out what they need to be compliant, that’s an hour they’re not in the lab.

A change in business practice was suggested by a member, mentioning that growing less strains will maximize your batch to test cost ratio. Testing a 10 lb batch costs the same as a 1 lb batch

All three speakers presented a great deal of information for the ETA members. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to host these companies and hope to see more labs coming together in the future to continue this dialogue.

 

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