One of the arguments of cannabis legalization campaigns is always that the products can be regulated for proper safety standards before sale. Now that cannabis has been legalized recreationally in California, those promised regulations are coming to fruition, and cannabis testing labs are expecting a bottleneck when the state’s new testing requirement goes into effect July 1.
Right now California's marijuana retailers are benefiting from a transition period where they are allowed to sell untested cannabis as the entire legalization law goes into effect. However, as of July 1st, only lab-tested products will be able to be legally sold by licensed retailers, and Marijuana Business Daily is reporting that most labs are predicting a shortage in testing services, long waits, and delays in approvals to sell the products.
As California’s labs go through their own licensing process, many will not be ready, and out of those that are ready, some will not be fully operational in time for the expected influx of new orders expected soon.
In addition to the delays and shortages, the situation will also mean a boon in business for the testing labs that can be operational at that time.
“Everyone knows that testing is already the bottleneck,” Swetha Kaul, the chief scientific officer at Cannalysis Labs, which is still going through the local licensing process in Santa Ana, told Marijuana Business Daily
.She said “We’ve seen this repeated in Colorado and in Oregon. They had (multiple) testing labs, and still they had these huge turnaround times, a lot of lag in trying to get samples processed.”
The labs check for potency, pesticides, heavy metals, microbial contaminations, and residual solvents.
The California Bureau of Cannabis Control had issued 26 temporary licenses for testing labs as of March 27th.
“Some of those labs are already operational and testing cannabis for clients, many of whom are prepping to ensure their businesses are compliant come July. Those companies’ goals are to be able to get product to market without having to wait weeks for test results.” reported Marijuana Business Daily, but another lab operator, Sam David, president of Coastal Analytical, a licensed lab in San Diego, said “Most of the labs, by far, are not able to do the testing as required. Some of them don’t even exist yet.”
How come cannabis retailers are not submitting their products to the labs now to beat the rush? Marijuana Business Daily says “Industry sources say many cannabis growers, edibles makers and distributors are putting testing compliance on the back burner for now simply because they have more pressing issues to deal with. So, labs that are ready to perform compliance testing probably will experience a rush of business in June or July.”
And a single product may need testing many times. Samia Arram, co-founder and chief operating officer of Oregon-based PacLab Analytics, which has three labs in the process of getting up and running so far in California, and plans to have up to 20 throughout the state, said, “Testing isn’t just at the end of the life cycle of the product. One single product may be tested multiple times. From a flower stage to an oil stage to an edibles stage, testing is going to be something that is needed throughout the lifecycle.”
So, how many labs does California need to process marijuana products?
“Kaul estimated that the average California lab will be able to process 100-120 samples per day during full-compliance testing. Asked what California will need to ensure a smooth, uninterrupted supply chain, Kaul said, ‘I would think at least 50 labs that are running at that capacity would be what’s needed. And we’re nowhere close to that.’”