Law re­quires pot test­ing, but no labs li­censed yet

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - By BOB SALS­BERG

BOS­TON — Mas­sachusetts law re­quires that all recre­ational mar­i­juana prod­ucts bear a seal show­ing they have been tested by an in­de­pen­dent lab­o­ra­tory for con­tam­i­nants and po­tency lev­els. The prob­lem is that there is no place to test yet, as no labs have been li­censed by state reg­u­la­tors.

The lack of any au­tho­rized test­ing fa­cil­i­ties is an­other rea­son why re­tail sales have yet to be­gin in Mas­sachusetts de­spite an orig­i­nal July 1 target date

for the first pot shops to open un­der the state’s voter-ap­proved law le­gal­iz­ing adult use of recre­ational mar­i­juana.

The de­lay ap­pears likely to con­tinue for at least sev­eral more weeks.

The Cannabis Con­trol Com­mis­sion re­vealed on Thurs­day that it had re­ceived the first com­pleted ap­pli­ca­tion from a prospec­tive test­ing lab­o­ra­tory, and the panel’s chair­man, Steven Hoff­man, said a vote to grant a pro­vi­sional li­cense to the uniden­ti­fied fa­cil­ity could hap­pen at the com­mis­sion’s next meet­ing on July 26.

Rec­og­niz­ing the co­nun­drum that pot shops can’t sell prod­ucts un­less they are in­de­pen­dently tested, Hoff­man had ear­lier said the com­mis­sion would pri­or­i­tize re­views of lab ap­pli­cants.

Three labs al­ready are reg­is­tered by the state De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health to test med­i­cal mar­i­juana, but they must seek a sep­a­rate li­cense from the com­mis­sion to test for the re­tail mar­ket.

MCR Labs, of Fram­ing­ham, has been test­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana since 2015 and was work­ing to fi­nal­ize its ap­pli­ca­tion to test recre­ational pot as well, some­thing the com­pany’s pres­i­dent, Michael Kahn, says it is ready to do once it gets the green light from the state.

“The test­ing re­quire­ments are iden­ti­cal, it’s some­thing we have been do­ing all along,” Kahn said in an in­ter­view.

Un­like med­i­cal mar­i­juana, ap­pli­cants for com­mer­cial li­censes of any kind are re­quired to sign host com­mu­nity agree­ments with the city or town where they plan to lo­cate and cer­tify com­pli­ance with all lo­cal zon­ing pro­vi­sions and by­laws. While lo­cal op­po­si­tion to recre­ational mar­i­juana busi­nesses have been a bar­rier to many prospec­tive ap­pli­cants, Kahn said Fram­ing­ham offi- cials had been co­op­er­a­tive and he hoped for an agree­ment soon.

State reg­u­la­tions also in­clude sev­eral other re­quire­ments for in­de­pen­dent test­ing labs, in­clud­ing that that they have proper ac­cred­i­ta­tion and that em­ploy­ees in­volved in test­ing clear back­ground checks. A test­ing lab can­not ap­ply for any other kind of com­mer­cial mar­i­juana li­cense and its prin­ci­pals must have no fi­nan­cial en­tan­gle­ments with cannabis re­tail­ers or cul­ti­va­tors.

In­de­pen­dent labs will be re­spon­si­ble for test­ing mar­i­juana prod­ucts for the pres­ence of any con­tam­i­nants or pes­ti­cides, and to ver­ify whether lev­els of THC — the psy­choac­tive chem­i­cal in cannabis — are within ac­cept­able lim­its, the com­mis- sion said.

Hoff­man said af­ter Thurs­day’s meet­ing he un­der­stands why some are dis­ap­pointed that re­tail sales have yet to be­gin but said reg­u­la­tors were mov­ing as quickly as pos­si­ble.

“It’s hard to lose sight of the fact that 10 months ago we started with no staff, no money and no of­fices, and I think we’ve ac­com­plished a lot,” he said.

The com­mis­sion has so far granted only one re­tail li­cense, to Cul­ti­vate Hold­ings, which op­er­ates a med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary in Le­ices­ter and hopes to be­gin sell­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana at the same location within weeks. The com­pany on Thurs­day was is­sued a se­cond com­mer­cial li­cense for cul­ti­va­tion at the site.

File photo/Ernest A. Brown

Pic­tured, a pro­fes­sional mar­i­juana-grow­ing fa­cil­ity in Warwick.

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