Cannabis Crossroads: The Evolution of Cannabis Quality Control Testing

Mar 15, 2018
Volume: 
1
Issue: 
1
Figure 1: EVIO Labs facility locations.
Figure 1 (click to enlarge): EVIO Labs facility locations. [EDITOR'S NOTE: The graphic incorrectly lists Indiana as a legal medical marijuana state. Illinois should be highlighted instead of Indiana.]
Figure 2: EVIO Labs Florida photos
Figure 2 (click to enlarge): EVIO Labs Florida lobby (top left), main laboratory (top right), microbiological laboratory (bottom left), and Shimadzu LCMS-8060 triple-quadrupole MS system (bottom right).

I am honored to contribute to this inaugural edition of Cannabis Science and Technology! As the organizer of many cannabis science events (including the Cannabis Science Conference, Canna Boot Camps and Analytical Cannabis Symposia at Pittcon), I have worked to bridge gaps between the cannabis industry, analytical science, and medicine. This magazine represents a major leap forward in bridging these gaps, and the timing could not be more perfect.

It is my great pleasure to feature an interview-style article in each issue of Cannabis Science and Technology, where I will introduce you to cannabis science mavens and cover a diverse range of important topics. For this first installment, I focused on a cornerstone of cannabis science—cannabis quality control (QC) testing laboratories, and their evolution during the past decade.

Cannabis laboratory testing has evolved from a garage “pot science” to a multimillion-dollar industry in a very short time span. There are many companies that have played important roles in catalyzing cannabis science. Laboratories like Steep Hill, Trace Analytics, Nordic Labs, and EVIO Labs come to mind as leaders instilling quality in laboratory testing. Recently, I sat down with Lori Glauser, Co-Founder, COO, and Director of EVIO Labs, and Chris Martinez, President of EVIO Labs Florida, to discuss EVIO as well as what lies ahead for cannabis quality control testing.

Could you please introduce EVIO Labs to our readers? How many laboratory locations does EVIO have now?
Lori Glauser:
EVIO Labs has quickly become a national provider of accredited cannabis testing, providing high quality analytical and consulting services for the cannabis industry. We currently have eight operating laboratories in five states (see Figure 1 in upper right). [EDITOR'S NOTE: The graphic incorrectly lists Indiana as a legal medical marijuana state. Illinois should be highlighted instead of Indiana.] We have several additional laboratories in various stages of development, and are working toward our goal of opening 18 locations by the end of 2018.

What are the challenges of working in different states? How do you handle those challenges (different strategies)?
Glauser:
Each cannabis-legal state has unique and evolving regulations. As a multistate operator, we work to standardize our methods across labs and across states, and building our business to efficiently meet the needs of all the states rules can be challenging. So far, no two states’ testing requirements are identical. It is imperative for us to stay abreast of the regulatory changes in each state we work in, and also keep an eye on regulatory changes in states where we don't yet have labs to establish where we want to go next. We anticipate that testing regulations will converge in the future, and we will be prepared to meet a future national standard.

When I think about the evolution of cannabis science, EVIO Labs comes to mind. EVIO has expanded operations and invested in credentialed, knowledgeable staff, and world-class analytical instrumentation. How is EVIO evolving cannabis testing?
Chris Martinez:
EVIO Labs Florida (see photos in Figure 2, upper right) is evolving the cannabis testing landscape by bringing together numerous laboratory partners dedicated to providing clients with consistent high-quality cannabis analytical services backed by quality assurance and consulting services supported by the expertise of an extensive network of industry professionals. Our clients gain access to a unique network of published research scientists, content experts, consulting partners, and business leaders to accomplish the needs of even the most complex projects.

How challenging is it to operate high-quality laboratories in an industry where customers don’t always understand why quality is so important or expensive?
Glauser
: Customer education is key. Some of our customers who have been in the industry for a long time launched their businesses in an unregulated or lightly regulated environment. They are challenged with transforming their businesses to meet a whole new regulatory paradigm—not just for testing, but for security, inventory tracking, packaging, and more. Many of these customers are going through a learning process, and we help provide them with that education. For instance, we explain to customers that cannabis testing costs have increased largely because of the increased quality requirements. In the past, a $50 potency test run on an instrument that may not have been validated or calibrated was sufficient. Now requirements for quality testing panels that include pesticides, residual solvent, and microbiological contaminants using expensive instruments run by experienced scientists have increased to a $400 or more compliance test in regulated states. With the new quality requirements come far more accurate, thorough, and dependable results.  The requirements are not unlike tests performed for food, nutraceutical, and pharmaceutical products where the cost of testing can reach $1000 or more and take weeks to complete. We estimate that full compliance testing in states like Nevada, Oregon, and California range from under 1% to 5% of the of the wholesale value of the batch, depending on batch sizes.

During the early months of the transition of Oregon's cannabis rules last fall, we did receive a lot of calls from customers who were dismayed by the new rules and frustrated with the increased prices. We counsel each customer and explain to them the process, including the additional instrument, expertise, and time requirements involved in each test. Another challenge customers face is that the turnaround time increases when the quality standards are increased. What used to take one day can take three or more days because of the level of rigor and quality checks required for each test. For growers who have already waited months for them to grow, harvest, and cure product, the extra few days waiting for test results can be stressful, especially for those who need to sell their product to generate revenue.

Disclosures: 

A portion of this interview was published in the March issue of Cannabis Science and Technology

How to Cite the Print Version

J. Crossney, Cannabis Science and Technology 1(1), 70 (2018).

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