Oregon Marijuana Testing Lab Accreditation Program on ‘Precipice of Collapse’

Oregon Marijuana Testing Lab Accreditation Program on ‘Precipice of Collapse’

State official cites lack of resources and manpower to process testing lab applications.

September 7, 2016

Imagine going through an extensive application process to become a marijuana business owner. Imagine investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in your dispensary or growing operation. Imagine hiring staff and preparing your business for operation.

Now imagine your warehouse being full and display shelves being empty.

That’s a very real scenario for cannabis business owners in Oregon after the administrator of the state’s laboratory accreditation program said his agency’s ability to evaluate and accredit the dozens of marijuana testing lab applications it has received is about to fail.

“We are on the precipice of collapse of environmental, drinking water and cannabis accreditation because of the lack of resources and the last-minute rush of cannabis labs with applications,” said Gary Ward, the administrator for Oregon’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ORELAP) in an email Aug. 26, according to The Associated Press.

Starting Oct. 1, all recreational marijuana sold to the public must be tested by an accredited lab for potency and purity. Only three such labs have been certified in the state, according to the Oregon Health Authority website. Of those three, only one has been approved to test for pesticides, solvents and potency.

In his email, Ward cited the lack of workers on his staff coupled with the heavy workload as the cause of this problem, adding that he asked for three more full-time employees to process the marijuana testing lab applications but received none. Currently, ORELAP has four employees across the state to conduct tests for all labs, including those who inspect water testing labs and environmental testing labs, according to the Eugene Register-Guard.

“This has been extremely worrisome for the industry,” Donald Morse, director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I have spoken with people in all agencies … and we’ve warned them for months this bottleneck was coming because of their inability get these accreditations done.”

If growers cannot get their products tested by an accredited lab, dispensary shelves will be empty and so will the state’s coffers as marijuana tax revenue will drop significantly.

The governor’s office issued a statement to the Register-Guard on Tuesday.

“Gov. Brown sees the lab accreditation process as important to ensuring public health and safety as Oregon’s new recreational marijuana laws are implemented,” the statement said. “In the face of a much larger than expected number of labs seeking accreditation, the Oregon Health Authority is taking steps to address the increase with additional resources.”

The governor’s office did not go into detail about the potential additional resources.