Nevada regulators began investigating local cannabis testing lab facilities back in September to find out how high levels of yeast and mold in flower products managed to make it to retailer shelves. The crackdown came after the state found several samples that tested at nearly four times the regulatory limit of less than 10,000 colony-forming units per gram during secondary testing in August. State officials announced at the time that they would also be looking into reports of potency-pushing labs.
Certified Ag Labs was the first testing facility to fall victim to Nevada’s zero-tolerance policy on perceived manipulation of THC potency.
Managing member and spokesperson for the lab, Randy Gardner, spoke with the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the routine inspection from state regulators mentioning that investigators had come by twice within the span of two days to gather samples for retesting.
“They just wanted a couple samples,” Gardner told reporters at the journal. “They’ve been very polite, very nice. It’s not confrontational at all. They’re just doing their job,” he added.
But just before the Thanksgiving holiday, state officials announced that they had found “inaccurate and misleading” THC results from the samples collected at Certified Ag, ultimately suspending the lab’s license and issuing an email advisory along with a notice on the facility door indicating the suspension.
“Products tested by Certified Ag Labs, LLC may be labeled incorrectly and could contain a different level of THC than what is listed on the product package. The Department advises all legal cannabis users to take caution when using product tested by Certified Ag Labs, LLC and when comparing any similar products of the same potency, as those effects may be greater and/or less than that of the product tested by Certified Ag Labs, LLC,” the notice read, according to a report by the Reno Gazette Journal.
Gardner was taken aback by the statement calling the suspension as “baseless as it is appalling,” according to both local publications.
"We take particular issue with the allegation that we made misrepresentations to the Department. This accusation is as baseless as it is appalling, as we have been completely transparent with the State at all times," Gardner said. "We hope the State appreciates that a business and its employees' livelihoods and reputations are at stake. We are pursuing our options and all legal and equitable redress will be on the table.
Certified Ag Labs had been in hot water once before during the roll-out of Nevada adult-use regulations. The lab had been shut down briefly at the tail end of 2017 for “not following proper lab procedures and good laboratory practices,” according to department spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein in a statement to the Reno Gazette Journal at the time.
Gardner clarified in a follow up conversation with the journal that the previous infraction was due to a misunderstanding of the new regulations and indicated that this time, the lab did nothing wrong stating that he "stands behind the data 100 percent."
Gardner sent out a statement the day after the state’s announcement:
“The state’s decision to suspend and potentially revoke our license came without warning. This accusation is as baseless as it is appalling, as we have been completely transparent with the state at all times. We take this matter very seriously and, based on my over 30 years of laboratory experience, we believe these allegations unconscionable at best.
"The state came in for their audit then came back and suspended our license without having a chance to further clarify or refute their findings. We hope the state appreciates that a business and its employees’ livelihoods and reputations are at stake. We are pursuing our options and all legal and equitable redress will be on the table."
The lab's operations remain in limbo for the foreseeable future but Gardner also understands the importance of close regulation.
"As a whole, Nevada’s done a great job. The state is getting in front of it," Gardner said in his statement to the Reno Gazette Journal, and remarked that Nevada's legal cannabis market is the most regulated of any state. "They regulate everybody."