Cannabis testing labs set to open this month
For all the frustrations of the regulatory process, the cannabis supply chain is starting to connect.
Retail operations are cobbling together their final plans after having their state licenses issued, the Anchorage municipality has approved its first retail license and will review more in the coming months, a handful of cultivators have harvested or are getting ready to harvest their first batches of legal product, and security companies are standing by to make deliveries.
Testing labs — the central piece of the supply puzzle and the gateway to legal sales — should be ready within weeks, owners say.
“I’ve been telling people mid- to late October,” said Mark Malagodi, CEO of CannTest, one of two licensed testing labs in Alaska.
By regulation, all cannabis products must undergo testing for potency, residual solvents and microbials. Without the lab results, retail shelves will stay empty.
CannTest and AK Green Labs in Anchorage are the only two testing facilities in the state to be granted a license by the Marijuana Control Board on June 9, but others are in the wings waiting to offer services to Alaska cannabis businesses both on and off the road system.
Alaska Herbal Analysis LLC in the Mat-Su Borough dropped out in the face of a proposed Mat-Su Borough commercial cannabis ban, but the ban was voted down on Oct. 4 and will likely reignite several tabled borough license applications. Danish Gardens LLC has initiated a testing lab license for Anchorage alongside another Chugiak operation.
Juneau’s cannabis producers will not have to ship product to Anchorage for testing after one of several lab licenses opens. Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office staff is currently reviewing the license application for Southeast Alaska Laboratories LLC, and Glacier Analytics LLC has initiated a license application as well.
For the first batch of sellable marijuana in October and November, however, the Anchorage labs will likely be the only operating facilities.
Both have a clutch of regulatory obligations to fill before they can accept deliveries from cultivators, but the timeline is relatively short and should coincide with the first retail operations openings.
Malagodi said on Oct. 3 that CannTest will have the final state inspection completed within the week, and city inspections shortly after.
“Right now we’re waiting on a letter from the (Municipality of Anchorage) that will allow us to get our special land use permit,” said Malagodi. “Once we get the special land use permit we can request an inspection from I assume the fire marshal. That should finish off the muni requirements.”
Apart from municipal and state inspections, labs must also secure approval from a third party contracted by the State of Alaska. The American Association for Laboratory Accreditation, or A2LA, performs this service for Alaska.
Malagodi said CannTest has received a visit from A2LA representatives and been given a small list of documentation-related fixes to make for regulatory compliance, along with equipment demonstrations.
AK Green Labs is slightly more behind on the timeline due to procedure.
The state granted both facilities their licenses in June, but AK Green Labs signed an intellectual property licensing agreement with Steep Hill Labs Inc, a California-based company, shortly afterward.
Because AK Green Labs received its license in June, the Steep Hill agreement bumped back the timeline slightly. AK Green Labs will now have to resubmit standard operating procedures to the Marijuana Control Board for approval, as the standard operating procedures are contained with the “operational plans” and must be reviewed by the board by regulation.
The board’s next meeting is Oct. 26-27, so AK Green Labs won’t have full approval until after that date. Further, the operators will be traveling to California to complete training for the Steep Hill process.
“(October to November) generally match the estimates the testing facilities provided to me, except that Green Labs may be more the middle of November due to internal training they are doing before A2LA comes up to approve them,” wrote Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office director Cynthia Franklin in an email.
Brian Coyle, AK Green Labs’ owner, said Franklin plans to work with the board to hurry the process along, potentially asking the board to delegate the approval of new operating plans to her. This delegation authority, granted to the board by statute, has been used with other license applications but not with testing labs. In the future, as labs change standard operating procedures to accommodate best practices and equipment calibration, Coyle said such delegation may be a more common tool.
“This is an example of something we worked out,” he said.
DJ Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.