Why can’t Massachusetts medical marijuana labs also test recreational pot?
Yeah we call BS on this too. You’re saying medical marijuana labs don’t know how to test recreational cannabis? Explain to us how this isn’t about generating even more state revenue…
I mean come on, two years later and the state still has excuses. I’m pretty sure there is a saying that recreational use is still medical use. Just because you don’t carry a license doesn’t mean you still don’t consume the very same plant that patients are consuming to help them medically. The same goes with the testing facilities. Don’t you think it is still a smart idea to test recreational cannabis similarly to medical, after all it’s still being consumed the same. The best part of regulation is to ensure the consumer that they are ingesting clean and untainted cannabis. The concern and desire to know the cannabinoid profile, terpene profile, and that it’s free of pesticides or heavy metals still exist.
So what is the big deal?
By early next month, it will be two years since Massachusetts voters declared they wanted marijuana legalized for recreational use by approving a ballot question.
But not one recreational marijuana shop has been permitted to open.
State law requires samples be tested to ensure that marijuana products are safe to ingest. A big reason for the delay is the state has yet to grant final certification to laboratories to do such testing on recreational marijuana — even though labs have been testing marijuana for medicinal use for years.
“It’s the same clients, the same product and the same kind of testing,” said Christopher Hudalla, chief scientific officer of ProVerde Laboratories in Milford, one of three labs the state has certified to test medical marijuana.
Since ProVerde, along with MCR Labs in Framingham and CDX Analytics in Salem, are already testing pot from medical producers, why can’t they also test weed from recreational marijuana companies?
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Hudalla said.
The answer is that, for now, labs that test medical marijuana are certified by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and labs that will test recreational marijuana must be certified by the state Cannabis Control Commission. And the commission has yet to complete the certification process to let such labs begin testing.
As of Jan. 1, the commission will have jurisdiction over the medical marijuana program, as well.
It’s close, commission Chairman Steven Hoffman told reporters Oct. 4. He said he hoped to have an item on the next commission agenda to vote on certifying one or more labs to test recreational marijuana.
“We know that’s a critical part of the puzzle,” Hoffman said.
The next commission meeting is Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, 101 Federal St., 12th floor, in Boston, according to the board’s website.
As for recreational marijuana businesses actually getting all the approvals to open, Hoffman said the commission, despite criticism for being slow, has been careful in scrutinizing license applications and doing background checks of individuals involved in such operations. That care will benefit the state, he said.
“I think we’re weeks away. … We’re doing it right. I’m very proud of the way we’re doing it. We’re being careful, we’re being thorough,” Hoffman said.
A commission spokeswoman was asked why the DPH-approved labs that test medical marijuana cannot also be used to test recreational marijuana now.
“State law requires all marijuana products to be tested by a lab to be licensed directly by the Cannabis Control Commission. As you know, the commission has not approved any lab licenses yet,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Cannabis Control Commission and the Department of Public Health are continuing to collaborate on the process for transferring existing medical marijuana plants to adult use,” the spokeswoman said.
“Adult use” is a synonym among state and industry officials for recreational marijuana, which is now legal for anyone 21 or older to possess in limited quantities.
The testing requirement was part of the recreational marijuana law that Gov. Charlie Baker signed July 28, 2017. The initial target date for recreational marijuana retailers to open was July 1 of this year.
The commission started taking applications from testing labs April 17, the spokeswoman said.
“The commission cannot force any applicant to pursue an adult-use license, but engaged with labs to make sure they had the information they needed to apply. Additionally, the commission agreed to review completed independent testing lab applications submitted on or before Aug. 1 out of order – before all other categories of license applicants – in order to ensure a complete supply chain,” the spokeswoman said.
ProVerde and MCR Labs have applied to the commission for certification to add testing of recreational marijuana to their existing medical pot repertoire. Representatives of CDX Analytics didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Despite already operating as a lab that tests medical marijuana, such labs face additional fees and requirements in order to be certified by the commission to test recreational marijuana. It costs $300 to apply and $5,000 a year for the license, Hudalla said.
Labs seeking permission to test recreational marijuana in Massachusetts also must negotiate host community agreements with the city or town in which they’re located.
Fees in host community agreements “shall be reasonably related to the costs imposed upon the municipality by the operation of the establishment and shall, in no event, amount to more than 3 percent of the gross sales of the establishment or be effective for longer than 5 years,” according to the law.
Such agreements are required of medical and recreational marijuana companies. But the costs imposed on companies in such agreements in some cases have gone beyond the annual revenue payments to include “grants” negotiated for community groups and other services.
Host community agreements are not required of labs certified to test medical marijuana.
MCR Labs founder Michael Kahn said the marijuana industry is growing and getting more complex.
“I think we will do that testing,” for recreational marijuana also, Kahn said. “But to get that accomplished, it’s a very involved process.”
Jim Borghesani, a marijuana industry consultant and a former spokesman for the pro-legalization ballot campaign in 2016, hasn’t been shy about criticizing state government in relation to getting the marijuana industry operating.
Having labs in place that already test medical marijuana but not using them to test recreational marijuana is just bureaucracy, he said.
“I’d say there’s a bureaucratic block right now, even though these facilities will be exactly the same, they’ll be testing the same product, using the exact same methods,” Borghesani said.
While city and town officials have said the presence in their communities of marijuana facilities justifies whatever compensation they can negotiate, there’s been criticism that host community agreements have veered into greed.
Cities and towns are allowed to make “extortionist demands” of marijuana companies and the state looks the other way, Borghesani said.
The lack of testing labs and unrestricted host community agreements all have worked to impede the state’s marijuana industry, he said.
“I don’t think anybody behind the scenes is trying to stop the law. I don’t think there’s any conspiracy,” said Borghesani. Nevertheless, he said state government “has an ingrained fear of this industry and has made it difficult for this industry to move forward and has made it possible for cities and towns to seize on this fear.”