Carbondale lab blazing a trail in pot testing
When Carbondale’s GreenHill Laboratories opened this week, it became the only facility on the Western Slope offering microbial testing on cannabis.
The lab is one of just three certified by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for potentially dangerous mold such as Aspergillus and bacteria including E. coli and Salmonella, which are commonly regulated in commercial consumables.
After a year of build out, documentation and review, GreenHill received its certification on March 24 and had its first customer Tuesday. Validation for potency and homogeneity testing is pending.
Founder and owner Hilary Glass brings years of experience in Wisconsin dairy labs and the vision to be on the cutting edge.
“When cannabis was decriminalized in Colorado, I thought the state would impose some quality standards,” Glass said.
Testing for medical marijuana remains optional, but potency testing is required for recreational marijuana. Now that labs are in place, owner Richard Ivker believes microbial testing will be mandated any day.
“Hilary predicted it, but it didn’t start with us. It started at the top,” Ivker said. “The state of Colorado seems to be the leader in applying testing mandates to the marijuana industry.”
Many producers already chose to test products voluntarily, Glass observed.
“When producers take the initiative to self regulate the quality of their production processes and end products, regulating authorities may not be as zealous and may also be more trusting in the oversight of the cannabis industry,” she said. “In my opinion over regulation does not aid in innovation, creativity, and finding solutions to real human issues.”
Glass called in her childhood friend Jessica Olson to assist in the management of the lab.
“The surprising thing coming from the outside has been the professionalism,” Olson said. “It’s really treated like any other business.”
Still, doing scientific work in the marijuana industry does pose challenges. In addition to extra requirements for security and chain-of-custody documentation, the lab is obliged to blaze new trails in methodology.
“There aren’t published methods for analyzing marijuana,” Olson said. “It’s been a challenge to our team writing the first methods for detecting microbes.”
There are good reasons to do so, though. Many methods of marijuana consumption leave some or all of the product unburnt, and some pathogens leave behind toxins that may not be destroyed by heating. That could result in complications in an already sick medical patient or produce symptoms that might be mistaken for effects of the plant itself.
“I think it’s a step to legitimize the product and the industry,” Olson said. “Almost every other industry has standards in place.”
Deana Sheriff, chief operating officer of Acme Healing Center, agreed. Acme, which runs several dispensaries around the Western Slope, submitted several samples to the lab Tuesday.
“Hilary invited us to be the first and we’re happy to do it,” Sheriff said. “We really want to make sure that our customers receive a good product and a safe product.”
“We want to make sure the industry grows right. We know the world is watching Colorado,” she added. “We hope that others will follow.”
Ivker is optimistic.
“I’ll be disappointed if anyone who has a grow facility west of Summit County doesn’t use us,” he said.
The office, located at 1101 Village Road, is open 24/7 by appointment only. Contact Glass, 970-379-0828, or Olson, 970-325-8525, or visit http://www.greenhilllab.com for more information.
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Several Carbondale businesses are scrambling to relocate and others are just plain calling it quits following plans for one of the town’s oldest strip malls to be redeveloped.