The state Marijuana Enforcement Division requires licensed labs to track all samples through the state’s inventory tracking system, which all licensed marijuana businesses must use. Because of that, individuals are effectively blocked from going to labs, the state says.
Medical marijuana patients, then, cannot test their own dispensary-bought marijuana — a valued option for some because there is no state rule mandating that the products be tested.
Division director Lewis Koski said “product accountability” is a cornerstone of regulation. Anything that fails a test at a licensed lab is flagged so it cannot enter the marketplace, which would be impossible with marijuana outside the tracking system, he said.
“It’s very important from a regulatory perspective that you put guardrails up,” Koski said, adding that the issue was discussed at length in public forums during the rulemaking process.
Jeannine Machon, co-owner of CMT Laboratories in Denver, said she understands the state’s rationale. And some caregivers — individuals who grow medical marijuana for others — game the system and get doctor’s recommendations for high plant counts, allowing them to grow huge volumes, she said.
But others are looking out for their patients, she said.
“Honest to God, I think it’s sad,” Machon said. “The MED is in a horrible spot, knowing the country has its eyes on us.”
The restrictions are being felt by caregivers such as Ryan Rice, who takes medical marijuana for his multiple sclerosis, and grows marijuana plants and makes an oil his patients use to treat cancer.
Until the prohibition, he said he took his marijuana concentrates to be tested for cannabinoid profile and residuals such as butane, which is used in an extraction method. He said he grows organically, but the test results give patients peace of mind that he is not using pesticides.
“It’s ridiculous,” Rice said. “I’ve got to be able to test those plants and know that my patients are getting the right medicine.”
State officials should have little to fear from labs, which take in small amounts of marijuana and destroy it all, said Ian Barringer, founder of Rm3 Labs in Boulder, which opened in 2009 and is seeking a state license.
Unlicensed labs are an option for patients and caregivers. But Barringer suggested that running such a lab would be cost-prohibitive and risky because of the lack of legal cover a state license brings.
“It’s not a matter of profit for us,” he said of testing for individuals. “It’s not a big part of our business. But it’s an important part of our business.”
Eric Gorski: 303-954-1971, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/egorski