Joseph Evans, laboratory director of Steep Hill Halent, holds a test tube being used in the process of testing for the amount of THC in marijuana-infused products. (Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file)

Colorado bill seeks to standardize marijuana lab testing

Colorado is moving to establish another marijuana first — the first government standards for marijuana testing.

A bill approved by its first committee in the state Legislature on Thursday would create statewide laboratory standards for the state’s 18 pot-testing labs.

Currently the labs are certified by state health authorities, but they don’t have uniform rules for testing pot for potency, homogeneity and contaminants, as required by state law.

Lab owners say they need the standards because different labs now produce very different results. Existing pot tests generally just look for whether the drug is present, not how strong it is.

“In most industries there are long-established processes,” said Ian Barringer, owner of a pot-testing lab called RM3. “However, for cannabis, like most of the industry, we’re making up the rules as we go along.”

The labs can currently be used by licensed marijuana producers. The bill was amended to remove lab access by private individuals and industrial hemp growers, now covered in separate bills still pending in the Legislature.

A separate bill advanced Thursday in a Senate committee would allow industrial hemp growers to use the labs, too.

Colorado currently allows farmers to grow hemp, marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin, but only if the plants fall below a threshold for the plant’s intoxicating ingredient, THC. However, the farmers can’t take their plants to a lab to make sure they’re meeting the standard.

The testing bill creates what’s called a “reference library,” a standard set of protocols for testing pot.

The lab owner said the state need to “essentially referee all of the methodologies that we’re using.”

“We all understand the need to reveal the special sauce we’ve been using … to further the industry,” Barringer said.

The bill now heads to a separate committee before consideration by the full House.


Online: House Bill 1283

Kristen Wyatt can be reached on Twitter: APkristenwyatt