The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is fast-tracking the licensing process for a marijuana testing lab in Bend following a report that too few labs are ready for an Oct. 1 deadline.
Starting that day, all marijuana products sold for adult recreational use must be tested for potency, pesticides and other contaminants by a certified lab, which must also be licensed by the OLCC. That means two separate regulatory hurdles for labs that want to provide pot-testing services: certification and licensing.
Evio Labs Inc., in Bend, received its accreditation Wednesday from the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program, an arm of the Oregon Health Authority. Evio was the only lab accredited in Central Oregon out of three labs operating in Bend, as of Thursday.
The head of the environmental lab accreditation program, Gary Ward, in an email Aug. 25 to agency officials and testing labs around the state, stated the agency, which also certifies labs that test for environmental and drinking water quality, was on the precipice of collapse due to lack of resources and a last-minute rush by marijuana testing labs seeking certification.
Five marijuana labs, including Evio, were certified by the Oregon Health Authority out of 37 that have applied for certification, all of them since June, according to the authoritys website and an email from Jonathan Modie, agency spokesman.
The Oregon Health Authority plans to inspect another 12 labs for possible certification by Oct. 1.
Mark Pettinger, spokesman for the OLCC Recreational Marijuana Program, on Thursday said the OLCC expects to license six testing labs by the first week of October. He said the agency may consider changes to prevent a bottleneck occurring Oct. 1 for recreational marijuana producers and retailers.
I think at this point all sorts of things are being floated around, Pettinger said. Were asking lots of questions about what we can consider, what aligns with the rule-making process, what aligns with what were doing permanently.
Modie did not indicate whether the health authority is considering a change in either the deadline or regulations. In a prepared statement released Wednesday, the authority stated it will find a solution to the challenges that the short-term increase in cannabis-testing-lab requests has caused.
Dispensary owners may sell their current stock of marijuana products after Oct. 1, provided they label them as not meeting new standards.
If we cant get product tested (after Oct. 1), its not going to be sold, said Cash Smith, manager at Top Shelf Medicine, a NE Greenwood Avenue dispensary. The health authority, he said, has run into a pickle.
Ben Hebert, of Dr. Jollys, a SE Third Street dispensary, said the lab requirement, along with labeling and packaging requirements that also take effect Oct. 1, have many in the business confused.
This is going to be a huge problem for people to comply with this, he said Thursday. I see it enforced more strictly after the first of the year, but who knows if theyll come in and start pulling product.
Anthony Smith, chief science officer at Evio Labs, said being the first accredited lab in Bend could result in more business, but also longer turnaround times and added stress for employees. Overall, the accreditation requirement means added cost passed on to consumers, he said. Smith is also in charge of an accredited testing lab in the Medford area.