Massachusetts Blazes a Trail for Testing Cannabis

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Before launching ProVerde Laboratories to test marijuana, Dorian A. Des Lauriers owned a software development company called geoTMS that was predominantly used by local governments in Massachusetts.

"I sold it to Accela for $100 million this month," Des Lauriers told MainStreet. "They just received venture capital funding and we are their first acquisition."

Also See: Strict State Pot Laws Bind Vermont Dispensaries

Flush with cash, Des Lauriers plans to use some of the money to build up his new cannabis company to attract other investors.

"We're not a start up," he said. "We're past that point. We have equipment. We're testing. We have customers."

However, until the state of Massachusetts completes its process of issuing dispensary licenses to applicants, ProVerde Laboratories is limiting its testing services to individual medical marijuana patients and caregivers.

"Individuals with a card to possess medical marijuana can drop off a sample to us, and we analyze the cannabinoid profile," said Christopher Hudalla, co-founder and lead scientist in charge of testing technology. "Eventually we will service the dispensary community."

Although marijuana is not yet legal in the New England state, proposed legislation includes a mandate for testing.

"It will cost approximately $1.8 million over the next three years to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Marijuana will be legal in the state by 2016."

In the meantime, Massachusetts has set a new standard in the area of testing for the nationwide movement to legalize the plant based drug.

"Massachusetts is one of the recent states to adopt medical marijuana laws," said Mason Tvert, director of communications with the Marijuana Policy Project. "They have learned from other states such as Colorado that testing needs to be accounted for in original legislation."

Testing requirements could include a terpene profile, cannabinoid analysis, detection of heavy metals, pesticides, plant growth regulators (PGRs), residual solvents and mold and fungus, such as Aspergillus.

"If you have a compromised immune system, many of these contaminants can be fatal," Hudalla told MainStreet.

The challenge in implementing testing is determining effectiveness of testing facilities.

"Testing is beyond important because the product is coming from warehouses and unknown growers," said Derek Peterson, Also See: Terra Tech Investors Undeterred After PHOT Pot Trading Halt

who owns a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland and is CEO of TerraTech. "Each state needs to develop testing protocols and mandate testing initiatives to make sure testing facilities are using top tier technology and equipment. A $200 testing machine just doesn't cut it."

 

The downside is that mandated testing will most likely impact pricing.

"Marijuana use has to be a regulated business because users need to be sure that what they are smoking or ingesting is safe," said Sean O'Connor, founder of the Cannabis Public Policy Institute in Washington. "We need some sense of THC concentration but testing will affect pricing unless there's enough competition among testing facilities to not jack up the prices."

A potential increase in pricing will depend on how much marijuana is tested.

"The price of testing will be factored in just like packaging or any other type of labor," Tvert told MainStreet. "But we're talking testing samples not testing every single piece of marijuana out there."

--written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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