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Carbondale, lab ask state to enforce marijuana rules

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Elise Thatcher
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  The Town of Carbondale and a marijuana testing lab are asking the state for help. They want Colorado to crack down on a testing requirement for retail marijuana. Carbondale-based GreenHill Laboratories made headlines earlier this year when it decided to test marijuana for microbial contaminants. The state started requiring such testing earlier this year, so owner Hilary Glass and her colleague Jessica Olson opened up the lab, the first of it’s kind on the Western Slope.

But Glass and Olson have hit a major speedbump, because the state has not been enforcing the testing requirement. “The state requires that every harvest batch [of retail marijuana] be tested for Shiga toxin producing E.coli, salmonella species, and a total mold count,” said Glass on Tuesday. If someone were to inhale or ingest those, someone could get sick, not unlike food poisoning. Plus, “ST E.coli could cause liver damage, and a whole list of things.”

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Credit Elise Thatcher
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Microbial contaminants, grown from marijuana samples.

  “The nature of microbial screening is it doesn't work as a voluntary program,” lamented Olson, frustrated with the state’s lack of enforcement of testing for those toxins. “It’s something that has to be a level playing field for everyone in the industry.” That’s because there are major disincentives for marijuana producers having the testing done.

 

“Everyone wants their products to be high quality and safe, but the letter of the law dictates that a product that fails a [microbial] contaminant test is required to be quarantined,” Olson continued. “And two additional tests have to be performed. And if either of those follow-up tests fail, the batch has to be destroyed,” creating a major disincentive for marijuana producers.

The result is producers face the initial cost of having the test done, and then “there’s also the threat of losing your livelihood or at least sustain financial losses such as that. If [the microbial test] is not a required test then people who chose not to test can simply move their product to market without the expense or risk, and the people who would elect to test are not only incurring more expense but they’re taking on a risk that their competitors don’t have to absorb.”

The Town of Carbondale recently decided to appeal to Colorado’s Medical Enforcement Division over the matter. That may have had an effect-- shortly afterwards, state officials sent out a bulletin saying it’ll begin enforcement by the end of this month. In the meantime, GreenHill is putting together a program for testing marijuana products for THC potency. If approved, it would be a new source of revenue-- and a key way to keep the business running.

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