Lab to begin testing medical marijuana to meet expected demand from dispensaries, growers

Daniel Sanders, COO of Marygold Laboratories, shows how a machine that tests craft beer works. The company plans to expand their testing services to include medical marijuana analysis by next year. (Photo: KATV)

The medical marijuana industry continues to take shape in Arkansas, with more than 300 applicants currently vying to operate one of the states 32 dispensaries and five cultivation centers. But before medical cannabis can be sold in the Natural State, it has to be tested, and medical marijuana testing labs are beginning to pop-up to meet demand.

To date, Marygold Laboratories in Little Rock has focused on analyzing craft beer for alcohol content and nutritional value, based out of a small lab on the campus of St. Vincent Hospital. The group now plans to expand their lab services to include medical marijuana testing, outfitting a space near Baptist Hospital to conduct both the craft beer and marijuana analysis.

Ithay Biton, CEO of Marygold Laboratories said while many research labs are equipped to test medical marijuana, many are choosing not to either due to legal restrictions or steady business in other fields of research. But the rules set forth by the Arkansas Department of Health require batches harvested for sale in Arkansas to be tested for a variety of factors.

"I think they were worried that there wouldn't be enough," said Biton, regarding ADH and the availability of marijuana testing facilities. "Including us, there's three that we know of."

As required by law, Marygold Laboratories plans to test product potency by measuring THC and CBD levels, as well as monitoring product moisture levels and overall product safety.

"In the realm of safety, some of the things we're testing for is pesticides, testing for microbial contamination, mycotoxins - these are things that are not safe for you to ingest," said Daniel Sanders, COO of Marygold Labs. "Especially in a medical market, that's huge. When you're working with HIV patients that are immunocompromised, you don't want mycotoxins in their system."

Sanders said, while product safety is the most important thing they'll be testing for, they'll also be testing to make sure strains to vary from batch to batch, as well as to prove that strains being sold to assist with a particular ailment have the ability to do what they say they do.

"You want to make sure that you have not only a consistent product put forth for patients, but also that the claims are backed by the numbers," said Sanders. "So that's an intermixing of all the different cannabinoids, an intermixing of the terpines and all the major and minor constituents to achieve the observed effects."

Marygold Laboratories is currently awaiting certification of its medical marijuana testing procedures from the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO. Sanders said no medical marijuana testing lab can receive their ISO certification until medical cannabis is officially growing legally in Arkansas.

The buildout of the new Marygold facility is expected to cost over $1.1 million. Construction is anticipated to be complete by November and ready to start accepting batches of medical marijuana for analysis by the beginning of 2018.

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