California Lab to Test New Mexico Pot

Regulators prepare to impose new rules

Cannabis patients who have been demanding safe access and reliable dosages in New Mexico will soon be able to inhale and ingest with a little less trepidation.

SFR has learned that just a few hours after publishing a story on Wednesday about the state’s only approved private testing laboratory

in December, regulators told licensed producers that they have given provisional approval to a California lab to perform the critical tests here.

Steep Hill Labs, which began testing cannabis in California in 2008 before expanding its operations to Washington State, Colorado and Nevada, plans to ramp up their operations here by the first of May.

David Lampach, the firm’s chief executive officer, tells SFR that public health administrators reached out to him about a month ago, but he didn’t find out officially until last Friday.

“They wanted to look at our standard operating procedures and protocols first,” says Lampach.

Lampach says regulators wanted comprehensive testing solutions that “wouldn’t break the bank.”

After presenting Steep Hills’ analytical testing capabilities and tracking systems, the firm was notified it could set up shop. Once its equipment is in place in a new facility in Albuquerque, inspectors from the State Laboratories Division will verify the lab’s procedures before giving it full approval.

Using wording similar to his 2014 announcement of the first approved lab, the now-closedPage Analytical, Medical Cannabis Program Manager Ken Groggel informed producers that they should utilize Steep Hill Labs to comply with “regulatory expectations.”

“Regular testing done in a department approved laboratory is the only acceptable method to determine the quality, purity and potency required for the sale of medical cannabis products,” writes Groggel.

Production standards put in place last year require producers to test for dangerous mold, fungus and pesticides and to check for THC potency levels before labeling any cannabis-derived product. New test regulations are pending final approval by Secretary of Health Retta Ward. SFR sources tell us new regulations should be finalized by next Friday.

“They were very interested in not passing regulations that require testing and not having a testing lab in place,” says Lampach.

Lampach says he’s already heard from half a dozen producers and will be in New Mexico soon to meet with them and to personally connect with other stakeholders, including patient alliance groups.

“A big component of our rollout will be hosting educational forums with all the various stakeholders in New Mexico,” says Lampach.

In California, Lampach says he’s heard from producers and retailers who don’t believe in testing. But during an industry conference speech in Berkeley last week, Lampach reminded them that they have a responsibility to protect patients, not just take their money.

“Patients… have a right to know when products are contaminated, where they are coming from, and to stop their distribution until the source of contaminants is identified and the problem mitigated,” says Lampach.

At Steep Hill's labs in California, scientists are working to unlock the genetic code found in cannabis plants. Once that's done, the company says producers should be able to create strains that are more resistant to mold and other impurities.

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