Delays could drive sales back to illegal market, industry experts say
With peanut butter, white chocolate chips and about 1,000 milligrams of THC, “The Elvis” was quite the delicious and powerful marijuana treat for some.
The 400-calorie cookie came with a warning: “This is a high potency medical product for experienced consumers only. If you are new to edible cannabis, chose a lower potency product.”
“The Elvis” is one of hundreds of cannabis products that can no longer be legally sold, since California implemented new testing, packaging and dosing standards on July 1.
For edibles, the state now imposes a limit of 10 milligrams of THC per serving and 100 milligrams of THC per package.
State law requires all products be lab-tested so the consumer is aware of the amount they are ingesting, according to doctors and scientists.
“The role of labs, not just our lab, but all labs is so important to keep people safe and let folks enjoy the product or use it for medical purposes with the confidence that they’re not going to get sick because of something they’re ingesting,” said Robert Brodnick, the chief scientific officer at Pharm Labs.
This new law requires all cannabis products, including marijuana flowers, undergo extensive lab testing for pesticides, pathogens and potency, which industry experts say is forcing distributors to wait long periods of time for products to be tested and approved.
It’s left some consumers unable to buy some of their favorite products, retailers say.
San Diego’s licensed marijuana retailers said they are also experiencing shortages on some strains of flower cannabis because of backlogs in labs capable of testing the marijuana.
With 31 labs licensed to test products for distributors serving more than 400 licensed dispensaries in the state, it has been very difficult for labs and dispensaries to keep up with demand, both retailers and scientists confirmed.
“That’s why we saw most of our brands not ready to be on shelves on July 1,” said Wayne Scherer, who operates a collective in San Ysidro. “That first week, it was very difficult to keep our shelves stocked. There was a day where we had very few options for flowers.”
None of the licensed dispensaries in San Diego said they’ve completely run out of product, but selection is still limited a month after the new law went into effect.
“It’s not back up to par yet, and some of the major brands people are accustomed to buying still aren’t available yet,” Scherer said.
Scherer said customers tend to blame the retailers for the industry-wide issue.
“Consumers, in general, they don’t really understand what’s going on,” he said. “We can explain it to them as best as possible, but really they end up blaming the retailers for the situation, so we bear the brunt of it when a consumer can’t find a product that they’re depending on.”
Green Lion Partners is a Denver-based company focused on early stage development for cannabis industry businesses.
President Jeffrey Zucker said the backlog could drive California sales of marijuana back to the black market, and punish companies for following all the state’s strict new guidelines for products.
“The lack of testing facility licenses that have been given out combined with the backlog at the few existing ones are keeping good products off the shelves in California,” Zucker said.
Zucker said the state needs to speed the process up and the state needs to license more labs.
“Should this backlog continue, there’s the potential to push sales back to the illegal market something to which California’s exorbitantly high taxes are also contributing,” Zucker said.
San Diego’s PharmLabs is one of only 31 marijuana testing labs in a state with more than 400 licensed retailers.
Located in the Midway district, PharmLabs says business is booming with about five times the amount of work and clients. At PharmLabs, the staff doing the testing are all scientists with expertise in chemistry and microbiology. They use the same equipment, including robotics, that’s used in the food industry and to test pharmaceuticals.
“(The new state regulations) has forced us to grow our teams at least two-fold here, and our clients are coming to us with a lot of business,” said Brodnick of PharmLabs. “We are very, very busy but happy to be busy.”
To Read The Rest Of This Article By NBC7 Staff on NBC 4 Los Angeles
Published: August 07, 2018
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News