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Behind the scenes: Cannabis testing labs play key role

Just what's in that pot you bought?

A look inside a marijuana testing lab

BEND, Ore. - (Updated with video, more comments from lab CEO, data analyst)

Growing marijuana is nothing new, but the sale and testing of products is a whole new arena and a strictly regulated business endeavor.

Oregon legalized the sale of recreational marijuana in 2015. Since then, the cannabis business has been growing rapidly.

One component not often talked or heard about is the laboratory testing phase that happens before the marijuana products can land on a dispensary's shelf.

Carl Carnagey is the CEO of Juniper Analytics, a cannabis testing laboratory in Bend. He said the business is constantly changing and adapting to new laws and regulations.

"It's an incredibly new industry; being able to make changes quickly has been a really really important part of what we do," he said Friday.

In the testing process, samples are labeled, photographed, weighed and tested for solvents, potency and pesticides.

Pesticide testing has the highest stakes, data analyst Cassie Ereman explained.

"When it comes to pesticide testing, if we have a hit, we completely re-extract the sample, re-run it, re-analyze it, just because we don't want customers getting dirty samples. We really want to make sure it's below that level," Ereman said.

The state requires cannabis labs to test for 59 pesticides.

According to Carnagey, there are only two cannabis testing labs left in Central Oregon. Costs and changes in the regulations have made it difficult for other labs to stay in business. 

Despite the difficulties, Carnagey said the state has been eager to work with the industry.

"They've really taken kind of an approach of, 'Let's work together to figure out how to make this industry work, because nobody knows what they're doing,'" he said.

"And now that we're a couple years into it, I think we're all starting to kind of understand what's going on," Carnagey added. "We're reaching a status quo, so the state's been really good in that regard." 

One issue the industry faces is the high number of farms and dispensaries that need products tested and the low number of labs to carry out that testing.

Juniper Analytics had to cap its sample intake at 150, in order to maintain a five day turnaround for customers.


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