Update: On Tuesday, Sept. 6, it was announced that Hocking College in Nelsonville was the public university offering to serve as a medical cannabis testing site for the state of Ohio.
Ohio state law requires that for the first year of its medical marijuana program, a quality testing lab must be operated by a public institution of higher education, located within the state, with the resources to operate a lab. After a year of the program, private labs can be licensed.
At least one public university in Ohio is willing to test medical marijuana, for quality purposes, according to CCV Research. This was disclosed in an effort to squash concerns that a lack of labs could delay the entire medical marijuana program.
CCV Research, which understand the “monumental task of implementing an entire cannabis regulatory framework, and the difficulties faced while on-boarding an existing industry into legal compliance,” would not name the college, but announced that it meets the criteria in the state’s medical marijuana program regulations, that demands a public college or university host a laboratory to monitor the quality of plants and products sold to Ohioans.
According to CCV Research spokesman John Cachat, they made the announcement because state lawmakers were considering amending Ohio’s medical marijuana law, out of concern that schools wouldn’t apply. The law requires the first labs to be hosted at a public college or university. Several schools expressed concern that taking part in the program would jeopardize the federal funding they rely on, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
“We had a difficult time even finding qualified colleges which were willing to engage in the conversation” said Cachat. “However, we found a unique, entrepreneurial team that recognized the opportunity to provide education with hands on lab experience, create local jobs and support a functioning medical cannabis system in Ohio.”
Last week, CCV Research announced a completed letter of intent with the Ohio institution in part to ease concerns of Ohio patients, cannabis businesses and state regulators that no eligible colleges were willing to participate. The concern was that this critical step in the supply chain would not be met and the entire program would experience delays. State regulators addressed this trepidation by suggesting that the law (HB 523) and/or testing lab regulations could be changed before launch to allow privately-owned companies to apply.
However, CCV Research and other industry experts have been passionately advocating for institutes of higher education to participate in legal cannabis analytics research for years.
Dr. Amanda Reiman, who currently serves on the board of the International Cannabis Growers Association said, “I think that the involvement of universities in the testing of cannabis for state programs makes total sense.”
“Universities and colleges are often on the forefront of research and public discourse,” she added. “Federal funding used to be a huge barrier for these institutions wanting to get involved in this way. But, more and more, state medical cannabis laws are including these institutions as a vital part of their program. I think this is a move in the right direction.”
“For all the flack state regulators have been getting during the rule making process, Ohio did get this right,” said Dr. Jonathan Cachat, president and CEO of CCV Research (and the son of its spokesperson). “The Ohio legislators did a great job in getting colleges involved to assure an unbiased and controlled approach to testing medical cannabis. By placing the analytic testing in the hands of public institutes, Ohio has opened the door for significant life-saving medical breakthroughs, deeply needed workforce development opportunities and eliminated the risks of lab-shopping.”
Lab shopping in mature legal cannabis markets with privately-owned labs is a significant issue in unregulated states. Cannabis product is taken by cultivators or producers to whichever lab gives the best, pre-determined, desired results; E.g., ‘Lab X’ always over estimates the flowers’ THC levels. ‘Lab Y’ never fails any product for fungal diseases.
“It was important that we advise the executive team that lab licensure is not a mechanism for a private company to partner with the college to beat out other companies,” stated Dr. Jonathan Cachat. “In turn, the executive team disclosed a vision for a long-term plan to develop a robust lab technician program across multiple disciplines. They indicated that the cannabis test lab is just a part of the overall workforce development program. “
“There is still concern about loss of federal funding. However, as a public Ohio college, we feel empowered to support the state and Ohio patients with quality and safety assurance, and obligated to provide education and workforce development opportunities,” stated an unnamed college representative.
CCV Research officials did say the institution isn’t in northeast Ohio. They wouldn’t rule out southwest Ohio. Ohio-based media Dayton Daily News contacted officials at Miami University, Wright State, Central State, Ohio State and Sinclair Community College. All of the universities spokespeople weren’t immediately aware of any involvement in the program.
Neither the governor’s office—which CCV says was made aware of the deal—nor the Ohio Department of Commerce would identify the college, either.
It is rumored to be in Southwest Ohio, because Southwest Ohio has been approved to have 15 medical marijuana stores.
“We are waiting until September 5 to formally announce our involvement, to assure support from our community and develop an application that has a high probability of success.” said the anonymous college source. “We are also aware of a potential capacity problems and are reviewing ways to increase testing capacity by means of satellite lab facilities located across the state in cooperation with other Ohio public institutes of higher education allowed by the law.”
State law requires for the first year of the medical marijuana program that the quality testing lab be operated by an institution of higher education that is public, located within the state of Ohio, and has the resources to operate a lab. After a year, private labs can be licensed.
Commerce will accept applications for lab licenses from Sept. 11 through Sept. 22.
CCV Research estimates that by 2020, Ohio’s lab testing industry could be worth half a billion dollars. Not a bad guesstimate, considering Ohio plans to purchase a $6 million seed-to-sale marijuana tracking system.
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