For the first time since Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana two years ago, the state will begin its own testing regime.
Demeter Laboratory will represent the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority by making sure other labs are following state rules and regulations. Demeter will also provide secondary testing on products that are submitted to other labs.
“This is going to open up a whole new quality assurance process for the laboratory work that’s going on in the medical marijuana industry,” said Kelly Williams, OMMA interim director. “It’s going to provide a level of oversight for testing protocols and quality that we have not been able to provide without a QA lab. This will help ensure patient safety and testing quality to a degree that we have not been able to do without the QA lab.”
Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana in 2018. While the state only mandated product testing in April, producers were already testing samples to assure safety and quality.
Sales of the product have grown substantially this year, with estimated sales reaching $385 million during the first six month of 2020. Much of that boost came during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when collections of the 7% tax on medical marijuana rose dramatically. Sales have leveled off, however, and dipped slightly in June to an estimated $74.8 million.
Demeter Laboratory won the $10 million contract this week and will soon begin implementing testing protocols on behalf of the state. The lab was already in existence and testing cannabis products, OMMA said, but from now on as an independent lab, it cannot have a business relationship with growers and processors.
The lab will be able to access cannabis products that are kept in reserve for 90 days at one of the state’s 22 other licensed testing laboratories. OMMA has not yet finalized specific protocols for when and where to begin the quality assurance testing.
Quality assurance testing might not be the first thing a medical marijuana patient thinks about when they walk into a dispensary, but OMMA Laboratory Oversight Manager Lee Rhoades said consumers may be a little more relieved to know the state is taking this extra step to make sure products are safe.