Oklahoma is producing so much medical marijuana, it likely exceeds the capacity of the state’s patients to consume it, a cannabis testing professional says.
The glut of product likely also means only about half of manufacturers are testing the cannabis per state regulations, says Tony Brixey, president of Genesis Testing Labs.
Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has 29 labs licensed to test cannabis for the state’s growers, which total about 8,100. Joe Lantz, Genesis vice president, points out the numbers don’t add up, especially considering “the volume (of cannabis) out there.”
“The labs would have to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all through the weekend, and it’d be nuts. You’d have to actually add more labs,” Lantz says of a scenario where all growers were testing.
Until about a year and a half ago, only about 15% of medical marijuana manufacturers were found to be getting their products tested, Brixey said.
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“There is such an opportunity in this state … to have the best in the nation. The whole nation is watching to see how this ‘Oklahoma experiment’ is going, and it’s not going really well right now,” says James Rhudy, chief science officer for Genesis.
Lee Rhoades is lab oversight director for OMMA. He says his team’s focus is “heavily on getting all of the labs on the same page, having results that the public can believe in and have confidence in.”
To do that, the state in 2019 contracted a quality assurance laboratory, Metis, to “kind of act as a backstop for all the commercial labs, compare results and facilitate ideas we can develop as best practices,” Rhoades says.
He touted a program, started early in 2021, in which Metis tests reserve samples of specimens already analyzed by private labs for consistency in results.
“We invited all the labs in for a technical roundtable and presented that information to them to say where do we go from here,” according to Rhoades, who said the group has come up with some action steps to foster consistency.
Brixey said beyond providing detailed feedback from Metis’ work, OMMA could do even more for labs by educating patients. If fewer shopped at dispensaries judging only by THC potency, it could eliminate so-called “lab shopping” for higher numbers.
“Really having your commodity (price) based upon your (THC) content does provide for that unethical behavior,” Rhudy says.
According to Rhoades, several private labs have reached out to OMMA for consultation with technical staff at Metis.
“In fact one lab was really struggling with potency, and our QA lab visited with them, reviewed their processes, and now that lab has shown a great deal of improvement in their THC values that they’re reporting,” Rhoades says. “So that kind of consultation, not too unusually, will get a lab asking about a result ‘we’re not too sure, just want to check.’”
One issue OMMA and Genesis are working together to help mitigate: Some potentially hazardous compounds in medical marijuana aren’t being tested for. At least not per regulations; some labs go the extra mile to find anything, even beyond the “illegal” list, that could endanger patients.
An example is the THC analogue that had OMMA sending out a wide warning earlier this year.
Rhoades said when THC-O-acetate is added to marijuana, it can “produce a stronger effect, and if you’re not expecting it, then your side effects could be a little bit worse. If you’re not a seasoned user etc. and it’s not on the package so you might not even know it’s there. So that’s part of the puzzle we still have to figure out (why it’s there) and again we do have the ability to start surveilling.”