Honolulu Lab Hopes To Be First Certified To Test Medical Pot

Jul 11, 2016

Credit Molly Solomon

Today Governor David Ige, plans to sign a bill that will clarify many aspects of the state’s medical marijuana dispensary system. Before Hawai‘i cannabis can hit the market, it will have to be tested. HPR’s Molly Solomon visited one lab that’s hoping to be the state’s first.

Tucked away on the third floor of a Kaimukī building, chemist Michael Covington meets me at Spectra Analytical Lab.

Covington is waiting on certification from the state Department of Health and the Narcotics Enforcement Division. The state requires screening for potency and contaminants, like pesticides or E. coli. Once a lab becomes licensed and certified, it can then begin testing batches of medical marijuana.

“With this machine here, we can find out the percentages of each of the different cannabinoids that would be in the different strains,” said Covington, who explained that these cannabinoids, or chemical compounds, can be catered to specific ailments.

“Whether it’s for sleep, anxiety, or seizures, different cannabinoids with different ratios help with those,” he said. “It binds with the receptors in your body and relieves your pain or helps you sleep.”

Spectra Analytical is hoping to be the first certified testing lab in Hawai‘i. And while the state is allowing the first eight dispensaries to open as soon as Friday, it’s unlikely any will have product on their shelves this year.

“A lot of them are really leaning toward January,” said Dana Ciccone, a co-owner of Spectra Analytical Lab who was also on the medical marijuana task force last year that helped shape the new law.

“The majority of them haven’t even started their grow yet, they’re still doing their build-out,” said Ciccone. “As a grower myself, it takes 90 full days on your first run to get some product. Then they have to get it dried, cured, tested and put it on the shelves. So that’s the type of timeline we’re looking at, the New Year.”

The Hawaii State Department of Health says it has not yet received applications for lab certification, but it has received inquiries about the certification process from interested applicants.

A total of 8 dispensaries were selected back in April: 3 on O‘ahu, 2 on both Maui and the Big Island, and 1 on Kaua‘i.