Inside the Oakland, California headquarters of Steep Hill Halent Inc. technicians are processing a wide range of legal cannabis product samples — everything from flowers (buds), butter, hashes, waxes and shatters to tinctures and oils. The lab is sleek, clean, modern and professional, if you didn’t know what was being tested, perhaps the only tip off would be the lab director’s tie-dyed lab coat. But don’t let the ‘Dead nod throw you, this lab is staffed by qualified trained scientists, all excited to work at the forefront of the legal testing industry.
“I was inspired by the industry since I was in college,” says lab technician Anthony Torres, who studied microbiology at the University of San Francisco. “I started hearing about the research coming out about cannabis, specifically the studies about the anti-cancer effects of it. That inspired me. It’s an entirely new industry I wanted to be a part of.”
Today, cannabis testing labs do more than ensure cannabis is clean, they measure the cannabinoid levels (potency) as well as identify and track other trends in the medical, and now recreational, cannabis consumer market.
Prior to medical and recreational cannabis legalization laws, users traditionally had to trust in the integrity of their source, but a legal market can’t operate on blind faith. Today, research coming out of cannabis testing labs drives consumer demand for more scientific testing in the products for purchase, improving the overall quality and consistency of cannabis products available for sale in legal states.
Everything from bugs, pesticides, molds, bacteria and fungi to chemical additives that increase weight, smell or stickiness can be found on black market cannabis, but lab testing has become so ubiquitous in regulated legal markets that the bad bud is getting much harder to find.
In 2008, Steep Hill Halent Labs became the first consumer cannabis-testing lab in the nation. David Lampach and Addison Demoura founded Steep Hill in conjunction with Steve DeAngelo, owner and operator of Harborside Health Center, in order to provide lab-testing services specifically for the legal cannabis industry. Harborside had reached out to “straight labs” but couldn’t find a single one that was willing to test cannabis for the consumer market, and so Steep Hill was born.
As Harborside Health Center and Steep Hill grew together, they have driven some of the most significant developments in testing methodologies for cannabis testing.
They also work with state regulators around the country to create legislation surrounding cannabis testing for the legal industry. Not only have they set the industry standards, but they continue to be at the forefront of medical cannabis research and can even be credited with rediscovering CBD, specifically the medical benefits it provides.
Lampach says he believes that testing of a wide variety of consumer products, not just cannabis, will become more ubiquitous in time.
“I think we should test everything as much as possible. Testing in our society has become pretty cheap for all things, the costs of this stuff is way down compared to what it used to be,” he said. “In general, the world going forward will be a place where we test more.”
Lampach helped design legal cannabis testing regulations in Washington and Colorado. In those states, cannabis is tested after as it is harvested and packaged for sale. If the flowers (buds) are then processed into an infused product, the extraction used to infuse products is also tested.
As the world of cannabis lab testing continues to evolve alongside state laws, labs like Steep Hill will continue to shape the cannabis industry, which Lampach says is far more detailed than most consumer industries.
“Cannabis will ultimately become the most tested product on earth,” says Lampach.