In recent months, at least one state-certified cannabis lab in Oregon has noticed a “huge reduction in the use of pesticides” in the samples they receive from dispensaries for testing.

Henry Grimmett, president of Portland’s GreenHaus Analytical Labs, credits Oregon’s increasingly stringent but controversial testing standards for the “remarkable” pesticide plummet.

“A year ago, when we first started testing product, we were finding very high rates of pesticides in the neighbourhood of 70 percent to 80 percent of the samples. Now we’re finding in the neighbourhood of 20 percent,” Grimmett told Civilized.

“I think the health and safety of the people who use cannabis is extremely important, and I think the role of the lab is crucial in that. I’m quite happy certification is here because that means [dispensaries] can’t just go to a lab that will pass them.”

Grimmett is, of course, speaking of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s (OLCC) newly enforced requirement that dispensaries have their cannabis products tested only by labs certified by the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ORELAP.)

It’s been a controversial decision among dispensary operators, some of whom say the stricter regulations resulted in higher costs and longer waits for new product since coming into effect October 1.

In a recent interview with Civilized, Matt Bailey, co-owner of Portland dispensary Local Leaf, said: “October 1st was pretty much when all the outdoor crops were coming down and it just kind of slammed the testing facilities, which didn’t seem ready for that big push.”

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He added that since dispensaries weren’t allowed to purchase new products following the announcement of the new regulations in late spring, roughly 75 percent of his selection was cut after the Oct. 1 deadline, with a three-and-a-half week hold on new products; not to mention that the price to test certain products saw a pretty dramatic hike.

While Grimmett admits that the new rule resulted in a rough couple of weeks (there are currently only 18 ORELAP-certified labs in Oregon, of which 15 are licensed by the OLCC), he believes “we’re through the worst of it” and adds that the difficulties were “a small price to pay” for the amped up safety of Oregon’s cannabis industry as a whole.

“The fact that it became law on October 1, the same time the harvest came in and the same time a bunch of other things happened, did put a strain on the system. But we all knew what that date meant, and we all had the opportunity to gear up,” said Grimmett, adding that in terms of the price hike (a product that used to cost $100 for testing, for example, may now cost up to $300), “$100 was a bogus price all along.”

“My cost to do the testing was $190 to $200 per test and I wasn’t even testing all the pesticides on the current list… and I don’t think it was a secret at all that the price would go up when these requirements came into place.”

Moisture, potency and pesticide levels are just a few of the ORELAP-mandated tests conducted on samples of cannabis flowers, edibles and extracts at GreenHaus Analytical Labs.  

“The main thing that differentiates [Oregon] is, in fact, the [ORELAP] certification. When we do our testing, it’s not with a strip of paper or colour-changing dye… it’s truly analytical, it’s truly science based and it’s fully validated testing,” said Grimmett.

It’s a system said to position Oregon as the state with the strictest cannabis standards in the industry; a bar Grimmett foresees other states looking to meet in months and years to come.

“I think there’s a certain level of comfort in knowing that [Oregon’s system] is not about somebody trying to make a fast buck, but actually protecting the health and safety of the citizens of the state,” said Grimmett.

“I think those things speak well for Oregon and I think those things will in fact be repeated by other states.”