CRAB ORCHARD, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) – It has taken more than four years after Governor Jim Justice signed the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act into law, for dispensaries to open in the state. One opened in Morgantown earlier this month, with another to follow in Weston days later. Both saw success on their first day in business.
In order to legally sell medical marijuana, these dispensaries must have their products tested for toxins, pesticides, microbiological contaminations, potency and more.
Although the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act was passed into law before Delegate Brandon Steele’s (R-Raleigh) time in Charleston, he has been working to pass the responsibility of testing to private labs.
“The state has had trouble over the years with having adequate labs,” he said. “The state labs, whether it be the crime lab or the labs with the Department of Agriculture, they’ve needed to be upgraded for a very, very, very long time. We are working diligently on getting those updated, but when we came to the issue of passing medical marijuana legislation in 2017, you started encountering the other problems that come with it…”
One of the biggest issues that needed to be settled was the testing of the product.
“You have to test the product to know that it’s safe and is what it reports to be,” Steele added. “The Department of Agriculture was initially tasked with doing this, but they didn’t have the equipment necessary to tackle what we feel is going to be or is becoming a very large task.”
Because of this, the legislation was changed to allow the possibility of having private businesses bid on completing the testing. Steele could think of no better labs than those in Raleigh County.
“It became apparent that there needed to be a private/public partnership We already have the people with the expertise in the community. We have a small industry of coal testing facilities here in Raleigh County. They know the equipment, and they have the knowledge.”
Analabs in Crab Orchard is such a company.
Kelli Harrison, Vice President of Analabs, says, since 1987, the company has primarily worked with coal companies and sewer plants. For thirty years, the lab has been conducting drug testing, as well as testing wastewater, drinking water, gas, air quality, water in lakes to ensure safe bacteria levels and more.
In 2014, the 7,500 square-foot lab was doubled, allowing for additional space to house more equipment- equipment that can be used to conduct lab testing on marijuana.
With 10 marijuana growers in the state, two of which are in Beaver, Analabs is the only lab that has been contracted for the testing.
“It is a lot of testing, a lot of testing,” Harrison said, adding that the lab is responsible for gathering and analyzing random samples of marijuana flowers, vape cartridges, topical creams, drink and food additives.
While all of these tests require extensive prep work, some can run in the machines unattended, while others are very hands-on and must be monitored nearly all day. To help handle this new load, Analabs has hired six new employees and plans to hire more in the coming months.
“This is a victory for all of us. This business can hire people and pay them well and help our community,” Harrison explained. “This is just so good for our area. We are a locally owned business. We are small, and we hire people from around here.”
Having worked in a lab setting for many years, Harrison says the coal industry- Analab’s largest customer- has always been a roller coaster where this new industry, she says, is on the rise.
“It is really exciting to see. We hope that we will continue to be more profitable, so we can have better jobs and pay our employees more. We want to be a company that is able to help our community and also provide good, long jobs for our current and future staff.”