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New ABQ lab to test medical marijuana

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Scot Waring, lab director at Steep Hill Labs, Inc., works on testing a cannabis sample. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Steep Hill Labs, a California-based company, has opened a lab in Albuquerque that will provide quality assurance testing for marijuana plant producers and patients participating in the state’s medical cannabis program.

The state Department of Health passed rules in February that will require marijuana producers to have products tested in approved labs. Those requirements will take effect once the department has determined the approved labs can meet the demand, said Health Department spokesman Kenny Vigil.

Vigil said Steep Hill is the third lab to receive department approval. The others are Scepter Labs in Santa Fe and Scientific Base Solution in Albuquerque.

Steep Hill will test samples of marijuana to establish chemical properties and detect potential contaminants, CEO David Lampach said.

Lampach, a former Wall Street trader, co-founded the business in Berkeley, Calif., in 2008. In 2013, it merged with another medical pot testing lab, Halent Laboratories. That business was co-founded by Donald Land, a chemistry professor from the University of California, who is now chief scientific consultant for Steep Hill.

Steep Hill also has labs in Seattle, Las Vegas, Nev., and Denver.

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The lab, northwest of Alameda and Jefferson, will test for mold, bacteria, pesticides and residues of solvents that are used in producing cannabis extracts. It also will offer tests to determine the potency levels of cannabinoid chemicals such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinolic) and CBD (cannabidiol) that can have various physiological effects.

Many patients use marijuana in smokeable, edible or tincture form to relieve symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, cancer pain and the nausea associated with chemotherapy. There are also cases of parents who say cannabis products have helped reduce the frequency of seizures in children who suffer from epilepsy.

“This kind of testing is necessary, especially for people with medical conditions. If their immune system is depressed, you can’t risk a mold or bacterial infection,” Lampach said.

It’s also important, he said, to have information about the chemical properties. “Parents don’t want to give something to their kids that’s going to make them high,” said Land.

Testing will cost between $75 to $130, although lower prices are available for members of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patients Alliance.

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