Portland’s first licensed adult-use cannabis testing lab received the green light from the state last week and said it is ready to hit the ground running.
Nova Analytic Labs, which has been testing medical marijuana in Portland since late October, is only the second marijuana testing lab in the state to be licensed for adult-use cannabis testing.
Christopher Altomare, co-founder and CEO, said the company is ready to “roll right into testing adult-use (cannabis)” following approval from the Office of Marijuana Policy on Friday.
On top of the 75 or so medical clients currently served, “we have clients that are waiting to send us their samples for the adult-use testing market,” he said.
Despite that, Altomare is not expecting an “overnight deluge of samples and revenue,” but rather a “slow build” over the next few months as more recreational marijuana stores receive licenses and open their doors.
The Office of Marijuana Policy requires that adult-use marijuana undergo a series of purity and potency tests, including those for filth and foreign materials, dangerous molds and mildews, harmful microbes, THC potency, homogeneity, cannabinoid profiles and moisture content.
Testing requirements for solvents, toxins, harmful chemicals, pesticides, fungicides and insecticides are expected to be phased in by the end of the year, according to Office of Marijuana Policy.
Altomare and Nova Analytic co-founders Barry Chaffin and Gregory Newland are “scientists first” and business owners second, Altomare said.
With backgrounds in toxicology and pharmaceuticals, they were interested in the “challenge of learning something new” and saw an opportunity to break into the cannabis testing world. With experience as analytical chemists, they could provide something many other lab companies don’t have, he said.
Already, Altomare is looking at other states and opportunities to expand, but said Maine’s new market has been a great place to get started.
“People care about the product and what they’re putting out there,” he said. “I want to get rid of the stigma that we’re here because there’s a fee for service and it’s required.”
Altomare added that the company was created “with the intent of building a really quality product” for their customers.
Maine’s adult-use market, which opened in October in the middle of a global pandemic, has been off to a slow start, bringing in about $1.4 million in its first month, faced with limited store openings, supply shortages and high prices. Meanwhile, the medical market the same month totaled $22 million in sales. In December, the adult-use industry picked up slightly more, with $1.9 million in sales.
The medical industry, which does not require testing, continues to “dwarf” the recreational market, Altomare said, so until things even out, it will have to be somewhat of a “waiting game.”
When that happens, Nova Analytic will be ready, Altomare said. The 4,000-square-foot lab on Milliken Street has ample space to increase capacity as demand increases, he said, hopefully minimizing some of the testing bottleneck that he feels is “inevitable” as the market grows.
The company is currently advertising a three-day turnaround time, which Altomare hopes to be able to continue to offer new clients for as long as the lab can support it.
“Eventually there’s going to be another group of clients that aren’t going to be promised the rapid turnaround time,” he said, adding that anyone interested in testing with Nova Analytic should reach out sooner than later.
Prices for a full testing compliance package range from $280 and $350.
Only one other lab, Nelson Analytical in Kennebunk, is approved to test adult-use cannabis, though Erik Gundersen, head of the Office of Marijuana Policy, told the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs on Monday that two more may be in the pipeline. CatLab LLC in Eliot has conditional and local approval, and according to Gunderson, a lab in Bangor also recently started the licensing process.
David Heidrich, spokesperson for the Office of Marijuana Policy, said recently that while the office does not track medical marijuana testing facilities, officials were aware of at least seven establishments currently or soon-to-be providing testing within the medical market.
One of those, ProVerde Laboratories in Portland, was recently shut down for operating without a license.
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