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By D. Anderson, PhD | April 2018

Cannabis Testing Lab Setup

Value Added Experience and Expertise

The rapidly growing cannabis business is attracting considerable interest from investors, business developers, scientists, and entrepreneurs. The ‘Green Rush’ presents many opportunities for analytical testing labs in the following areas: Heavy Metal Screening, Residual Solvents, Pesticides & Herbicides, Potency Analysis, Cannabinoid Characterization, Quality Control, and other areas.

For those planning to enter the business, the best intentions for success will fall short without a sound strategy and a reliable partner for instrumentation and other resources.

“GenTech Scientific is the cannabis industries top refurbished analytical equipment supplier. I have saved thousands from buying certified refurbished equipment instead of buying brand new from the manufacturers. GenTech knows the cannabis industry well and understands a cannabis lab’s needs. They are very helpful in sourcing equipment that is best suited for a lab’s needs and getting it professionally shipped out fast. The equipment is always professionally packed for shipping and comes in perfect shape. I have even purchased equipment shipped to Hawaii with no issues which is rare! GenTech’s customer service is great and they are always willing to help fix a problem. I would recommend them to anyone starting a lab!” ~ A Gentech Customer

Having the right people with the proper expertise to guide you will increase the odds considerably in your favor. Take a moment – step back – and ask yourself a few important questions regarding your plans for a cannabis testing business.

Why do you want to get into the cannabis testing business? 

Perhaps you see a need for a high-quality cannabis testing lab in your area. Maybe you want to apply your skills in business management or expertise in cannabis production. Or perhaps you want to ensure that a safe, high-quality product is available for patients relying on medicinal cannabis. Regardless of your motivation, the driving forces behind your actions are crucial.

GenTech’s CEO identified the need for high-quality refurbished analytical instruments for labs over 22 years ago. Since 1996, Clair has built his company to have highly skilled and knowledgeable chemists and technicians. They are able to provide the resources start-up and low budget labs need. Start-up labs in particular have limited budgets and often need a resource provider of instruments, service, and expertise, as they build their laboratory — keeping their customers their first priority. GenTech has grown to service start-up labs, fortune 50 diagnostic labs, government and academic research labs – over 10,000 satisfied and recurring customers.

“The GenTech story is a successful one and has many similarities to the cannabis testing industry. We understand starting and running a successful company requires a “Burning Desire” for success. It requires 100-hour work weeks and a never-ending determination to not fail. Value of your idea and introspection of your motivation to succeed are essential before starting a lab.” ~ Mr. Clair Bragg

What do you know about the testing business? 

You may be approaching the business from a cannabis or agricultural grower perspective. Or perhaps from an experienced diagnostic testing lab angle. In either situation, starting a successful testing lab takes more than technical knowledge or a plan laid out by business professionals.

“It is imperative to learn everything you can before starting the business. You need to consider training, support, budgets, milestones, objectives. Above all you need to know your weaknesses and how to address these. I have and continue to rely on others to help guide my efforts, to consult with regarding ideas, and to work hard alongside me.” ~ Mr. Clair Bragg

What is the purpose of your testing lab and are you fully aware of the logistics and costs? 

Cannabinoid potency testing can make use of stand-alone HPLC systems with methods and standard operating procedures customized for a given lab. Depending on the product and sample type, a dedicated LC/MS system may be more appropriate to unmask and decipher analytes in complex matrices. Volatile cannabis compounds will often require a GC or GC/MS system for accurate analysis. In terpene or residual solvent testing, a headspace unit paired with GC/MS is often required to account for increased sample volatility.

Whether focusing on testing for cannabis potency, contaminants, or quality control of processing and sample management, the quality of the instrument and the associated facilities is paramount. A business plan may account for financial projections, banking details, and legal cost implications when starting a lab in a given location. A large portion of the start-up costs, however, entails sourcing and purchasing/leasing the instrument and outfitting the facilities needed to operate the instrument.

Beyond the type of lab, the specifications of the tests come down to rules and regulations of the state and municipality in which you plan to operate. This applies to safety, quality control, facilities requirements, and other logistics as well. What are the appropriate testing specs and acceptance criteria? What are the parameters for instrument validation? What are necessary steps needed to stay in compliance? How should instrument methods adapt as state and federal regulations change? Working in step with a trusted equipment resource is vital to understanding and handling these technical concerns.

Cannabis Testing Solutions 

Start-up labs will see outstanding value in purchasing or leasing quality refurbished instruments because these devices can be acquired at half the price of new. Perhaps more important, is the value of an instrument dealer who stands behind the certification and quality assurance of the analytical instruments. As lab operations grow, so do the chances that instruments will need repair or replacement. An instrument supplier with trained chemists on staff and outstanding customer service is invaluable in this respect. Training and method development are important cost considerations as well. Without validated instrument methods and trained staff in place prior to opening your testing doors, operating costs can skyrocket and the business can suffer severely.

The cannabis testing business is challenging, and costs can quickly add up without expertise and reliable instrumentation to get the lab operational from day one. Educate yourself and learn from the experts to help you forge your path. Give yourself and your investors the best chances at success.

“I am passionate to make our customers successful, that’s a fact. Without customer service, follow through, quality products, honesty, and never-ending commitment, our customers would not buy from us repeatedly. My goal is not to sell you one instrument this year. My goal is to sell you instruments or service next year, and in essence create a customer for life. It’s a simple effective philosophy.” ~ Mr. Clair Bragg, founder, GenTech Scientific, Inc.

This article was written by LabX in conjunction with GenTech Scientific.