Pot testing lab set to open in June in Yakima

Yakima Herald-RepublicMay 31, 2014 

— Yakima bans growing, processing and selling marijuana, but no one ever said anything about getting paid to put it under a microscope.

Analytical 360, a Seattle-based medical marijuana testing company, will open its first recreational marijuana analysis lab in Yakima in June. It will be the first state-certified lab for analyzing marijuana products prior to sale, pending approval of a business license application with the city.

The company will operate in a 22,000-square-foot building downtown on North First Avenue, directly behind the state Department of Agriculture’s local offices, Analytical 360 chief operating officer Ed Stremlow said. Stremlow said the company will begin giving tours of the facility to clients on Monday and become operational in two to three weeks.

“We don’t have anything to test yet,” Stremlow said.

The lab tests will check the product for harmful elements, such as pesticides and mold, as well as confirm the product’s potency. Marijuana growers and processors pay the cost of the analysis at the risk of having some of their product destroyed if it’s found in violation of certain state standards.

City officials contacted Friday said they were surprised such a facility was looking to open in Yakima, but not necessarily opposed to it.

City Manager Tony O’Rourke, an ardent supporter of the marijuana ban approved by the City Council in January, said scientific analysis businesses normally bring higher-paying jobs. He said it doesn’t violate the city’s ban on other marijuana businesses.

“We can use any good, high-paying jobs, period,” O’Rourke said. “If they’re certified by the state, they should be good to go.”

Stremlow said the Yakima lab will have 13 employees as well as five business partners. Analytical 360 will also continue to operate its 5,000-square-foot lab in Seattle for medical marijuana analysis. Initially, the Yakima lab will only test marijuana, but other agricultural products could be added in the future.

Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said marijuana producers have to set aside a significant portion of each harvest to be sent to such labs for testing. Labs also analyze other products, including marijuana-infused edibles and liquids.

“The consumer can ask for a list of exactly what’s in the product and what the test results were,” Smith said.

Stremlow said Analytical 360 chose the Yakima location based on the area’s agriculture-based economy and a bet that, over time, more localities east of the Cascades will make way for marijuana growing and processing.

“The wealth of agricultural knowledge in Yakima is going to play an important role in cannabis cultivation in the future,” Stremlow said.

The lab will likely receive some discussion at Tuesday’s Yakima City Council meeting. Councilman Dave Ettl, one of those to lead the charge on banning marijuana businesses, said in an interview Friday that he doesn’t yet have an opinion on the proposed business.

“I don’t have enough information to have a reaction one way or the other,” Ettl said.

Smith said Analytical 360 was just the first of a number of entities expected to be certified by the state to conduct marijuana lab analysis.

“These are labs with skilled staff that show they can follow procedures,” Smith said. “A lot of them see this is a business opportunity.”

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