Secrets to success at a new cannabis testing facility

The team at Pure Labs Arizona attributes its robust and streamlined cannabis testing protocols to sound investment in cutting-edge technology and top-notch chemists

12 Sept 2019
Emily Adam
Publishing / Media
Dwain Irvan, Chief Scientific Chemist at Pure Labs Arizona

The need for effective cannabis testing facilities, especially where state regulation has lagged behind, increases as legalization of marijuana becomes more widespread. In this SelectScience interview, we speak with Dwain Irvan, Chief Scientific Chemist at Pure Labs Arizona, about the team’s strategy for success as they prepare for the introduction of mandatory testing next year.

In Arizona, medical marijuana was legalized in 2010 and since then some 150,000 active cardholders have been permitted to acquire medical marijuana for use on a range of ailments from either local dispensaries, or in some cases from their own personal plants. However, there is currently a complete lack of regulation within the state, leaving vulnerable people reliant upon the integrity of their local dispensary about the quality of their products.

To combat this, a number of third-party cannabis testing facilities such as Pure Labs have popped up, providing an outlet for dispensaries to prove the quality of their product. Now, the race is on to ensure they have the necessary protocols and directives in place by the time new state mandatory testing laws come into force next year.

Since opening last October, the team at Pure Labs has been striving to fill the lab with the most robust technology available. “We’re steadily adding applications and acquiring instrumentation, and we have some ambitious targets for the future, but right now we are just making sure we have everything in place before the state-mandated testing comes into place in fall 2020,” explains Irvan, who has over 34 years of experience as a clinical chemist.

Pure Labs is gearing up for mandatory new cannabis testing laws coming into force next year

Pure Labs focuses its time on method development and validation. The team uses its own methods to test for the presence of 17 cannabinoids, as well as a range of other attributes linked to quality, and is working with a roster of clients from across the state to ensure the quality of their products. “We service both the growers and the dispensaries,” says Irvan. “At the moment, we’re mostly helping clients test the potency, moisture content, microbial detection and quantification, as well as identification and quantification of terpenes, and we’re currently working on developing a residual solvents and pesticides method, so that we have a complete test menu in place by 2020.”

A critical choice for any new lab wanting to ensure accurate, fast and safe preparation of samples for further analytical and microbial testing comes in how it fits out equipment on the sample prep line. For Pure Labs, Irvan chose Sartorius equipment. Their suite of equipment includes pipettes and tips, centrifuges, analytical balances, lab water systems and syringe filters.

Irvan tells SelectScience that the team at Pure Labs is “very pleased with the sound investment” made in Sartorius technology. By choosing to streamline the lab’s sample preparation system, says Irvan, he has also simplified his protocols with a focus on “accuracy and reproducibility” and maintains that “good sample prep methods are the first steps to good quality results.”

We are just making sure we have everything in place before the state-mandated testing comes into place in fall 2020.

Dwain Irvan  Pure Labs Arizona

“Having the arium® water systems helps reduce shipping costs and glass bottle waste associated with purchasing bottled water,” says Irvan, going on to explain that “having high-quality water manufacturing on site and available at all times means an endless supply of water for our laboratory needs, specifically aqueous mobile phase preparation. Whilst the Minisart® filters ensure a long life for our expensive HPLC columns and guard columns, coupled with clean chromatography free from inherent interferences associated with cannabis plant material.”

Pure Labs is currently building its protocol repository, with a goal to establish protocols for all contaminants, including pesticides, by the time mandatory testing is introduced in the state in November 2020. Ultimately, Pure Labs aims to ensure high-quality, consistent results which its local clients can rely on, whilst building collaborations with cannabis testing laboratories across the USA—and it feels well placed to do just that.

For more of the latest techniques and technologies in cannabis testing, visit the special feature page>>