April 20, 2022

Growing Forward: Cannabis testing takes center stage

The third episode of Growing Forward’s fourth season is out just in time for April 20, or 4/20, the unofficial holiday for many cannabis users. 

Growing Forward is a collaborative podcast between New Mexico PBS and NM Political Report, all about cannabis in New Mexico. This week, the podcast examines, for a second time, cannabis testing. 

Growing Forward spoke with Barry Dungan, the CEO of cannabis testing lab Rio Grande Analytics last season. But with adult-use sales that started this month, Dungan is preparing for an increase in business and a second location in Las Cruces. 

In addition to a new location and increased business, Dungan will likely soon see a new competitor. TriCore recently confirmed that a new and separate subsidiary had plans on opening a cannabis testing facility in Albuquerque. 

“They’re going to be competition, don’t get me wrong,” Dungan said of the new testing company. “I’m definitely a little worried about that. But at the same time, there’s so many new people coming in here, and the two labs that are currently existing are going to need some extra support. I think that we can use them as a resource.” 

As NM Political Report reported last week, one cannabis producer is in the middle of a legal battle with state regulators over when the company can fully reopen one of its production facilities in Santa Fe. The legal dispute began when the company Sacred Garden requested an injunction to force the Cannabis Control Division to lift a freeze of the company’s tracking software, after state regulators reportedly found mold on cannabis from Sacred Garden. 

Dungan said it’s hard to say for sure what the medical impacts of moldy cannabis could be, but that some are worse than others.  

“There’s definitely people, the medical patients, that can be immunocompromised, and so any type of spores that get to them could have effects that may not necessarily harm a normal, healthy adult,” Dungan said. “I’m not a medical doctor, so I can’t really say what the pathology is there, but some of the molds that could be present have the potential to make mycotoxins and combusting and inhaling those can definitely have negative effects on people.”

This week’s episode also goes over the most recent updates in the legal dispute between the Cannabis Control Division and Sacred Garden and revisits a comment from the judge in that case. 

First Judicial District Judge Bryan Biedscheid, in a hearing last week, criticized state regulators for not better articulating a path towards compliance. 

The way that you explained that the last hearing and this hearing, frankly, it sounds like it’s the logical equivalent of proving that Bigfoot doesn’t exist,” Biedscheid said. “I mean, they could always be behind another tree. You’re saying there could always be an invisible spore on a surface that has not been tested. Again, valid concern, but what is the threshold or what is the path to determining whether or not that is the case?”

Biedscheid’s comments were in reference to a lawyer for the Cannabis Control Division saying in one hearing that the division would reinspect Sacred Garden’s facility, then saying, in another hearing, that the company would need to hire an air quality specialist to verify the facility is safe. Listen to the entire episode below, or by clicking here.