Special Report: Inside San Diego County’s only certified cannabis testing lab

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — It’s been dubbed the California "Green Rush." With the approval of Prop-64, companies and regulators are gearing up for what’s expected to be a booming market for legal marijuana.

Greg Magdoff stumbled into the business of marijuana testing in 2011 when he bought a chromatography instrument. A friend suggested that he use the machine for testing cannabis. 

The business he started in his garage now has a storefront in Ocean Beach. Pharmalabs does the testing for most of the medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego County.

His lab business is about to get much bigger now that California has approved the cultivation, manufacture and sales of recreational pot. 

In 2018, the state will start to issue licenses for the sale of non-medical marijuana.

There’s an elaborate process for preparing the samples. First, the moisture has to be taken out. The flowers are then ground up and finally, a solvent is added to extract the cannabinoid.

Dispensaries want to know about the concentration of the products they sell.

But Greg Magdoff said dispensaries seem less concerned about testing for contaminants, chemicals left behind in manufacturing or micro-biological agents, such as mold or E-coli.

Right now, there’s no enforcement group to ensure that products are tested for health and safety, but in 2018, state law will make that safety testing a requirement. Magdoff said with the greater use of medical marijuana, that sort of testing will be essential.

Although Pharmalabs is the county’s only certified cannabis testing facility in the county, Magdoff said he’s not interested in a monopoly.

He’s concerned that the city of San Diego could make the opening of more labs too restrictive by requiring owners to apply for costly conditional use permits.

The dispensaries for medical marijuana are keeping his lab busy as well as his plans for the future: expanding the lab in Ocean Beach and building a brand new lab near Palm Springs.

Categories: Local San Diego News, Special Reports