PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A lack of testing facilities is threatening to slow the rollout of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Maine.

voters approved adult use marijuana in a 2016 vote, and state regulators
have said products could be available in stores in spring 2020. The
state is requiring marijuana products to be tested for factors such as
potency, foreign materials, dangerous molds and harmful microbes.

only one lab was in the pipeline for state approval to serve as a
testing facility as of Friday. The state is hopeful more applicants will
come forward, but officials also acknowledge that the lack of
applicants could slow down retail sales.

The sole company to apply
to serve as a testing facility, Nelson Analytical of Kennebunk, likely
can’t handle the volume of testing on its own, said Lorri Maling, the
company’s laboratory director. Handling testing for facilities in far
away parts of New England’s largest, most rural state could also be
difficult, she said.

“There’s going to be a bottleneck. We really
need more laboratories. Maine’s a huge state,” Mailing said. “Hopefully
there are some labs that are going to open up north as well.”

lack of labs is the latest hiccup in Maine’s long drive toward legal
marijuana sales. The state began accepting applications from prospective
marijuana retail, manufacturing, cultivating and testing facilities in
early December and received 76 applications in the first week. None were
from testing facilities, though Nelson Analytical has since submitted.

possibility of delay due to few labs is “certainly a possibility, but
one of which we are keenly aware and committed to addressing,” said
David Heidrich, a spokesman for the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy.
Maine has learned from other states that it takes time for high quality
labs to establish themselves and develop the capacity to keep up with
the volume of product in a newly legal state, he said.

“While testing is critical, it is equally important that testing be done right,” Heidrich said.

facilities are looking to get involved in testing but have yet to
submit applications. Greg Newland, chief scientific officer of Nova
Analytic Labs in Portland, said his company is readying an application.

It’s tough to know how many labs are needed, Newland said. Heidrich said the state would prefer to have more than one.

“Without a proper testing facility or program, the safety of the product could be in jeopardy,” Newland said. “It’s dangerous to put out a product for consumption if it isn’t tested for heavy metals and dangerous chemicals.”

By Patrick Whittle

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