At PSI, a staff of 30 scientists and technicians wears white lab coats and hustles to process samples. Rosman, a former marijuana defense attorney, and Spivak-Birndorf, a geochemist, rock a more casual look, each wearing open-collar dress shirts tucked into jeans. A distinctly dank smell fills the 6,500-square-foot lab.
As required by law, the lab conducts more than a dozen quality assurance tests before a product is approved for market. In addition to THC potency and mold, tests are run for metals, terpenes, chemical residue, microbials and mycotoxins.
“When we started this testing, it wasn’t required in any way,” Spivak-Birndorf, said. “Labs would do microscopic testing for obvious signs of mold, but they weren’t testing for pesticides and heavy metals and other hazards. It was just largely being ignored. (Mandatory tests are) good because it’s helped people refine their process and clean things up.”
The stringency of tests — and the cost — depends on the product, e.g., plants, edibles, concentrates and distillates, Rosman said.
PSI’s cheapest service is $40 for an R&D test, which gives clients an indication of product purity but does not count for state certification. Tests that approve a product for store shelves range from $350 to $800 per batch. Typically, the priciest tests are for flower, which is more prone to contaminants, while testing an edible whose THC content has already been OK’d would fall on the low end of the spectrum.
Safety labs are required to test 1 ounce of product per 15 pounds, which is the state limit for one batch. Lab workers obtain the samples from their client’s production site and take them back to the lab. After conducting the tests, results are recorded with the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting & Compliance database.
“The methodology for pricing is based on the cost and labor of testing. We’re not charging some exorbitant fee because we have a monopoly or anything like that,” Rosman said. “(Profit margins) are good. I have a feeling next year, they’ll be a little thinner as we expand, but yeah, right now, this was a good year. This was a huge growth year.”
PSI expects to hit $10 million in revenue this year, far surpassing expectations from a few years ago when the co-owners started with a $200,000 investment and no hired help.