Puyallup Tribe Leads the State in Cannabis Testing
Having signed a historic Marijuana Compact last year with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians leads the state in the testing of recreational and medical cannabis products at the Tribe’s Medicine Creek Analytics lab. This is the first tribal cannabis testing lab in the country and was made possible by legislation (HB 2000) enacted during the 2015 legislative session.
Under the compact, Medicine Creek Analytics provides quality assurance testing to Washington state I-502 producers and processors, medical marijuana growers, and other Indian tribes involved with cannabis. The lab will also conduct cannabis research in collaboration with the University of Washington. The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation and a top-notch science team headed up by Scientific Director Aaron Stancik, who holds a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Idaho. Lab Assistant Kyle Shelton was a previous employee of PhytaLab, a well-respected cannabis testing lab in the state, and is a pesticides chemist with years of lab experience in the tobacco industry. Quality Assurance Officer Dr. Jeremy Riggle is a professor at Eastern Oregon University and directs his own lab in that state.
“Medicine Creek Analytics has the best science team in the industry,” Stancik said, “and we are equipped with arguably the best equipment and chemical instrumentation,” which puts the Puyallup Tribe way ahead of the curve when it comes to cutting-edge cannabis science and research.
“It’s a pioneering venture,” Puyallup Chairman Bill Sterud said of the Tribe’s plans. “No one in the U.S. has a cannabis institute, so this could be a place for cannabis science and research and foremost for treating people with good medicine. The lab ties in to the project as a quality assurance mechanism to provide standardization.”
The Tribe recruited Stancik from CannaSafe Analytics in Pullman, a forerunner in the field and the first ISO 17025 accredited cannabis lab in the nation. “We built the lab from the floors up and got it certified with the WSLCB in 2014,” he said. Stancik, described as the “ambassador of cannabis science,” has been involved in the cannabis industry since 2012 when I-502 was first passed by Washington state voters. “I’ve been involved since its infancy, and I’m dedicating my education and career to cannabis science.”
Stancik has also been a guest columnist in “Marijuana Venture” magazine, one of the premiere trade publications for the cannabis industry and his writings have focused on topics he is passionate about like accountability for labs and the importance of establishing cannabis testing standards. There is an ever-growing need for labs to test for potency, cannabinoids (active compounds found in cannabis), residual solvents, heavy metals, pesticides and microbial contamination and with the cannabis industry still so young, regulatory systems and quality control are slowly developing and not without some bumps along the way.
“There’s a big question about the reliability of some of these labs,” Stancik explained. In his February 2015 “Marijuana Venture” article “Accountability for labs can solidify testing process,” he writes: “Cannabis testing was developed from the ground up without government oversight. Early on it was a free-for-all. Labs began popping up everywhere, including mobile testing labs operating out of the back of vans.” Stancik is helping to get this changed by working with other industry leaders to address methodologies and improve quality assurance testing in the Washington market.
“At Medicine Creek Analytics, we are interested in taking the high road and being ethical right out of the gate. There is a lot of room for accountability and standardization in the cannabis testing industry,” he said. With the tribe backing a lab, it will give consumers, licensees and the WSLCB confidence in the personnel, lab facilities and analytical results.
Most recently, the effect of lax testing regulations resulted in dangerous levels of pesticides being found in marijuana products in Colorado. “Pesticides are a big concern and it’s being addressed,” Stancik said. “The (Washington State) legislature has now mandated that by July 2016 medical marijuana must be tested for pesticides.”
The Tribe is leading the way when it comes to testing for pesticides with its investment in a key piece of equipment called a LC-MS triple quadrupole mass spectrometer to analyze for pesticides. “It’s a capital investment and a lot of labs are probably going to have to step out of the industry or subcontract for pesticides when it’s required,” Stancik said. “We built the lab out with Shimadzu instrumentation, which is the state-of-the-science. They are an exceptional company – one of the best industry partners you could have as a lab.”
Medicine Creek Analytics will be connected to other cannabis ventures the Tribe is looking at as well, including the production and processing of clinical grade medical marijuana that could possibly be administered to Salish Cancer Center oncology patients. This, Stancik said, could put the Tribe on the international radar.
“Israel is the only country with hospitals that prescribe, dispense and regulate standardized cannabis medicines, so the Tribe is really thinking ahead. I don’t know of any medical clinic in the U.S. that’s prescribing cannabis and ensuring their patients receive standardized products. The tribe is in a unique position having an integrative oncology center and a cannabis lab.”
“Studies are showing that cannabis has anti-cancer potential against some of the most virulent forms of cancer,” Stancik said, noting cannabis’ potential to help patients with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders. Cannabis is a well-accepted treatment for nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.
With the Tribe’s vision for cannabis science, Stancik said he’s grateful they recruited him. “This is a huge opportunity for a scientist in an untouched field. Cannabis research has been off-limits for over 75 years. “Our work can help get cannabis back on the pharmacopeia and treated as real medicine.”