Designing a Cannabis Lab
POSTED Sept. 14, 2020
Developing a facility for cannabis testing and research is not an easy undertaking.
Cannabis testing laboratory facilities are now more in demand than ever before. There is a complex industry supply chain that exists between cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers, and the in-lab testing procedures that need to happen throughout the process. Early intervention is needed throughout the entire operation, from quality control to grinding and manufacturing to packaging, and laboratories are involved every step of the way in order to ensure a safe product. Lab planners must therefore familiarize themselves with how to design and implement specific equipment or facility modifications in order to increase efficiency in testing labs.
Types of cannabis labs and lab users
“There are two primary types of cannabis laboratories: in-house and third party. While in-house laboratories may be used for product testing, third-party labs are certified through an accredited lab certification program that is sanctioned by the state government and can perform tests that are mandated by state marijuana and/or hemp regulations. State mandated testing must be done in a third-party lab; it cannot be performed in-house,” says Satto Rugg, MArch, NCARB, owner and principal, MerJ Architecture LLC. “In-house laboratories are usually built as part of a cultivation and/or processing facility, and are used by the grower or extractor for research and development or for quality control purposes. These labs may contain the same equipment as state testing labs. Other spaces which have similar requirements to laboratories are extraction, post-processing, and manufacturing rooms within cultivation and processing facilities. These areas often follow similar GMP to labs regarding cleanliness and safety, but have equipment for the production and packaging of final cannabis products instead of testing equipment.”
Dan Gustafik, president, Hybrid Tech, says that his clients range from existing customers who have been working with cannabis research and testing for several years, and want to streamline their existing process; to new customers who think that the cannabis industry could be profitable for them. Challenges with the latter group often include gathering the necessary information from them in order to properly construct a facility, and working with them to develop a practical lab design plan as well as a realistic business model. “Very often, we do see a lot of groups who are financial groups. Most of our clients have a financial basis—groups of bankers or lawyers are the groups who end up winning licenses and have the capital to deploy it,” he says, adding that it may be beneficial for clients to bring a PhD lead on board in order to complete the process. Gustafik’s team often deploys its own chemists and other experts to the site to develop the formulation requirements for developing the end products. “Everyone should know that if you have a lab build, it’s going to take you an entire year to build out that lab appropriately and have it operational. It is not going to take six months,” he says.
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