Quality control: Scientists test Utah’s medical cannabis for THC and possible contaminants

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) –  Utah’s first medical marijuana crops are in the ground at eight state-approved farms and in just 46 days those products will be legally available to qualified patients but before they’re sold and used they have to be tracked and tested.

On Monday ABC4 News got to look at the process at the Utah Department of Agriculture Laboratory.

According to Utah’s Director of Medical Cannabis Andrew Rigby, growing, manufacturing and distributing medical cannabis in Utah will be painstakingly regulated as required by state law.

“Every plant, every product, every derivative of as it moves through the supply chain is tracked into its final form where patients are actually purchasing those products,” Rigby said.

Licensed growers bring samples of their crops to the Unified State Laboratory in Salt Lake City.

“There’s going to be a lot of testing going on,” Rigby said. “The responsibility is one of ensuring that the product that makes it through to the patient is of the highest quality.”

Dr. Mohammed Sharaf is the lab’s Quality Manager.

“We need to make sure the product comes out, our product coming out to be manufactured into pills or into gums or into what type of medicine it’s going to be,” Dr. Sharaf said. “It has to be clean from the beginning.”

In addition to measuring THC levels, what else are they looking for in the cannabis?

“Mainly contaminants, contaminant levels such as pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, and microbial contamination,” Lab Director Weston Judd explained.

The testing will eventually be farmed out to private labs but for now, it’s all done at this facility.

“It’s been a challenge actually,” Jedd said. “It’s definitely kept us on our toes.”

Medical cannabis will be legally distributed to prescription holders at 14 dispensaries in Utah beginning on March 1.

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