Bellingham pot lab Peak Analytics suspended after auditors question testing practices

Regulators suspended a state-certified Bellingham pot lab for deficiencies in its practices and for failing an unusually low number of samples for microbial matter. It’s the latest step toward assuring pot-lab integrity.

The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board has suspended certification of a Bellingham pot lab after auditors found an unusually low number of samples had been failed for microbial matter and they noted other deficiencies in lab practices.

Auditors with the RJ Lee Group recommended that the lab, Peak Analytics, get recertified when it has corrected all deficiencies and met state rules.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) suspended Peak Analytics last week. It was one of 18 labs in the state certified to test legal marijuana products for potency and microbial matter such as e.coli, salmonella and mold.

In an emailed statement, Tom Hubbell, general manager of Peak Analytics, said the lab “has been working closely with the RJ Lee Group to improve and clarify internal (procedures) to ensure consistency in testing practices.” The lab has submitted to auditors a study aiming to validate its microbial testing methods, Hubbell said. That study is under review by auditors, he said.

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The suspension comes after the LCB had received a complaint about the lab’s testing results, said agency spokesman Brian Smith. Auditors analyzed three months of 2017 results from the lab. The rate of microbial failures at Peak was 1.69 percent of samples tested, according to auditors. The average for other certified labs was 11 percent for the same time frame.

Industry groups and an independent watchdog had called attention to high potency results and low foreign-matter failures earlier this year.

Lab integrity has been a hot topic since Woodinville data scientist Jim MacRae started writing last year about how labs that offered the most favorable results to growers seemed to get the most testing business.

Follow-up analysis by MacRae found course corrections by some labs. But Peak Analytics stood out for its consistently lower failure rates and higher potency results, he said. Potency is measured by percentage of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

MacRae said the audit confirmed his findings on Peak’s microbial testing. Peak led all labs in the number of tests it performed in the last four months of 2016, according to MacRae’s analysis….

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