(AP) — A St. Louis County lab’s approval to start testing samples of marijuana means that commercial marijuana for medical use could be on the shelves this month.
EKG Labs in Maryland Heights became on Sept. 26 the first of 10 licensed medical marijuana testers to start operations after passing a state inspection.
As a result, marijuana being grown by commercial cultivators may undergo state-required testing for safety and potency. Once approved, it can be sold at dispensaries.
EKG’s director of operations, Natalie Brown, said testing could begin this week.
“We’re hopeful that there will be product on the shelves and dispensaries by early- to mid-October for the patients,” Brown said.
Missouri voters in 2018 approved medical marijuana. As of Tuesday, five commercial growers and six dispensaries had passed inspections from the state health department to start growing and selling pot legally. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services administers the state’s medical marijuana program.
Missouri has issued 60 licenses to grow marijuana, 86 to make marijuana-infused products and 192 to open dispensaries, but the vast majority of businesses are still setting up and working through state regulations.
Still, just knowing that testing will be available as soon as the marijuana is grown and ready to be packaged and sold is a relief to business owners, said Susan Griffith, president of CAMP Cannabis, which stands for Certified Alternative Medicine Providers.
CAMP expects to undergo its last inspection in December and start planting marijuana early next year, Griffith said. The company hopes to sell to dispensaries by spring.
“As soon as we’re approved we are prepared to get plants in the ground immediately,” Griffith said.
Demand could be high: As many as 70,000 Missourians have state permits to legally use medical marijuana.
They may not all need dispensaries. At least 17,517 qualified card-holders were also approved to grow a limited amount of marijuana at home, under strict regulations.
EKG will travel to marijuana growers to gather a representative sample for testing at its lab. It will screen for pesticides, toxins, metals, moisture content and potency.