Washington state is now down to seven cannabis testing labs after the State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) announced that it was suspending True Northwest Laboratory’s license for compliance violations.
The board said True Northwest failed to show it was in compliance with state regulations about equipment calibration and staffing.
"The LCB determined that True Northwest no longer meets the criteria to hold certification under state requirements," wrote LCB spokesperson Julie Graham in the announcement of True Northwest's license suspension. "The lab failed to submit an acceptable corrective action report in response to a deficiency report. In addition, there were multiple serious deficiencies found during a laboratory assessment and proficiency testing."
Paul Manzanares, who served as True Northwest's Lab director at the time, contacted regulators at the LCB in September with his concerns that the lab was out of compliance, according to an Oct. 9 LCB incident report.
The lab failed a mycotoxin proficiency test on May 23, 2023, which was the second time the lab failed such a test within a year's time. State regulations require that labs pass this test in two of the three most recent attempts. After failing the test in May, the lab was required to retest but never did.
"Paul presented documentation from True Northwest that suggested that the lab was providing inaccurate quality assurance and quality control test results," wrote Officer Jacob Garness in his report.
The report also stated that Manzanares turned to state officials after his concerns went unheeded by the company and that he was terminated after contacting LCB. With his termination, True Northwest was also out of compliance with a rule that labs must have a lab director on staff while they continue to run tests and submit the results to the state.
"Due to the nature of the deficiencies of the laboratory and the inaccurate testing this posed a significant public safety concern. I instructed [company President] Jamie [Deyman] to stop all laboratory testing until they had the qualified personnel to conduct these tests," wrote Garness.
The state ordered a third party audit of the lab, which found the lab to be out of compliance in at least five areas. The company lacked a lab director, failed to properly label reagents and consumables, were using balances that were out of calibration, failed to document its data review process and failed to properly test for residual solvents.
A spokesperson from True Northwest did not respond to emailed requests for comment. When called at the lab's main number, a representative just said that the lab was closed before hanging up.
Deyman sent the state a letter on Oct. 18 claiming that they had cleared up the problems and were looking for answers as to next steps.
"We have been closed for eight business days to date. As we have provided all the requested documents and settled the Lab Director position issue we are at a loss as to why we have heard nothing. Can anyone give me an idea of the timeline on this procedure?" she wrote. "I have my employees on hold, through no fault of their own. They need to know if they should be filing for unemployment or job hunting."
One week later, the LCB would issue a final suspension for 180 days with the intent of pursuing a permanent revocation of the lab's license.
Six cannabis labs gone in four years
Washington's State Liquor and Cannabis Board counted 11 cannabis testing lab licenses in 2021. That number is currently down to seven, according to CRB Monitor's licensing database.
Aside from True Northwest, G.O.A.T. Labs announced that it was permanently closed without further details on its Facebook page on March 1, 2023. Analytical 360 and Pacific Botanicals also went under since 2021.
Even before 2021, Washington had begun shedding testing labs. Cannabis testing pioneer and multi-state organization Steep Hill pulled out of Washington in late 2019, and the entire company shut down in early 2023.
Praxis Laboratory became the first cannabis testing lab in Washington to get its license suspended, at the end of 2020, after the LCB found that Praxis was regularly inflating THC potency results.
"Praxis was found to have falsified testing data to provide high tetrahydrocannabinol potency results for more than 1200 samples of cannabis," LCB said in a press release on Dec. 11, 2020. "During the investigation the lab owner attempted to destroy evidence of falsified data in an effort to obstruct LCB’s ability to conduct a complete investigation."
-- Zack Huffman, CRB Monitor News
Learn more about the decline of cannabis testing laboratories in CRB Monitor's 2023 Mid-Year License Activity Review. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a copy of this exclusive research report.