Looming City Council Decision Threatens Famed Ocean Beach Marijuana Testing Lab

by on February 16, 2017 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Election, Health, History, Ocean Beach, San Diego

PharmLab – screen capture from San Diego Union-Tribune.

A looming decision by the San Diego City Council could threaten the presence of a well-known marijuana testing lab in Ocean Beach that has been here for 6 years.

PharmLabs on Cable Street is reportedly “one of the first internationally accredited testing labs for marijuana in the world,” and “the premier business of its kind in the region”, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

But it’s possible that the lab will be closed by new City rules on dealing with marijuana legalization and have to move out of metro San Diego. In early February, the City Council voted to authorize medical cannabis dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana after California guidelines are completed, probably in late 2017.

However, the City Council also voted to ban businesses that are part of the marijuana supply chain by either cultivating, manufacturing, testing or storing it – but are allowing existing ones to remain open for business until the council they takes on potential regulations that could determine their legality.

And PharmLabs are one of those businesses caught in this suspension of stability, as it’s licensed in the city as a part of a marijuana supply chain. The laboratory was opened by Greg Magdoff,who told the SDU-T that cannabis testing labs should not be singled out with overstrict regulations. He said:

“We provide a service to the city so we don’t think we should be treated any differently. We do not sell, distribute or manufacture cannabis in any way.”

Magdoff added that his business pays taxes to the city and has gained a solid reputation for quality work. The U-T:

It’s detailed and scientific approach has allowed the lab to gain and retain prestigious accreditation from the International Organization for Standardization, the most important standard for labs around the world and something the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency requires of its labs.

That’s why all of the city’s 15 permitted dispensaries, and many illegal pot shops and delivery services, use PharmLabs for testing.

But, again, over-regulation by the City would drive out his lab and others, and he said he could move to La Mesa and give that city his tax monies. Magdoff said:

“Labs will not open here in San Diego and it’s going to affect the health and safety of the citizens.”

On the local level, there apparently has not been any complaints about the lab by residents or businesses.  Blake Herrschaft – vice chair of the Ocean Beach Planning Board – was quoted in the article as calling PharmLabs “a model business” that OB doesn’t want to see closed down. He said:

“We don’t want to see them kicked out. They’ve been paying taxes.”

Marijuana, cannabis is very popular in OB, obviously, as OB voters approved Prop 64, California’s legalization of recreational  marijuana initiative, by 81% – a higher margin than any other San Diego neighborhood.

There was also some concern among OB community leaders, according to the U-T, that “new regulations won’t allow testing labs in close proximity to parks, which would essentially disqualify all of the community because it’s surrounded by parks.” For more, here.










And that trend is likely to continue when recreational pot sales begin later this year or in early 2018, because PharmLabs is already following many of the state’s new guidelines, Magdoff said.

The lab regularly picks up samples from permitted dispensaries for testing and carefully maintains the “chain of custody” throughout the entire process.

“It’s not law or anything, but that’s what California law will be in 2018,” Magdoff said. “We want to get used to it now.”

Zach Lazarus, chief operating officer of the city’s first permitted dispensary in Otay Mesa, said PharmLabs has a sterling reputation in San Diego.

“They take the right methodical approach to lab testing,” he said. “They’re not the most cost-effective service, but they do it right. They test for lots of things you wouldn’t normally think would be inside cannabis.”

Lazarus said his dispensary, A Green Alternative, only uses PharmLabs occasionally because most of the marijuana they sell comes from elsewhere in the state and is tested there.

“Whenever we get something independent that we’re unsure about, we’ll take it over to PharmLabs and have it tested,” he said.

Magdoff, 36, said he’s proud of his reputation and success, which has allowed the company to recently open sister labs in Hawaii and the Coachella Valley. But he doesn’t want a monopoly.

“I can’t do it alone,” he said. “Ethically there should be another lab in town.”

The City Council seemed to agree last week, with several council members singling out testing labs as something that should be legal in San Diego even if the council ends up banning cultivation and manufacturing.

“Testing is particularly important so that our consumers have products they know they can rely on,” Councilwoman Barbara Bry said.

Community leaders in Ocean Beach have expressed concern that new regulations won’t allow testing labs in close proximity to parks, which would essentially disqualify all of the community because it’s surrounded by parks.

Blake Herrschaft, vice chair of the Ocean Beach Planning Board, said last week that PharmLabs is a model business the community doesn’t want to lose.

“We don’t want to see them kicked out,” he said. “They’ve been paying taxes.”

Ocean Beach voters supported Proposition 64, the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana on last November’s ballot, by a higher rate than any other community in the city — 81 percent.

Jessica McElfresh, an attorney representing many local marijuana dispensaries, said it’s hard to find people who oppose testing labs no matter where they live.

“It’s very hard to come up with a rational argument for banning testing,” she said. “There isn’t anything particularly exotic about these testing labs. There aren’t large quantities of marijuana there — it really is just testing.”

Magdoff said onerous regulations could prompt him to move elsewhere in San Diego or leave the city entirely, noting that La Mesa will be allowing such businesses.

“If the city of San Diego doesn’t want it, fine,” he said. “I’ll move to La Mesa and give them all my money.”

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