Montana Lab Contracts To Test Medical Marijuana Products


Chad Harder/Missoula Independent
Michael Geci, M.D.: “If you are going to call cannabis a medicine, you have to treat it like a medicine”

​For the first time in Montana, a lab has agreed to test all cannabis and cannabis-based medicine that a local caregiver sells to qualified patients under the state’s medical marijuana law.

MCM Caregivers late last week signed a contract with Montana Botanical Analysis (MBA) of Bozeman, the first such arrangement in the state’s burgeoning medical cannabis market where a caregiver or dispensary has contracted to have all its medicine tested.
“Despite all the bad press that’s been generated, mostly by just or or two highly visible personalities, the medical cannabis industry is rapidly moving towards standards of quality control that have been completely absent,” said Michael Geci, M.D., who serves as CEO of Montana Botanical Analysis.
“Having all of our cannabis medicine tested by MBA is a real milestone in the maturity of the medical cannabis industry in Montana,” said owner Randy Leibenguth of MCM Caregivers. “Having our product tested by MBA provides a level of product safety and consumer protection for our patients they need and deserve.”
Standards are essential in the medical marijuana industry, according to Leibenguth. “This kind of positive news helps to calm the fears of the public that this industry is out of control,” he said. “People should remember that this testing program is completely voluntary. I’m paying for it out of my own pocket.”

The news of the first dispensary in the state to have all of its cannabis products tested reflects a growing positivity within the medical marijuana community in the state, according to Leibenguth.
“There are lots of good Montanans working to produce the best medicine we can for the patients we serve,” Leibenguth said. “We just wanted to be treated like ordinary business operators.”

Chad Harder/Missoula Independent
Dr. Noel Palmer: “This is such an exciting time”

​Later in the week, another cannabis company, Organic Relief, became the second Montana-based dispensary to contract with Montana Botanical Analysis to have all of its cannabis products tested.
Herbalist Vaughn Hirschkorn, owner of Organic Relief, noted how working with the lab has significantly increased the potency of cannabinoids delivered to the patient through his products. Not only that, but sales have increased, according to Hirschkorn.
“Noel sat down with me and went through every step in my production process,” Hirschkorn said. “When we were finished, I had some of the most effective medicine in the state.”
​”This is such an exciting time,” said Dr. Noel Palmer, an analytical chemist and director of the MBA lab. “The lab is really moving toward a greater public and professional acceptance. We feel that market forces are at work already.”
“Patients are driving demand, requesting tested medicine from their caregivers and dispensaries,” Palmer said. “We can provide accurate dosing information, based on our work. That’s a first.”
The impact of caregivers and dispensaries contracting to have all of their medicine tested by an independent laboratory signals a growing, maturing face to the medical cannabis industry, according to Dr. Geci.

Graphic: Montana Botanical Analysis

​”If you are going to call cannabis a medicine, you have to treat it like a medicine,” Geci said. “That means labeling the active ingredients of products you are selling. Every other medicine or supplement on the market in the United States is required to have their respective ingredients listed on the label.
“Why shouldn’t cannabis products be subjected to the same regulations as all other commercial and medical products?” Geci asked.
By week’s end the largest caregiver and dispensary in Montana, Zoo Mountain Natural Care, Inc., also signed contracts with Montana Botanical Analysis to have the complete line of their medicines tested and labeled. Zoo Mountain partner, Logan Head, said his company feels fortunate to have its medicine treated like all the other OTC and supplemental medicines on the market today.
“We’re proud to take advantage of the fact that MBA is Montana-based,” Head said. “There are only two other legal states in the country that even offer cannabis testing like MBA. It’s one of the things that can make Montana a nationwide leader in the medical cannabis field.” 
As more and more growers, dispensaries and caregivers realize the value added to their products, prices for testing will continue their steady decline, according to Geci.
“The arrangement will pave the way for other growers, caregivers and dispensaries to have their cannabis products tested as well,” Geci said. “The price of testing is clearly affordable to everyone in the cannabis industry.”
Geci reflected on the first samples that MBA tested back in early 2010. “Our standard price was $179 per sample,” he said. “That same sample price is now only $99. The economics of cannabis reflect the economics of a free market, if legislators will allow that.”
According to MBA, it offers “significantly steeper discounts” for larger volumes of samples tested.
The lab, equipped with both liquid and gas chromatography machines, is the only one in Montana that can accurately determine the dose of cannabinoids present in medibles, cannabis-laced foods, oils, butters, tinctures, gel caps, salves, and other preparations, according to MBA.