What’s in your weed? CannaSafe will find out. The world’s first accredited lab and the leading state market share holder, CannaSafe, is pushing a culture of cannabis safety and education not only to cultivators and distributors, but also to consumers and the general public.
In California, state-mandated tests for legal distribution of cannabis include potency, microbial contaminants, moisture, and pesticides. These tests not only ensure products are safe for consumption, but also confirm any cannabinoid label claims. Not only should consumers know their product is devoid of harmful pesticides such as Myclobutanil, which turns to Hydrogen Cyanide when activated by flame, but to confirm their 28 percent THC flower is, in fact, 28 percent THC.
Located in Van Nuys, California, CannaSafe boasts a state-of-the-art facility, complete with glass walls and top-of-the-line equipment, namely three Agilent high-end instruments. Think the Apple store for cannabis science, except the Apple store can’t fog up its glass walls at the push of a button. Ini Afia, CannaSafe’s executive lab director, spared no expense when designing the lab in 2017.
“We wanted to exceed the expectations set forth by the BCC,” says Afia, “so we went above and beyond to invest in top-notch equipment.”
Much like Apple during the holidays, CannaSafe is equipped for volume. On the week of Dec. 10, the lab processed over 500 samples. With guaranteed 3-5 day turnarounds (and often same day rush), that’s a hefty task. They expect over 600 per week by the new year.
CannaSafe is always looking forward, preparing for the future. Phase 3 testing, which are state-mandated tests for heavy metals, mycotoxins, and terpenes, will be legally required as of Jan. 1, 2019. This has labs scrambling to update their instruments and workflow for the new year, as well as receiving their accreditation for those tests. Aaron Riley, CannaSafe President, left no stone unturned in preparation for the new year.
“We’ve been accredited for and performing Phase 3 tests since March of 2018,” Riley says. “Labs should be striving to set the standard for safety and quality control, and there’s just not a lot of that right now.”
Their next move is a building expansion that will turn their modest, 8,000 square foot location into a 13,000 square foot compound, complete with an employee gym. Lab technicians don’t need to be ripped to lug 5-gram samples, though. But CannaSafe is developing a culture. A business’ culture is important to CannaSafe investment partner Bill Scrogins. He won’t use the term “employee.” Instead, he prefers “associate.”
“[The term] ’employee’ denotes ownership, and I can’t stand that,” says Scrogins. “It’s an honor that you work with us, and it’s an honor that we work with you.”
Every Wednesday, CannaSafe buys family style lunch for the office; every month there are two Associates of the Month– one voted on by management, the other voted on by associates. Prizes have ranged from Beats by Dre headphones to Drake/Migos tickets at Staples Center. There’s talk of an iMac, and next year… a car.
Scrogins, a pharmacist by trade, worked in a grocery store pharmacy for 19-years before starting his own businesses. “Our work environments and our work friends are a big part of our lives,” he says, “and when that’s good, most other things fall into place.”
The CannaSafe culture reaches the clients, as well. In November, CannaSafe had a VIP client event in Las Vegas at the Palms Casino penthouse during MJBizCon. If you live in California, you may recognize some of their top clients: 3C Farms, Mammoth Distribution, Josh D Farms, Green Dragon Nursery, CaliKush Farms– the list goes on.
The turnaround times are unrivaled, the pricing is competitive, and when something doesn’t pass, they’re not thrown to the curb. CannaSafe wants their clients to succeed and works to steer them in the right direction. Cultivators and distributors can get frustrated with the new regulations; they can drive up their prices and keep their product off the shelf for an excessive amount of time, leading to consumer blowback.
In September 2018, Jungle Boys, one of the leading cultivators in cannabis, made an Instagram post for its customers. Jungle Boy’s caption was: “This is what’s holding us up from keeping the shelves filled at all times we have to wait for all the test results to come back before we drop the flowers or concentrates.”
The photo was a screen grab of the BCC’s (Bureau of Cannabis Control) testing requirements. Aaron Riley reached out to Jungle Boys and offered them as little as same-day rush turnaround on product. Jungle Boys didn’t believe them. After some Instagram back-and-forth and a video from CannaSafe explaining their processes, they took a chance and had samples tested.
CannaSafe’s number one concern is consumer safety– a close second is education. For example, most consumers just shop for THC content, CBD content, and if a product is a Sativa, Indica or Hybrid. But CannaSafe considers terpene profiles to be the future of cannabis rather than cannabinoids. Terpenes are essential oils found throughout nature; they are responsible for the aromatic characteristics of the flower, giving it the distinct smells that we all enjoy. Smoking a plant with certain terpenes and cannabinoids can induce various effects, also known as the Entourage Effect, where largely non-psychoactive components combine to create an effect larger than the sum of its parts.
CannaSafe’s Instagram page (@cannasafe) hosts educational videos, featuring Ini Afia, explaining the lab processes and why they should matter to the consumer. Afia stresses the importance of these videos. “The key to legitimizing this industry compared to the pharmaceutical industry is education– whether it be consumer, regulatory, or scientific focused.”
For broader audiences, CannaSafe uses comedy to help bring awareness and educate consumers about product safety. Just ask Bill “Blunt Justice” Jericho, a rambunctious, outspoken personal injury lawyer that’s cracking down on unsafe cannabis practices. His ads, which feature amazing settlements ($240 dollars in Applebee’s gift cards!), are on Cannasafe, High Times, and countless other Instagram pages. “Blunt Justice” is a fictional character played by none other than CannaSafe President and CEO, Aaron Riley. Riley believes comedy can be used as a gateway for education in the lab testing space. “Our goal here is to educate the consumer, and we post a ton of educational content,” says Riley. “But the easiest way to get people to pay attention is to make them laugh. So we start with that.”
2019 looks to be a big year for CannaSafe. They’re expanding their main office, opening another lab in NorCal, and breaking ground on a research and development facility. Riley doesn’t know how to slow down.
“We’ll be opening a Northern California location in early Q2,” he says. “We look forward to continued great service for all of our statewide clients and to making sure cannabis products are safe for consumers.”
When you’re shopping, check for the “C” on the packaging to make sure it’s CannaSafe.