7News goes inside marijuana testing lab as recreational legalization looms

FRAMINGHAM, MASS. (WHDH) - In just a few days, recreational marijuana will be legal in Massachusetts. But how do you know the pot you buy is safe?

7News got an inside look at the high-tech operation ensuring safe highs.

A team of trained experts. Samples being sucked up, shaken, and scorched to reveal their chemical makeup. And the product under the microscope is marijuana.

“Unequivocally. We’ve made marijuana safer,” said Michael Kahn, president and founder of MCR Labs in Framingham, which opened in 2013 when medical marijuana was legalized.

All marijuana sold in Massachusetts – medical and recreational – must first be tested in such a lab. Anything sold to consumers must have a label showing where it came from and when it was tested.

At MCR Labs, pot producers, dispensaries, and home growers send in samples. They’re run through multiple tests to weed out any contaminants like lead, mercury, E. coli, salmonella, pesticides, and mold – all of which can make you sick, or worse.

“A whole lot of our processes just destroy cannabis,” Kahn said.

Workers break the pot down inside an advanced microwave, melting marijuana into a clear liquid in thirty minutes. They mix the plant with chemicals in vials to pull out pesticides. Samples are also tested inside cartridges for abnormal growths – a cloudy appearance inside the card means there’s likely mold inside the sample.

“You can see some growth formation, right at the bottom of that card,” Kahn said, pointing out a potentially contaminated sample.

In three to five days, the lab produces detailed results.

When asked how often his lab actually finds some sort of contaminant, Kahn replied, “Quite often.”

Kahn said about one in five samples fails, meaning something was found in the pot that wasn’t supposed to be there. When that happens, the entire batch is almost always destroyed.

That makes the lab workers the gatekeepers of weed in Massachusetts.

MCR Labs is now gearing up to hire even more employees, partly because demand is about to get a whole lot higher.

“We have to anticipate a potential flood of samples coming in,” Kahn said.

Kahn said he’s adding analysts and buying new equipment to prepare for that. He expects the lab will soon be testing not just for patients – but for pot enthusiasts as well.

“It’s exciting, but it’s been exciting for so long,” Kahn said.

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