Tucked in the back of the Durango Tech Center, a fledgling marijuana laboratory is working to gain a foothold offering testing services to Southwest Colorado’s proliferating pot shops.
Aurum Labs is the only state-certified marijuana lab in Southwest Colorado. The 26 other labs in Colorado are on the Front Range, aside from one in Carbondale.
Aurum hopes to cash in on testing that will be required of all retail marijuana operations in Colorado.
Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division is moving toward requiring testing for contaminants such as residual solvents and mold. The agency has not announced a date when testing rules will take effect.
“There are a lot of businesses that are interested in getting ahead of the contaminants testing,” said John Wade, Aurum Labs’ account manager.
The lab tests for contaminants such as mold, bacteria and salmonella in marijuana buds and processed edibles. Aurum’s initial tests have found butane and isobutane residues in hash oils.
“I think a lot of people are going to be really surprised when these tests kick in,” said Tyler D’Spain, Aurum Labs’ co-owner.
Potency testing already is required for retail marijuana shops.
D’Spain is 23 and a recent graduate of Fort Lewis College. In fact, all four of Aurum Labs’ owners and employees went to FLC.
“We’re creating science jobs in Durango,” D’Spain said.
Aurum’s business relies on making sure marijuana shops can do theirs. Aurum places a priority on compliance with Marijuana Enforcement Division rules.
“You would want to know if your grow has aspergillus mold in it because you’re not going to be able to sell any of that product,” said Luke Mason, who is D’Spain’s business partner.
The lab is attracting interest from local marijuana operations. Several have sought preliminary testing.
The Acceptus Group, which opened the retail shop Colorado Grow Co. on Jan. 16 at 965½ Main Ave., used Aurum to make sure Acceptus’ grow facility is free of contaminants.
Jason Barker, Acceptus Group’s co-owner, said he looks forward to using Aurum for testing once it’s certified to test for contaminants. At the moment, Acceptus Group must hire a courier to take marijuana samples to a testing facility in Denver, adding expense and time.
“The quicker we can get our samples to a lab to get them tested, the more beneficial it is to us,” Barker said.
Aurum is awaiting certification from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.
Retail marijuana sellers were required to begin testing for potency and homogeneity in May. Additional testing requirements for other contaminants are pending.
“There are some additional testing requirements that we will implement,” said Natriece Bryant, a spokeswoman for the Marijuana Enforcement Division. “We don’t have a start date to those yet.”
Testing is not required for medical marijuana, but state lawmakers are taking a hard look at that situation.
Mason most recently ran the grow operation at MHS, a local dispensary. D’Spain admitted the operation is “burning money” while awaiting certification.
He said he’s been amused by opposition to the lab. Aurum destroys marijuana, it doesn’t grow it, D’Spain said.
“We’re helping to make what is sold safer, and we’re destroying what we’re testing,” he said.