by David Downs
In 'The Cannabis Clean-Up Team', published today in the print version of Legalization Nation, we detail how Oakland's Steep Hill lab and its chemists have partnered with Mendocino cops and growers to ensure that pot is safe. With pending National Geographic coverage devoted to the strange alliance, Steep Hill is an unlikely East Bay economic success story with roots in our first feature on them in early 2009. 'If cannabis is medicine, shouldn't it be standardized,' we asked the back then, describing how the lab developed a methodology for testing weed using mass spectrometry and gas chromotography. ... [Click More]
Since then, Steep Hill has added high-performance liquid chromotography to test edibles for potency. The club also cultures for mold, and since 2010, tests for popular types the top five most common pesticide groups used on pot.
According to a December 2010 white paper, Steep Hill has found neurotoxic pesticide residues on some cannabis, and about five percent of medical weed supplies exceed USDA guidelines for microorganisms in agriculture products. Steep Hill tests run $120 per sample.
The lab still has scientific validity problems. It's illegal to possess pot under federal law. Steep Hill''s methodology has never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal. They lack accreditation, but seek ISO 17025 and ELA certification in 2011. They won't disclose their methodology, or the chemist who wrote and tested it.
“Validations in cannabis come in the form of self-validations,” said co-founder David Lampach, a self-taught chemistry enthusiast and grower. However, Steep Hill does perform inter-lab validations with other pot labs. “Any lab that wants to do that with us, we're open for peer review.”
Here's a picture of Steep Hill's data at work at the quite busy SPARC in San Francisco.