Close this search box.

Major Cannabis Testing Lab’s License Suspended As Medicine Remains on Hold in Mississippi

A man taking a selfie inside a marijuana grow room
The Mississippi State Department of Health suspended the license for Rapid Analytics in Natchez, Miss., the state’s largest cannabis testing lab, pending the retesting of medical-marijuana products, Mississippi Independent Cannabis Association Executive Director Mike Watkins (pictured) told the Mississippi Free Press on Jan. 8, 2023.  Photo courtesy Mike Watkins

The largest of Mississippi’s two medical marijuana testing labs has had its license temporarily suspended while a third party retests medical-cannabis products that the Mississippi State Department of Health placed on an administrative hold in December.

The suspended lab, Rapid Analytics in Natchez, Miss., tests about 70% of medical cannabis in the state. In a statement on Jan. 4, MSDH gave a timeline of two to three weeks before all products are back on dispensary shelves. The remaining lab, Steep Hill Mississippi in Jackson, Miss., remains operational.

Mississippi Independent Cannabis Association Executive Director Mike Watkins said both labs tested the same cannabis sample, but Steep Hill’s sample showed impurities while Rapid Analytics’ did not. MSDH halted sales of certain medical-cannabis products Rapid Analytics tested on Dec. 21 following a tip. MSDH has not revealed the source of the tip.

“I can’t say what’s right and what’s wrong, but I can say from what I hear, the State was worried about the discrepancies and that there was enough build-up to warrant this,” Watkins told the Mississippi Free Press this morning.

Rapid Analytics is not retesting the cannabis products after the health department temporarily suspended its license, Watkins said, adding that he did not know who was retesting them.

MSDH will release approved batches each Friday until the lab retests all products, and the lab will start analyzing cannabis flower first because it’s the “base for many products,” MSDH said in its Jan. 4 statement. The lab will then test cannabis concentrates and infusions.

Many medical-cannabis products are still on shelves at dispensaries for patients to purchase. The health department encourages patients to call dispensaries to ask which products are available.

“Patient safety is our top priority,” Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program Director Laura Goodson said in the Jan. 4 MSDH press release. “We are tasked with making sure all test results meet the regulatory standards and that approved products are available to those in the medical cannabis program.”

Watkins wanted to assure patients that the health department and Mississippi medical cannabis investors are working hard to get products back on shelves as quickly as possible. The first batch of retested products should hit shelves on Friday, Jan. 12, and will set the precedent for the pace of retesting, he said.

“They want to make sure that they’re very meticulous about this, and they’re very legally sound with how they do this,” Watkins added.

Cannabis growers are required to bring their products to at least one of the testing labs for approval before the cannabis can hit dispensary shelves.

“The big issue is that there are only two labs,” Watkins said, adding that it is difficult to verify the labs’ testing results without additional labs to analyze the samples for accuracy.

But he said three more Mississippi labs are getting ready to open their doors: Alchemy Analytics in Meridian, Miss.; Aardwolf-Certus in Jackson County; and Magnolia Tech in Marshall County. He said having more labs increases innovation and competition, which improves the industry as a whole.

The Mississippi Independent Cannabis Association is learning from the challenge of restesting cannabis products and will use this experience to improve procedures in the future, Watkins added. If the industry uses this as a “learning experience, then absolutely this can be a positive thing,” he said. The association’s director added that no one has gotten sick from Mississippi’s medical-cannabis products and that no one has proven definitively that the recalled samples are toxic.

“We can’t change anything that happens—we don’t have a time machine, unfortunately—but what we can do is work on how to fix these problems in the future and get them up and running,” he said.

The Mississippi Free Press called Rapid Analytics for a follow-up interview but did not hear back by press time. The Mississippi Free Press also reached out to MSDH for comment but did not get a response by press time.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.