You probably wouldn’t notice the innocuous white van hauling a trailer around the Phoenix metro area. And if you did, you wouldn’t know it contained $2 million of laboratory equipment.
This is the mobile office of Kanna-Bosm Labs, a medical cannabis testing company that started operations this year.
Instead of having dispensaries send samples, or picking up products from the stores, KB Labs can simply park outside a cultivation center and start running tests immediately. It still might take a day or two for results.
The van and trailer pack in most of the capabilities of a full lab. At a client’s site, KB Labs tests for potency, terpenes, pesticides, and contaminants such as E. coli and salmonella. Powered by a 36-kilowatt generator, the mobile lab can test 160 samples in a 24-hour period.
“We have the most advanced and the newest equipment a cannabis lab can have,” said Boaz Lerer, president and founder of KB Labs.
The mobile unit doesn’t have the room to incubate samples for microbial testing, but for those samples, the company can use its more traditional lab in Scottsdale.
The idea for the business came from Lerer’s daughter, Talia, who he said was an advocate for legalization efforts in 2016.
“She came with this idea and we researched it, we tested it, we managed to get investors, and we went operational,” Lerer said.
Lerer moved here from Israel 36 years ago, working in pharmaceuticals and cancer diagnostic technologies before deciding to launch his own science-based business. The name Kanna-Bosm comes from the biblical reference to cannabis, “kaneh-bosm,” an ingredient used in the holy anointing oil used to “clean the holy of holies in the holy temple.”
“And I verified it with the rabbi,” Lerer said.
Without a regulatory testing structure on which to base their model, Lerer said KB Labs looked to California’s testing regulations for inspiration.
“We’re the new kids on the block, and we’re working by the book,” he said.
But going by the book may not be what clients are interested in.
“The problem we’re facing now is that our lab is so technologically advanced that there is not enough business here to accommodate the lab,” Lerer said.
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While most Arizona cannabis is untainted, tests show that some contains bacteria and pesticides up to five times the legal limit in California. However, many dispensaries don’t bother testing for contaminants, since there’s no state rule that prevents them from selling contaminated products.
Lerer said most of the testing is done for marketing, rather than health, purposes.
KB Labs has plans to expand into California, where cannabis legalization has meant mandatory testing and a competitive testing market. In April, California had licensed just 28 labs for 3,490 cultivation licenses, according to a recent article in the Orange County Register.
Lerer plans on keeping the business open in Arizona, despite the lack of testing regulation, which he hopes will be implemented soon. Until then, he said, “It’s still the Wild West.”