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Pride: it’s our company name, and our core operating principal. As we begin 2020 and prepare to open our lab to accept client samples, I want to reflect on what this means to me, to our team, and, most importantly, our clients. The marijuana and hemp industries have experienced something of a chaotic period of growth and growing pains over the last few years. That is naturally to be expected of any growing industry, especially one in which legislators and regulators are also inexperienced, and one in which said industry is shifting from a black market, often criminal element, to an above board, legal operating space. The testing space has been no different than any other segment of the industry, with unscrupulous operators trying to make a quick buck. Over the last few years we have seen numerous examples of labs that have been shut down for manipulating or out-right faking data, conducting pay-to-play schemes, and otherwise acting in unethical ways that compromise public health and safety as well as jeopardize their clients’ businesses. 

When I first spoke to Zac it was clear to me that he and I shared a similar vision and philosophy and that we could build a lab that would be different. First and foremost to that vision is taking pride in what we do, in what we offer our clients, and who we are. As an organization we are not going to do something that compromises our values simply for the immediate gratification of a larger number in the accounting ledger. We will not do something because it is easier or cheaper. And we will not do anything to compromise our oath to our clients to give them the best results we can produce regardless of the outcome. This last part is really important in this industry and I want to make this clear to our future clients—failed tests results can be costly to growers and producers who have sunk so much into producing quality products. But, in the long run, what is more costly is massive recalls due to shoddy work by the lab, recalls due to getting testing done with poor quality labs, and the potential liability of selling unsafe products to the public. Our goal is to partner with our clients to help them understand why failures occurred and develop ways to minimize these risks in the future. But if, to the best of our abilities, we are confident that a particular product does not meet the minimum safety requirements set out by the state, we will stand by that result even if it ultimately means losing a client. In the long run integrity is what builds and maintains relationships and we feel that sticking to our values will lead us to partner with clients with similar values—and companies with integrity and ethics are the ones who will ultimately survive as the marijuana and hemp industries mature.

It is one thing to talk about pride as a platitude, and another to implement it. I would like to drill down into this and discuss some specific examples of how we are taking pride in what we do and bringing that into our lab. For me, one of the first steps in demonstrating our core principle is the work and level of detail that we have put into our building. I have seen many examples over the years of labs that just set up shop in a building without regard to instrument operation, workflow or even projecting a professional appearance to clients. We have spent well over six months working with our architect, contractor, multiple consultants and our instrument manufacturers to design a lab consistent with the best operating principles, workflows, and instrument optimization. One key to producing consistent results is having consistent conditions. To this end we have optimized our HVAC and environmental control systems for maintaining consistent temperature, pressure, humidity, etc. These small variables can add up; the first step in any analytical process is weighing a sample out for analysis, but variations in conditions in the lab can affect the accuracy and precision of lab scales. As we continue through the analytical chain, dealing with very complex instrumentation able to detect molecules at parts per billion, any small change can potentially compromise results. To this end, in addition to trying to build the most stable environment we can, we are also implementing environmental monitoring throughout the lab to keep track of fluctuations so that we can find root causes when problems happen. We want to produce quality and consistent results and that requires attention to detail at every stage, even well before we have even opened the doors.

Another important consideration has been our selection of vendor partners. All cannabis testing labs in California are required to have ISO (International Organization of Standardization) accreditation, an internationally-recognized standard. Part of this standard is the vetting of vendors to ensure that all equipment and materials that are part of the testing process, and hence, results, are of the highest standard. We have carefully selected and vetted vendors for every aspect of our operations to find companies that share our values and want to see our success long-term. 

Alongside pride, another central value to our lab is quality. The concept of quality is codified in our Quality System, the code of our ethics, and behavior and responsibility to the client. While it is generally-accepted good practice to have a Quality System in any sort of production lab environment, I do not know that everyone takes these to heart and tries to embody these principles in every action. Our Quality System dictates every aspect of operations, from the moment our representative shows up at your facility to take a sample, to when we answer a phone call, to how we deal with and accept responsibility for our mistakes. Even with the best engineered systems, most diligent and thoughtful employees, and the best intentions, mistakes will happen. And in this business, those mistakes can cost people a lot of money. Part of the purpose of the Quality System is to minimize mistakes, but the more important part is that we take responsibility for these errors on the rare occasions that they happen, and we learn and grow from them. This makes us better and stronger and leads to improvements for our clients. 

To that point, another principle we believe in as an organization is transparency. There will be no black boxes here, no hiding behind the scientific veil. We encourage all of our clients to tour our facility and ask questions. We aim to educate everyone and will happily walk you through our processes and explain to you every detail of how your sample is handled and tested. We will always maintain open lines of communication with our clients because their success is our success. We are first and foremost client-centered and we aim to deliver the best possible experience to each and every client.

— Robert Goldman, Laboratory Director

Author

Robert Goldman

Dr. Goldman brings two decades of experience as a scientist and science educator to cannabis industry. While an undergrad, Dr. Goldman worked in several labs on projects ranging from studying the dive response of elephant seals to unraveling the genetics of mate choice in fruit flies. After being awarded his Ph.D., Dr. Goldman went onto postdoctoral appointments at the University of Texas, where he also served as a Lab Manager and then the University of Minnesota. Dr. Goldman is now looking forward to building an industry leading cannabis and hemp testing lab with the team at Pride Analytics and Consulting.