OAKLAND — The mere existence of the Steep Hill Lab presents a pointed question: How safe is the marijuana provided to hundreds of thousands of medical pot users in California?
The Oakland laboratory, started in 2008 by two former growers, has tested 12,000 pot samples to assure marijuana businesses that their product isn't tainted by dangerous toxic molds or pesticides.
Nearly 50 medical marijuana dispensaries and pot-growing networks contract with the lab, California's most renowned cannabis testing location.
Tens of thousands of dollars in medical marijuana can be rendered useless if samples are found to contain toxins that could trigger respiratory infections, sinusitis or worse.
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There is no Food and Drug Administration for marijuana. So the private lab fills a profitable niche in a trade operating without regulatory oversight.
"This is a success story of self-regulation," said Addison DeMoura, Steep Hill Lab's co-founder. "We want people to produce cannabis that they would give to the dearest person they love."
No state rules in California require medical marijuana be tested. While few pot businesses want a rap of toxic weed, no inspection regimen ensures they remove tainted products.
Steep Hill Lab says 3 percent of the pot it tests has unsafe mold levels under general guidelines for herbal products. Eighty-five percent shows traces of mold.
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