Cannabusiness 101: Juniper Labs

Juniper Labs reminded me that in the old days when cannabis was illegal.

People were usually forced to smoke whatever came across the table. If it smelled good and was dense enough, people would buy as much as possible. There was no thought of pesticides or terpene profiles, only the hope that this batch would medicate quickly. I didn’t understand (nor did those around me at the time) what to look for in quality cannabis. It took research to learn that the sparkling and crackling of cannabis is not a sign of it being ‘fresh’. Cannabis legalization and the work done at Juniper Labs is a big part of the reason I am learning so much about cannabis science and getting to share it with everyone.

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Today, cannabis consumption is legal in my state for anyone over 21.

Instead of dealing with questionable characters and crazy long wait times, people are able to enter dispensaries like Central Organics and choose from a variety of options. Options like over a dozen varieties of flower, edibles from caramel corn to ice cream and even single serving gummies. There are also a variety of potencies within categories which add to the depth of the dispensaries offerings.

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All of those options have to be tested at a laboratory that has been certified and accredited.

Juniper Labs exceed international accreditation standards. They have gone through intense scrutiny and licensing through associations like NELAP (National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program) and ORELAP (Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program). After getting their accreditation squared away, a lab can be used to perform a whole battery of tests. Anything that people eat, drink, smoke, or use in America has to be tested before it can be sold. Much of that testing is done through Juniper Labs.

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I have fantasized about working in a lab since I was a child.

When I think of labs as an adult, I get a mental image of people in long, white coats pouring brightly colored fluids between beakers while machines hum and buzz inside a bright white room. I imagine places where toxic chemicals are stored in uniquely shaped and colored bottles. I also imagine microscopes that capture life at levels that make you question reality. Basically, I imagine a wizards’ secret sanctum. The clean and studious kind. One where knowledge is gained and shared, not hoarded.

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I found out that an old friend of mine works at Juniper Labs.

We have kept in contact after school and when he told me about what he does, my mind went overboard. I knew this was going to be my best chance to get into a working lab and see for myself what it was like. I wanted to do more than take a tour though, I wanted to share my experience. With my friends help, I got permission to take my camera and check the place out. The experience was one that I will never forget.

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Juniper Labs just moved into a new building and while it is a ‘fully operational’ laboratory station, they are still working on moving in.

I was initially greeted by my friend as I entered the lobby. After we caught up and got all checked in, we started my guided tour of the facility. The lobby was in the process of getting new hardware installed as the previous tenants had taken some questionable items before vacating the building. My guide ensured me that hospitality is the next phase of their renovations.

There were several offices behind the lobby where most of the client consultations happen.

The offices provided privacy and confidentiality while remaining clean and professional. I can imagine all the paperwork and clients a facility like this deals with so having enough offices on hand for consultations and support staff makes a lot of sense.

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I asked about the accreditation for Juniper Labs.

I learned that when early recreational sales end in October, any recreational product testing lab is going to need accreditation from a national association decided by the state.The cutoff for the accreditation is October but there will be a grace period that extends it a bit. Currently, Juniper Analytics is currently working on getting the required paperwork done to test recreational products. According to all reports, they will be ready when the deadline arrives.

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That means that when the deadline hits, there is going to be a lot more people needing testing than there will be facilities available.

The October lab rule changes will also come right after the Oregon outdoor harvest which is the busiest time of the year for labs anyway. The prospect of having week long wait times between dropping a sample off and getting a result is not unrealistic.

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In preparation for this change, actions have been taken.

Juniper Labs is streamlining their processes and cutting the actual testing time down of mold and mildew from 3 days to 5 minutes per sample. They are accomplishing this drastic upgrade in several ways including investing, streamlining and optimizing the way they do science. The overall cost associated with their improvements is staggering, reaching far beyond the million-dollar mark.

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Initially, they are investing in more and better equipment.

This includes additional stations for lab personnel to process and stage the tests they do. Think assembly line. Instead of one person taking the sample from start to finish, each tech will complete a process and hand it off to the next person in line. For this to happen, the lab needs to have enough copies of key equipment to prevent a holdup. That can be quite the budget requirement with some pieces of equipment costing six digits apiece.

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The second way they are working to meet the demands of the market is by streamlining and optimizing their processes.

Instead of having to change things around for each sample coming through, the assembly line layout makes it so downtime between tests is minimized. Because the techs will only be doing a specific part of the tests, they won’t have to swap equipment to start the next sample. They simply clean the machine and start the process over. With some machines taking more than an hour to get going and shut down, getting to skip the setup between steps will save massive amounts of time but also assist in maintaining consistency between samples.

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As I progressed through the lab, I had to pinch myself from time to time.

Everything seemed surreal and when I finally saw the nitty-gritty of the lab, I nerdgasmed. It was just like in my fantasies! Even the microscope and chemicals were there in all their glory. The place was set up with beakers for days, specialized equipment I couldn’t operate if my life depended on it and mixed in with the rest was even a super powerful microscope!

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One element that was a real treat to see was the scale.

The clear case around the platform was my first clue that it was special. Upon closer inspection, I saw my beliefs validated as I saw the display show four numbers after the decimal. My own scale at home is able to go to the second decimal level which meant that this was more than 100x more accurate than mine. It is so sensitive that it can register the change in air pressure caused by breath over a meter away.

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The incredible sensitivity of the scale is the main reason for the protective case but what isn’t easily seen is the stability of the table it sits on.

With the level of accuracy that a lab deals with, if the vibrations of footsteps through the concrete and up the steel legs and across the surface of the table were not dealt with, they would never get a usable reading. The redundant shock absorption needed to make sure the scale is working would make most people throw their hands up in frustration.

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The lab techs make sure all of their work is accurate to the point of ridiculousness.

They perform work that people like you and me will likely never achieve enough technical expertise to do poorly much less flawlessly. My fantasies of being a scientist working at a lab might stay fantasies forever but getting to see the stomping ground of real-world hardcore science was inspiring.

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If you need lab work done or cannabis tested, give Juniper Labs a chance.

You can get ahold of them anytime by email: juniperlabs@juniperanalyticsllc.com or while they are in the lab by phone: 541-382-3796. Now that they have their new procedures and equipment in place, turnaround on sample testing will be on a whole new level. With all the work they are putting into providing a fast and reliable experience, they are continually trying to earn the business of every client. Until next time, thanks for reading.

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