WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — For the last year, lab testing has been required for marijuana sold in Rhode Island compassion centers.
Though if recreational marijuana becomes legal, the volume of cannabis that will need to be tested will likely go up.
The co-founder of the newest testing lab in the state thinks his company in West Warwick is well-positioned for the next step and the next level of regulations.
“Upwards of 70% of legally available products are mislabeled, that’s a major problem in the industry,” Dr. Jason Iannuccilli said.
Iannuccilli and his team at Purevita Labs are hoping to fix that problem.
“Anywhere in the lab where marijuana is being handled is under strict surveillance so you’ll notice there are cameras everywhere the Department of Health and DBR have live feed video they can see everything that is going on in our lab,” he explained.
Three years ago Iannuccilli was a practicing physician, an interventional radiologist, when he said he realized the problem in the industry was that they were dealing with a lot of inaccuracy in labeling the products.
From there he and fellow physician Dr. Jonathan Martin, along with chemist Stuart Proctor, decided to shift their focus from practicing medicine and pursue their passion project.
Purevita is one of four licensed cannabis testing labs in Rhode Island. They perform testing for all three of the state’s licensed retail compassion centers and many of the nearly 70 licensed cultivators growing their own products and selling to those compassion centers.
“We think all labs should be testing cannabis in the best way possible based on science and it should be a standardized process and right now it’s very far from that,” Iannuccilli explained. “You’ll see news stories from all over the country where labs are getting their licenses revoked for falsifying results, they’re succumbing to the pressures of the industry.”
Proctor says it’s a real problem when people think they are taking one thing and it’s actually another.
“After actually understanding the chemistry that the cannabis material is, I figured I could offer a lot to the industry and more importantly, when I met Jason, we both had the same vision of generating a better industry where people can actually trust the products on the shelves,” he said.
Iannuccilli and his team spent a few years raising money from private investors to find the space and buy the equipment to open their lab last summer.
“We may not be the first state to legalize marijuana, but our goal is to do it in a way that is best for all of Rhode Islanders,” Rep. Joseph Shekarchi said during a previous legislative session.
Marijuana has been legal in Rhode Island for medicinal purposes since 2006. Iannuccilli says that is due in part of THC being overly emphasized as being the one substance of value in cannabis.
“I will tell you from a scientific standpoint that THC is only a fraction of the picture and there are other things in cannabis that are very beneficial from an anti-inflammatory standpoint, from a pain relief standpoint, so over emphasizing THC sort of incentivizes a lot of people in the industry to just pick the lab that is going to give them the highest THC value and it may be wildly inaccurate, which means an inaccurate label from the consumer,” he explained.
“It destroys the consumer’s experience and their trust in the industry in general so we are really focused on the integrity of the label and accuracy and we hope to set the standard,” Iannuccilli continued.
The Rhode Island Department of Health also requires lab representatives to travel to the manufacturing and cultivation facilities to acquire samples to be tested instead of growers dropping off cannabis at the labs.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of licensed marijuana labs and cultivators.