Juniper Analytics, one of 20 marijuana testing laboratories licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and one of two in Bend, is doing a booming business, said Stan Hammett, the company operations director.
All marijuana and marijuana products must be tested at an accredited, licensed laboratory prior to their sale to consumers. Oregon requires marijuana growers and processors to test their products for potency, pesticides, solvents, water content and contaminants like mold and mildew.
Increasingly, Hammett said, the cannabis industry is turning to added-value characteristics like terpene profiles as a selling point. Terpenes are the fragrant oils that give specific marijuana strains their distinctive odors. Cannabis testing labs like Juniper Analytics, while they make no claims about the effects terpenes have, are making profit by providing data on terpene content, Hammett said.
Testing labs are a business, and so procedures developed in-house are closely held, he said. That’s one drawback in a field that relies on scientific methods to advance a nascent industry. Hammett, 31, discussed his role at Juniper Analytics with The Bulletin. His responses have been edited for length and content.
Q: What is your responsibility?
A: Basically we have two directors on site, a laboratory director and then myself. My role is more geared toward customer service and sales for the clients that we do have, and onboarding new clients. There’s 88 pages of rules that are in place for the cannabis industry, and it’s a whole lot to digest.
Q: What sort of business experience did you bring to Juniper Analytics?
A: I’ve always worked sales and service. I started as a kid running a video game store. I was a supervisor at T-Mobile. I’ve managed customer service teams remotely for Apple Inc. I actually ran, also, the Dairy Queen in Redmond for a couple of years. Carl (Carnagey, the Juniper Analytics CEO) was an old friend of mine who reached out and said, “Hey, I’m looking for somebody that’s going to be right for a spot.”
I think really the biggest skills I transferred actually came from Apple Inc. and T-Mobile. Both of those brands do such a good job creating relationships with clients, but they create relationships with clients around products and services, rather than personal relationships.
Q: Were you cannabis friendly prior to the business coming to fruition, or was this a change of gears or mindset for you?
A: It’s interesting because I mean, you know, as a kid and stuff you always have your wild side or whatever. But when I moved out here I really focused on career and family development. The funny thing is that I actually didn’t think about it at all, but once (legalization) happened, it felt so natural, like it should have been that way the whole time.
Q: You mentioned being liaison for high-caliber clients, people in the cannabis industry. Are there characteristics that define those people?
A: The surprising thing about it is you do have your kind of kooky, you know, that stereotypical cannabis person. But truthfully it’s been people who are very, very down to earth. They’re very, very interested in doing this right, and that is a breath of fresh air.
There’s still a stigma about it, and I think the business people are approaching it as, “now we’re gonna do this the right way; we’re gonna follow the rules; we’re gonna stick to focusing on public health and clean and safe products.” I think that the more of those people that we have the further that this industry is going to go and that stigma will eventually dissipate.
Q: In the lab, you have to have at least a bachelor’s degree to work here?
A: We found that cannabis is exceedingly difficult when it comes to analytics. Part of the reason why is that no research had been done on it, so we’re kind of hitting the ground running. There’s so many compounds in cannabis that sometimes the data can be exceedingly difficult to break down. You’re dealing with potentially hundreds of terpenes, multiple different cannabinoids — we’re testing for eight right now, we’re testing for 40 terpenes right now and then there’s the 40-odd some pesticides we have to screen for and then the list of solvents.
Q: If the folks in the lab are any indication, it’s a pretty casual atmosphere.
A: We definitely try to go for that best-place-to-work mentality. Being a small business and the demanding work that we do, it’s very much very laid back, very casual, but everybody works just as hard as they play, which is something we’re very proud of.
Q: What type of benefits package do you offer employees?
A: We do have outstanding benefits. Our owners treat us incredibly well. We have very generous time-off packages and lots of little things. We have medical, vision and dental. We’re currently hashing out retirement plans and all of that. Carl, our CEO, he’s very, very big on what he considers the European way of working. We work 35-hour weeks for the most part, hour lunches, but on the other side of that, when you’re here, it’s time. We have a mission and we’re going to accomplish it.
Q: How much of what the consumer pays at the retail counter is a factor of the cost of testing?
A: It’s tough (to know precisely). Terpenes is a great example. Terpene profiles, it’s kind of the buzzword of the industry where you can mark that product up, really as much as you want by leveraging, hey, this plant’s 6 percent of this terpene and here’s the effect of that. I’d have to do the math. However, what I can say is we are doing a full-compliance bundle (of tests) on (dried, cured marijuana) flower for $315 and that will cover up to a 15-pound batch of a strain of flower.
Q: What is the average pass/fail rate on product testing?
A: It has gotten so much better, truthfully. But I would say, right now, it’s pretty low, 20 percent (failure) or less for flower. I would say for concentrate you’d be 35ish percent.
Q: Where do you see the business in three to five years?
A: Interesting question. It depends on regulation. If nationwide (legalization) comes, Oregon will probably be quite the exporter thanks to the climate that we have for cannabis and cannabis products. We have grown exceedingly fast over the last couple of years. I mean we’re seeing 200 to 300 percent (growth) year over year (in revenue). I do anticipate that we’ll start to see, not a flat line, but we’ll see a little bit of a plateau.
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org