Council permits miniscule marijuana testing at ISO certified Clovis labs

At its Nov. 6 meeting, the Clovis city council made a minor exception to its firm stance on marijuana by voting to allow Clovis-based ISO labs to test marijuana on behalf of the State of California. (Photo by Daniel Leon/Clovis Roundup)

Though voters statewide have spoken and adult recreational marijuana use is now legal in California, the City of Clovis has remained adamant in its stance barring commercial marijuana businesses. The fear is such businesses, in particular retail-based dispensaries or larger scale growers, would present safety concerns within the city currently known as one of the safest in the Valley.

On Nov. 6, council members did not back down in this firm stance against marijuana business, but did decide to make a very minor exception to its no commercial marijuana policy by voting to allow ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certified chemistry laboratories within the city—of which there are currently two—to test small amounts of marijuana on behalf of the state as a portion of their business.

The decision comes on the heels of recent requests made by the state to at least one of the Clovis labs. The state has also approached other such labs throughout California, as with the passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act the state does want to regulate the quality of cannabis to ensure there are no contaminants in the semi-legal (still illegal federally) drug.

Though it’s possible other chemistry labs could conduct the testing, Andy Haussler, the city’s director of community and economic development, and city attorney David Wolf, explained to the council that having the ISO certified requirement as part of the ordinance would create a strict barrier of entry into the field of marijuana testing as the certification is difficult for laboratories to gain.

Additionally, to mitigate safety concerns, the special amendment to the ordinance states the police chief would establish and enforce regulations on the operation as pertains to the testing of marijuana.

Haussler said he recently toured one of the Clovis labs with Police Chief Matt Basgall, who gave the operation his stamp of approval. Haussler explained members of the public could not gain access to the facility, as even he and the chief had to sign in before being escorted behind locked doors. There is also strict monitoring of who handles what samples when so at any given time it would be known where a test tube containing marijuana is. Those under 21 would also not be permitted to examine marijuana in the lab.

“I appreciated having the police chief present at the lab and he is very confident in the security measures in place and controls in place on who handles the material,” Haussler said. “It does not appear to be a risk to public safety … within the ordinance there is pretty detailed regulations on safety controls, including the police chief being able to regulate the security measures taking place at the facility and amount of testing that is done.”

Haussler also described the quantities that would be tested as “pencil eraser sized”—just enough to fit into the bottom of a test tube.

Though leery of allowing even this minor commercial use, the council decided to trust the recommendation of staff and approve the exception to the ordinance.

“I’m going to go with the ISO certification is so hard to get that that in itself is a barrier to entry,” councilmember Lynne Ashbeck said.