A Portland medical marijuana testing lab has been shut down for operating a marijuana business without a permit or a license, according to city officials.

ProVerde Laboratories, a Massachusetts-based cannabis, hemp and medical marijuana testing facility, was cited by the city’s permitting and inspection department and fire department on Dec. 14 for two code violations: operating without a permit, certificate of occupancy or business license, and operating a marijuana business without a license.

According to a notice of violation issued to ProVerde founder and Chief Scientific Officer Christopher Hudalla, the company has applied for a building permit to change the use at the 220 Industrial Way unit from a storage or warehouse to a laboratory, but the permit “is still in review and has not been approved or issued at this time.”

Because of the incomplete change-of-use process, Hudalla does not have city approval to operate a marijuana business, according to the violation notice, which also noted he had “yet to apply for a marijuana testing facility business license, even though (he) discussed the issue with Corporation Counsel in the spring of this year.”

Hudalla said in a phone interview that he was not aware licensing was required for medical marijuana testing, only recreational or adult-use, and is seeking clarification from officials. 

While the state Office of Marijuana Policy does not require testing in the medical marijuana program, and therefore does not formally license or register facilities, Portland does. 

According to city ordinance, “No individual or entity may operate a marijuana business within the City without first obtaining a license from the City.”

Until the code violations are addressed, ProVerde is prohibited from conducting business out of the space or in the city and must move all marijuana products off site. A reinspection is scheduled for Feb. 2. 

Hudalla said ProVerde did not lay off Portland staff when the Maine office closed and is “keeping them with the full intention of getting the doors back open as soon as possible.”

In the meantime, it cannot test Maine marijuana products in the Massachusetts lab, as the product cannot cross state lines, but it can test CBD and hemp.

“A lot of product on the (medical) market is not getting tested,” Hudalla said, adding that the laboratory has seen “substantial contamination” from pesticides in local samples. 

Maine forbids the use of high-risk pesticides in the growing process but does not test for them. 

According to David Heidrich, spokesperson for the Office of Marijuana Policy, testing within the medical market is, at this point, entirely voluntary, though one bill proposed in the upcoming legislative session would change that. 

The bill, proposed by Rep. Patricia Hymanson, D-York, would require testing and then labeling for toxins including poisons, pesticides, molds and more, as well as potency and profile, and would further align the state’s longtime medical market with the emerging adult-use program. 

At least seven establishments currently provide or will soon provide such services for medical marijuana-related businesses, according to Heidrich. 

Two of them, Catlab LLC in Eliot and Nova Analytics in Portland, have received conditional licenses from the state and local authorizations to conduct testing for the adult-use market, but only Nelson Analytical in Kennebunk has obtained an active license. 

ProVerde, which has been operating in Maine for roughly two years without a license, has been vocal about its hopes to break into the adult-use testing market in Maine. 

The company received a temporary adult-use testing license from the city in April, but the six-month license has since expired. 

Hudalla said ProVerde intends to seek another license, but “the process for application is pretty involved,” and both the closure and the coronavirus pandemic have hampered the process.

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