Lab technician Renee Ferrazzuolo visually inspects cannabis for foreign matter at ProVerde Laboratories. The lab on Industrial Way plans to apply for a temporary license to test adult use marijuana. Shawn Patrick Oullette / Portland Press Herald

PORTLAND — ProVerde Laboratories, a cannabis, hemp and medical marijuana testing facility on Industrial Way, has been eagerly awaiting the day it could begin testing adult use products.

On Monday, the City Council allowed companies to apply for temporary licenses to test adult use marijuana, the first step toward full licensure.

Testing is a “critical and necessary component of our adult use rollout,” according to Erik Gundersen, director of the state Office of Marijuana Policy.

That rollout has been in the works since Maine voters approved the legalization of marijuana for adult users in 2016.

“It was always our hope that Portland would opt into the adult recreational use market by now,” said Scott Eaton, manager of ProVerde’s Portland laboratory. “Frankly we have been disappointed it has taken so long.”

The council was supposed to act on the ordinance this spring, but then the coronavirus pandemic took priority.

The temporary licenses will expire six months after the city adopts a full licensing ordinance, which councilors could approve as soon as next month. A lab then would have to apply for a permanent licence. In order to get a temporary or permanent license, facilities must have plans in place for security, waste disposal and odor control and must meet state regulations as well as city building, safety and fire codes.

“We are ready to bring it back to you soon,” City Manager Jon Jennings told councilors Monday.

For the year and a half the Portland lab has been open, ProVerde has focused on medical marijuana testing and testing for the state of Maine’s hemp program, Eaton said, but it has readied itself for adult use marijuana testing and is looking to apply for one of the temporary testing licences.

Nova Analytics Labs on Milliken Street is in the midst of setting up to test both medical marijuana and adult use marijuana with one of the temporary licenses, managing founder Barry Chaffin said.

The opening of the adult use marijuana market was supposed to take place in March, but because of the current health crisis, it may be delayed until fall.

“(The Office of Marijuana Policy) has no intentions of issuing active licenses or setting a retail sales launch date amid a public health pandemic. We are simply trying to set the stage to launch this new industry as quickly as possible, once social distancing guidance allows. It is paramount to have these testing facilities in place to achieve that goal when the day comes,” Gundersen wrote in an April 9 correspondence to Portland City Councilors.

“At its highest level, the testing of adult use marijuana and marijuana products is critical to protecting public health and ensuring that information on product entering the stream of commerce is available for consumers to make informed choices,” Gundersen said.

Eaton agrees.

“Through our experience as this industry moves from birth to maturity, there is a lot of learning by customers and producers of the best practices. We at the lab want to make sure we aren’t just checking a box, but improving the products and ensuring public safety.”

Chaffin said testing labs serve as a “safety monitor” for the adult use marijuana industry and help track the health of product “from seed to sale.”

Maine voters legalized recreational marijuana for those 21 and older in 2016. After several years of debate at the state level about how that would work, a state law in June 2019 addressed how commercial enterprises can grow, manufacture, process and sell marijuana.

Those rules took effect in September 2019, but gave municipalities the ability to regulate the industry through local ordinances.

The City Council has limited the locations of adult use marijuana related businesses in Portland, restricting them to sections of Forest Avenue, St. John Street, Washington Avenue and parts of downtown.

Eaton anticipates a strong adult use marijuana market in Portland.

“I would think Portland would be primed to have a thriving market. There’s been a long history of growers and producers in the city and a large customer base waiting. It is just a matter of getting licenses up and running,” he said.

Chaffin is also optimistic.

“The city, legislators and people participating in the products – the growers, cultivators and distributors – have all been professional,” he said. “Everyone has a large interest and a desire to get this right. I think it is going to be very successful.”

Comments are not available on this story.