Transparent process: Labs necessary for medical marijuana industry
As business booms in the medical marijuana industry, so too do the number of ways to consume the product.
Chemical production labs are one segment of the growing cannabis industry in Oklahoma. Marijuana dispensaries throughout the state are selling products that require complex processes to isolate, extract and re-purpose THC for use in edibles, tinctures and vape pens. Those with the ability to do this are turning their skills into viable business opportunities.
Red Dirt Labs in Oklahoma City is one of these labs. Tommy and Shelly Gragg own the small business, which was planned and launched less than a year ago.
“We started planning in June and decided we wanted to get into processing,” Shelly said.
Tommy said he had no business experience with marijuana “beyond being an enthusiast.”
“Most of my life I was a roadie,” he said.
But he had a willingness to dive into the business, he said, and Red Dirt Labs began. Now, the company is building its client base, processing up to 600 pounds of marijuana a month into nearly 30,000 grams of THC.
The process requires a full laboratory operated by Lab Director Matthew Messuri. Messuri and lab tech Aiden Green work to break down the plant material in a number of ways to extract THC. The THC then can be dissolved into other products to create the tinctures, edibles or vape pens.
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Extracted THC is highly valuable. A Mason jar filled with the THC concentrate can be worth nearly $25,000, Shelly said.
This value creates a challenge for labs attempting to prevent a literal “skimming off the top.” Clients seek transparency from their processors as they rely on the lab to know how much THC their plants yield. Additionally, security measures must be in place at the lab to ensure an employee doesn’t walk off with thousands of dollars of product.
Some businesses are working to vertically integrate their production. To reduce risk and lower costs these business owners are choosing to grow, process and sell their own products.
But others use the services of places like Red Dirt Labs for processing needs. THC is most concentrated in the bud, or flower, of the marijuana plant, but it is found in other parts as well. Growers can sell bud for a premium without any processing, and labs like the Graggs’ can purchase and process what is commonly called “the clippings.”
The Graggs are working to address security concerns by taking a transparent approach to their inventory logs for client inspection. As for employees, the company currently employs about 15 full- and part-time individuals, many of whom are family.
“We are family-owned and we have a lot of family members who work here,” Tommy said.
“We are trying to cultivate a team spirit, which translates to our business dealings as well,” Shelly said.