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Cannabis testing labs band together; plus, the deadline to apply for a retail license nears

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In a previous Green Zone artcile, we wrote about Trace Analytics, a Spokane-based lab that, though the state doesn't require it, has begun to test cannabis for pesticides.

According to a recent Leafly.com story, Trace and the state's other labs are now taking that vow to test cannabis even further by creating the Washington Cannabis Laboratory Association, a self-policing lab group.

The association, which grew from a meeting between Washington's 11 licensed cannabis testing labs and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, came about after the marijuana industry faced allegations of labs approving samples that should have failed.

The group hopes that self-policing will increase the level of quality control and consistency among labs, and take some of the pressure to monitor labs off of state regulators.

"They're trying, but they don't have a lot of science staff," Trace Analytics CEO Gordon Fagras tells Leafly. "I don't think they have any science staff. They rely on us, and that's why we have to be better."

The WCLA is not completely independent, though. The RJ Lee Group, which oversees state lab accreditation, will act as a referee for the association's proficiency testing, and the Liquor and Cannabis Board will handle enforcement should problems arise.

In other news, the Liquor and Cannabis Board will stop accepting applications for retail licenses on March 31 at 5 pm.

The board began accepting applications in October to make room for the expected increase in demand after the medical side of the industry merges with the recreational side in July.

In January, the board increased the cap on retail marijuana shops from 334 to 556. As laid out in the 2015 Cannabis Patient Protection Act, the board divided applicants for those additional licenses into groups, based on a three-tier priority system.

Though applications are still being accepted, shops have a slim chance of getting a license unless they receive a priority one or two ranking.

"We are at the point where the number of highest priority applicants will exceed the number of available retail licenses," WSLCB Licensing Division Director Becky Smith said in a press release. "We'll meet the retail cap with priority ones and twos that we're already processing."

The board says priority two and three applicants can get a refund if they withdraw their applications. ♦