Utilizing their vast experience in high complexity laboratory tests, ACS developed proprietary testing methodologies which created enhanced detection ability and improved accuracy. They firmly believe that without standards, compliance measures and proper methods, cannabis and hemp testing would pose numerous threats to the public consumer or patient.

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AUTHOR: Heather Allman

PUBLISHER: CANNABIS LAW REPORT

QUALITY SEEKS QUALITY: ACS LABORATORY ACQUIRES BOTANICA TESTING

An Interview with ACS President, Roger Brown 

 

ACS Laboratory President, Roger Brown

 

COMPANY INTRODUCTION 

Here’s a video about ACS Laboratory USDA compliant tests, and a link to the ACS blog with up-to-date information on cannabis science and lab testing for both the hemp and cannabis industries.

ABOUT ACS LABORATORY

ACS Laboratory prides itself on providing stellar customer service, exceeding industry standards, highly reproducible quality results in a regulated environment.

ACS Laboratory is the leading provider of Cannabis and HEMP/CBD laboratory testing services in Florida.  Founded in 2008, the ISO17025, AHCA and CLIA Accredited Laboratory is also DEA licensed and uses state-of-the-art ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC/MSMS, GC/MS and ICP/MS) technology.

 

ACS Laboratory

 

Utilizing their vast experience in high complexity laboratory tests, ACS developed proprietary testing methodologies which created enhanced detection ability and improved accuracy. They firmly believe that without standards, compliance measures and proper methods, cannabis and hemp testing would pose numerous threats to the public consumer or patient.

A BANNER YEAR

January 16, 2020: ACS Laboratory Achieves Top 5% in the U.S. for Cannabis/Hemp Testing in 2019

—March 23, 2020: ACS Laboratory deemed Essential Service Provider

June 22, 2020: ACS Acquires Botanica Testing

—June 26, 2020: Florida Department of Health-Approved 

As COVID-19 ramped up in Spring, a ray of light appeared in the cannabis industry. On March 23, 2020, the offical announcement that ACS Laboratory was deemed an Essential Service Provider was released. 

A fire has now ignited and revealed the innovative future of cannabis lab testing. After a couple of months operating as an essential service in Florida, on June 22, 2020, ACS Acquired Botanica Testing. Quality seeks quality, after all, according to my recent interview with Roger Brown, President of ACS Laboratory.

 

Botanica Testing, based in Florida

 

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

On June 30, 2020, I spoke with Roger and focused my discussion on the strategic Acquisition of Botanica Testing by ACS Laboratory, as announced by Hemp Grower on June 22, 2020. This acquisition expands the multi-state reach of ACS in the hemp and CBD market, as they offer an extensive range of quality, reproducible testing options at a cost value to their clients due to the volume of testing they perform.  

CLR: How did this acquisition come about? Please expand on the acquisition of Botanica Testing and explain your role in Florida’s medical cannabis program?

RB: “As they say, quality seeks quality. We’ve been friends with the owners of Botanica Testing and they already had a strong reputation in the hemp testing sphere for quality testing, but their hemp testing was hit hard by COVID-19, just like the hemp market itself. One day, I casually saidLet me buy your company,’ and the answer from Botanica was: ‘Sure. No problem.’ And here we are.” 

With that simple yet powerful reply, one of the largest and most innovative testing shifts in the cannabis market occurred on June 22, 2020 with the announcement that ACS Laboratory Acquires Botanica Testing.

As a DEA and AHCA-licensed cannabis testing facility, this move fortified ACS Laboratory’s position as the largest provider of extensive, thorough, reproducible cannabis testing. Botanica Testing aligns with ACS’s high quality standards and ongoing U.S. expansion plans.

CLR: Explain the term “reproducible” as it applies to testing?

RB: “When it comes to any type of lab testing, the words ‘different results’ are a misnomer. Reproducibility in the lab testing, often referred to as ‘consistency’ in the Cannabis space, is absolutely achievable. Each lab test result must be able to be successfully reproduced, at high volumes and with accurate results.” 

CLR: With the acquisition, ACS Laboratory also added Botanica’s portfolio of 500 clients and reputation for quality. Why choose ACS?

RB: “Botanica chose ACS as a suitor because they felt the quality of work we perform exceeded any other competitors and they wanted a good home for their existing clients. We are proud to welcome these new clients into the family with our award-winning testing services. We called every client and were able to show the value of our quality at a much lower cost because of the high volume of testing we perform. Most of our clients switched their testing over right away when they saw value in quality provided and money saved in testing costs. 

CLR: How many of your clients are in Florida?

RB: “About 50% of our clients.”

CLR: What “quality of work” did Botanica excel at that ACS wanted to be a part of?

RB: “Botanica Testing Inc. has a reputation for impeccable quality in hemp testing, mainly, which aligns with ACS’s standards and ongoing expansion throughout Florida and the United States. In its search for a trusted buyer, Botanica sought ACS Laboratory to provide their clients with the level of service and quality they deserve. The Botanica agreement is the first step in a larger ACS journey to acquire reputable companies across the United States and have the largest footprint of any cannabis and hemp testing laboratory, bar none. Right now, only California has a larger testing facility, but they had quite a head start.”

 

Inside ACS Laboratory State-of-the-Art Facility

 

CLR: In your 17,500 square foot state-of-the-art facility outside of Tampa here in Florida —the largest in physical size outside of California— what exact measures do you utilize to test cannabis? 

RB: We test for potency in Biomass, Flower, Trim, Extracts, Crude Oil, Isolates, Distillates, Edibles, Manufactured and Complex products like Patches, Aerosols and Nano Water. 

As a rule, ACS tests for 17 different cannabinoids, terpenes, residual solvents, pesticides, moisture, water activity microbiology including mold, mildew, e.coli, pathogens, mycotoxins, plant regulators, heavy metals, flavonoids, micronutrients, PAH, and even bioanalysis for pharmacokinetics (PK) study of THC (human trials).”

Shortly after the Botanica acquisition, on June 26, 2020, South Florida CityBizList reported the exciting news that Florida Department of Health Announces ACS is One of Only Two Testing Labs Approved by Florida DOH:

ACS Laboratory, the top-ranking laboratory for precision testing and recipient of the most Emerald Test™ Badges in the country for cannabis testing facilities, today announced the Florida Department of Health Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) approved and certified its laboratory to test final product for medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs)

This in-depth certification process proves ACS Laboratory will raise the bar in testing to ensure cannabis patients receive safe, quality products. As such, ACS Laboratory can expand on its mission to serve the industry and be The Most Trusted Cannabis and Hemp Laboratory in the USA™” (LINKED IN)

The key takeaway here concerning ACS Laboratory before we move on? 

There has been a slow shift to better quality, identically reproducible cannabis testing throughout the industry, but it seems that after ACS Laboratory rolled Botanica Testing into their existing lab operations, this movement towards ultimate quality cannabis testing fully ignited, and the acquisition was noticed. 

DOWNLOAD: 23-Page Florida Department of Health PDF Document here to read the stringent “Requirements for Certified Marijuana Testing Laboratories servicing in MMTC’s in Florida” that ACS Laboratory successfully achieved to be awarded this specialized CMTL license.

 

State of Florida Department of Health

 

Most notably, the acquisition of Botanica and resulting increased value of ACS Laboratory was immediately noticed by the State of Florida. They have recently announced that all MMTCs have until December of this year to sell off any cannabis products tested before June 24, 2020. This is a new rule that went into effect mere days after ACS Laboratory acquired Botanica Testing.

Coincidence? A random date choice for sale of cannabis products tested before June 24?

I think not. In my opinion, with the acquisition of ACS Laboratory, the State of Florida has decided to shift gears and raise the cannabis testing bar to new heights. 

 

Emerald Scientific Proficiency Testing

 

ACS Laboratory started this year out with a bang. On January 16, 2020, ACS Laboratory Achieves Top 5% in the U.S. for Cannabis/Hemp Testing in 2019, receiving 21 Emerald Test Badges “for excellence in hemp and cannabis quality testing in 2019; ACS has garnered more recognition for quality, accuracy, consistency and proficiency in testing than any other laboratory in the Southeastern United States.”

The Emerald Test™ is an Inter-Laboratory Comparison and Proficiency Test (ILC/PT) program for cannabis testing facilities. It brings to the cannabis/hemp industry a well-established standard for testing found in the environmental, food, pharmaceutical, water, and petrochemical testing industries.

Through the participation of labs around the world, the ILC/PT helps establish an industry benchmark for cannabis/hemp compliance testing and ensures the end consumer receives a safe, non-toxic product through third party independent laboratory compliance testing is vital to any operating cannabis/hemp business.

CLR: Your ACS laboratory was recently awarded the most Emerald Test Badges in the country for cannabis testing facilities. Tell me a little about the 21 Emerald Test Badges and what they represent.

RB: “Every testing lab has some sort of inner-lab proficiency test using known testing standards and protocols. The Emerald Badges are inter-laboratory awards given twice a year for quality and reproducibility of testing. The Emerald Test holds you to the highest standards available in cannabis lab testing, rather than the highest standards  traditionally expected.”

Emerald Test Badges Example

 

CLR: How will your experiences and your acquisition of Botanica help you to maintain ACS Lab’s Top 5% quality and consistency status here in Florida?  

RB: “Our current goal is not to be in the top 5% next time, but rather to be at the top, number one in quality, reproducible testing. In the Cannabis space, they call it ‘consistency.’ However, in the lab and testing space, we call this ‘reproducibility.’ There should be no variance in the results from one brand’s lab tests to the next. We have proven time and again that quality and reproducibility are achievable in the cannabis space.”

 

ACS Receives 21 Emerald Test Badges for 2019

 

CLR: Mainly, there are two distinct kinds of hemp/cannabis: compassionate or patient-centric and capitalistic or profit-centric. How do you reconcile the two in order to maintain a balance?

RB: “We strive to be quality-centric, to have a quality-centric balance in everything we do.

CLR: With your new acquisition of Botanica, what mark do you strive to make in the Florida and national Cannabis space?

RB: Quality, reproducible lab testing being the norm and not the exception in the long term, but ultimately, the focus of ACS Laboratory is to continue to support and enhance the ability for cannabis companies and brands to deliver clean, safe products. And to do so in a manner that promotes positive standards throughout the industry.”

CLR: What are the top 3 core values at ACS and how does Botanica align with the ACS Laboratory mission? 

RB: “Quality, Value, and Reproducibility, meaning reliability of exact testing with exact results on every single test we perform. We offer the highest, most reliable, accurate quality testing using our own SOPs and protocols and offering the best cost value available.”  

 

2019 Vape Crisis

 

RAPID RESPONSE

CLR: Tell me a little bit about your 2019 Vape Crisis response and why specifically did ACS Laboratory take action in this way?

RB: Our expert scientific team was able to react quickly to the recent wave of “vape-related illnesses” and developed the first of its kind Vitamin E Acetate panel to ensure products are ‘VAPE SAFE.’ ACS Laboratory also created a proprietary test for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), a class of carcinogenic chemicals sometimes found in extracts.

ACS Laboratory has always been on the cutting edge of technology. When there are issues that arise in the marketplace, we are quick to devise a solution. When the vape crisis occurred we created a testing solution that was overwhelmingly utilized by growers and manufacturers to ensure their product was safe. Even those that thought their products were safe had them tested to certify that they were indeed safe and provided those results through transparency to consumers.”

2020 COVID-19 Coronavirus Crisis

 

CLR: During the current COVID-19 crisis, you’ve been deemed essential service. What responsibility comes with that? What role are you playing during this pandemic?

RB: “ACS Laboratory takes the responsibility seriously to provide accurate and consistent results. As an essential service we continued to provide the level of customer service necessary for our clients. Because we are a medical grade facility, we practice all safety methods on a daily basis before and after COVID-19.”

CLR: Why is testing more crucial right now than ever?

RB: “Just like COVID-19, underlying issues could cause the virus to have exponentially negative results. Contaminants in cannabis can have the same exponential negative effect. It is more important than ever to have the products tested and certified safe.”

CLR: In the June 2020 edition of Cannabis Business Times, 34% of respondent consumers have been using more cannabis since the COVID-19  crisis began. With the COVID-19 pandemic creating demand for different delivery methods, has this need for testing of PAH increased?

RB: “PAH testing is not required by any governmental authority but in fact is being implemented by growers and manufacturers to go beyond the levels of modern-day compliance and demonstrate to consumers and patients that their products are exceptionally safe. ACS Laboratory has several clients that perform testing beyond the scope of regulatory compliance to ensure they have the best products available to the public.”

CLR: Give me one example of a future ACS goal to show leadership in the fledgling US and Florida cannabis.

RB: Well, we were finally issued our Florida Department of Health license as a quality, accurate, reliable cannabis testing lab. This is a different kind of cannabis license, very specific. This is a milestone for us because they were one-year late in issuing the license, but we were one of only two labs in the State of Florida to receive this license. But what it all boils down to is trust, who you trust — and trust truly is the most important factor.

When you go to the grocery store and pick up a can of Campbell’s Soup, no one picks up a can of Campbell’s Soup and says ‘No, I really don’t believe what that says on the label’ and questions the amount of sodium in the soup or how many carbohydrates the soup has in it. Nobody really does that because they trust the brand. And that is where cannabis is moving, into that space where people have to trust brands and know that the brands themselves use a quality lab to do their testing and that their label claims are correct because there is accuracy and transparency. 

It really all just comes down to trust, built over a period of time, and the consumer is going to get there. It [Cannabis] is going to get there, because the consumer in this space is a very educated consumer and they like transparency. And transparency in this space is so, so important. Quality testing, accurate labeling, they want to know that brand’s landing is correct. Letting them see the lab results. Letting them see the label claims. Letting them see everything is very educational for the consumer, because they’re very educated about what it is that they’re consuming.

With every one of our lab reports, we generate a QR code. And we encourage our clients to place that QR code prominently on their product packaging, and the consumer can just scan that code and pull the matching test results right up out of our server, so we are completely transparent to the consumer. And that translates into tremendous volume as far as level of trust, where they can see the complete transparency of the product they are purchasing.”

Sample QR Code Linked to Lab Test Results

 

CLR:  As an insight to readers, do you do consumer testing?

RB: “ACS is only allowed to consumer potency testing hemp based products. They are prohibited from accepting marijuana samples from any party other than a licensed grower or law enforcement.”

CLR: Any parting words of wisdom or advice do you want to offer to other individuals and companies in the Florida cannabis and hemp space?

RB: “In the quality and trust space, there is no shortcut. You really just have to always take the high road and do things the right way. And if you do things the right way, then everything comes to you because you are the best, you’re the gold standard. Because there are no shortcuts.”