After an anonymous phone call alleged that Rapid Analytics cannabis testing lab was not conducting the proper procedure for pesticides, the Mississippi State Department of Health placed an administrative hold on all medical-cannabis products that underwent testing at the Natchez, Miss., based facility, lab spokesperson Mamie Henry said.

“They have no basis for anything, except an anonymous call, which has shut the entire industry down pretty much because we do 70% of the testing for the state,” Henry told the Crirec on Thursday.

Dispensaries cannot sell any cannabis that Rapid Analytics tested until MSDH provides further instruction.

“Dispensaries have been notified by the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program of the products that can’t be sold while the hold and retesting takes place. No Dispensaries have been asked to close and it is not all products (that are on hold),” a statement emailed to the Crirec on Friday said.

Wednesday morning, MSDH emailed Rapid Analytics to tell them about the anonymous tip, and both groups had an “emergency Zoom meeting” to review the lab’s procedures and cannabis-testing reports from the past couple of months, Henry said.

Mississippi has two medical-cannabis testing labs: Rapid Analytics and Steep Hill Mississippi in Jackson, Miss. All cannabis that Steep Hill has tested is still considered safe for patients to consume.

Cultivators, or cannabis growers, must send their products to at least one of the testing labs before they can sell the medical-cannabis to dispensaries. Some cultivators choose to send their products to both companies for testing, like 74 Suns in Canton, Miss., consultant Hardy Case said. All of 74 Suns’ medical-cannabis is still good to sell and will be on dispensary shelves since Steep Hill approved the products, he added.

“The dispensaries, a lot of them right now, have products on their shelves that have already been tested and passed, but now because of the administrative hold, they can’t sell it,” Case told the Crirec on Dec. 21. “It’s just sitting there, even though that product may be perfectly fine.”

Henry assured patients, cultivators and dispensary owners that the lab is “dealing with it very, very, very rapidly” and “very professionally to ensure that the state opens up as quickly as possible.” Rapid Analytics is retesting all cannabis samples, even though MSDH does not require them to do extra analysis, she added.

“We are the most respected and most used lab in the entire state, and so I don’t know who would make this ‘anonymous’ call,” Henry said.

‘Nightmare Scenario’

Getting into the Mississippi medical-cannabis industry is an expensive, difficult process, and having issues from one of the state’s two testing labs can be detrimental to patients and small dispensaries, Hardy Case said.

“We’ve had so many hurdles to jump through as a state and as an industry as a whole in Mississippi, so it’s just really disappointing that whatever happened with Rapid Analytics wasn’t handled immediately and rectified so the patients wouldn’t basically be hit with a huge shortage,” he said.

Dispensaries and cultivators are waiting for MSDH to give guidance on how to retest or discard medical-cannabis products from Rapid Analytics. Mamie Henry said the lab has sent verification of its protocols to MSDH.

“We’d all love to have it rectified by tomorrow, but it’s unfortunately now out of our hands,” she said on Thursday. “But we have provided everything to the state to prove that everything we’re doing is correct.”

Having product delays or recalls is never optimal, but Case said the improper-protocol claims could not have come at a worse time of year. Henry said the complaint seemed to be “strategically timed” with Christmas on Monday.

Since the holidays are approaching, Case said patients who are trying to stock up on cannabis might have trouble finding what they need at their local dispensaries because of the lab’s recall.

“It’s really kind of a nightmare scenario for many dispensaries and patients too because there are lots of patients, and most people in Mississippi … live in rural areas, so if you’re in an area where (dispensaries) are scarce, then they’re shut down, then that’s going to cause people to drive a lot more,” he said, adding that many patients who use medical cannabis cannot drive at all.

Unfortunately, Case said, some cultivators and dispensaries may suffer permanently because of the product hold.

“I’ve talked to one of my employees this morning, he went to a dispensary locally, and they didn’t have any product,” he said on Thursday. “It may cause some dispensaries to actually shut down. It’s going to cause them to lose several weeks of sales.”

Case also moderates the We Are the 74 Facebook page, a group where medical-cannabis patients, supporters, investors, dispensary owners, cultivators and testing lab employees share information about the program. Dispensary owners and cultivators have been posting whether they are open and their hours of operation.

The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program issued a statement on Dec. 21 informing patients of the medical-cannabis product hold.

“To protect the health and safety of medical cannabis patients, an administrative hold has been placed on a large number of medical cannabis products until retesting can be conducted to ensure the various products meet regulatory standards,” it says. “The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program is taking swift action to address the situation, with retesting being done as quickly as possible.”

Awards:

2024 Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) Awards, Cannabis Coverage, Finalist

Reporter Heather Harrison graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in Communication in 2023. She worked at The Reflector student newspaper for three years, starting as a staff writer, then the news editor before becoming the editor-in-chief. During her time at The Reflector, Heather won 13 awards for her multi-media journalism work.

In her free time, Heather likes to walk her dog, Finley, read books, and listen to Taylor Swift. Heather lives in Starkville, where she has spent the past four years. She is a Hazlehurst, Mississippi, native.