Grower Stories #21: Ben Rosman

Tia Moskalenko
Tia Moskalenko

Tia Moskalenko, author of the AskGrowers blog, brings a unique blend of content to her readers. She is known for conducting insightful interviews with key figures in the cannabis industry, including brand representatives, manufacturers, and experts. In addition to her interview skills, Tia has a keen focus on CBD. She expertly curates product selections and reviews, offering her readers detailed insights into the various effects and benefits of CBD. Tia's ability to combine in-depth interviews with comprehensive CBD analysis makes her a valuable asset to the cannabis community, offering a well-rounded perspective on the industry.



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Grower Stories #21: Ben Rosman

PSI Labs About Testing Cannabis and Their Successful Approach In the Cannabis Industry

PSI Labs about testing cannabis and their successful approach in the cannabis industry!

Tia (AskGrowers) : How did you guys start the business?

Ben Rosman (PSI Labs) : My partner and I have known each other since 6th grade! After high school, we remained friends and stayed in touch throughout Lev’s academic career (isotope geochemistry) and my legal career (Michigan cannabis law).

As Lev was finishing up his post doc, he’d come back to Michigan to visit. We were both patients (Lev with Crohn’s, myself with epilepsy), and would visit local dispensaries. As time went on, we started noticing test results on the medicine we bought - but the numbers didn’t always seem to make sense.

As I spoke with individuals in the industry, I realized Michigan had a significant need for a lab that applied a rigorous scientific approach to cannabis testing. We got to work, raised funding from friends and family, and opened our lab in May 2015 -  ten months after we first started daydreaming about it.

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Tia : What are the average prices for your services? Is there a range?

Ben : There is a wide range! We offer our testing services to individuals over the age of 21, who may drop off samples at the lab with an appointment.

As a state-licensed Safety Compliance Facility, we also offer our services to other licensed facilities, with on-site representative sampling provided by our Field Sampling Technicians.

A basic potency test starts at $40, but we offer many different types of individualized R&D testing services (pesticide residue, heavy metals, residual solvents, water activity, moisture, microbiological contamination, cannabinoid profile, terpenoid profile, homogeneity, vitamin E acetate, foreign matter).

We encourage folks to contact us so we can help them decide what type of testing will best meet their needs.

Tia : How much time usually the process of testing cannabis takes?

Ben : Our average turnaround time is approximately 3-4 business days.

Tia : What issues does PSI Labs face as a business in the current cannabis industry landscape?

Ben : One of the issues that all labs across the country encounter is “lab shopping”, whether for higher potency numbers (more on that below) or to “pass” a test when they “failed” at the first lab.

Another concern is the notion that “labs don’t know what they’re doing” due to differences in data between labs for a given sample. A few less competent operators in the industry can drag down the reputation of all labs.

With that concern in mind, I started MICIL (Michigan Coalition of Independent Cannabis Testing Laboratories) two years ago. MICIL is currently composed of all 11 licensed labs in the State of Michigan. MICIL’s mission is to raise the integrity of the cannabis testing industry while advancing scientific knowledge and understanding of cannabis for the general public. We do our best to use our unified voice to affect meaningful change, focusing on policy, rule making and legislation in matters of cannabis science and laboratory testing.

Tia : What’s your attitude toward THC and THC products?

Ben : THC (potency) is a wonderful cannabinoid - but it’s one of many chemical compounds that give cannabis its unique chemistry.

For those beer drinkers out there - do you buy solely based on the highest alcohol content? Or do you find a beer with a flavor profile (terpenes) that you enjoy?

Potency is a data point that can help a consumer make informed decisions. But the emphasis on potency alone has created a vicious cycle of unrealistic expectations. It has led to some labs inflating the potency data in an attempt to appease their clients. It has led to some growers, feeling the pressure to compete to have the highest testing bud, to go "lab shopping" (finding a lab that will give them the "best" results). It has led to cannabis across the country being labeled 10-20% higher than its true value. It has led to consumers nationwide having misconceptions about the true potency of an average bud (14%).

Some folks love cannabis products that are highly potent - others prefer products with a lower dose of THC, but a high percentage of CBD.

As far as we’re concerned, the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes are more important than the percentage of THC alone. Some people love a garlicky tasting bud (like GMO), while others prefer a citrusy flavor (XJ-13).

An informed consumer will ultimately be a happy consumer. From a lab perspective, the more data we can provide, the better! We’d prefer more of an emphasis on terpene profiles and less on THC, exclusively.

Tia : How has COVID-19 impacted your business?

Ben : We had to institute staggered shifts, some remote work to reduce the number of employees in the lab, more rigorous cleaning protocols, mask-wearing and social distancing within the lab. We are fortunate that business hasn’t been negatively affected by the pandemic.

Tia : What’s the most common request you get from customers? Why?

Ben : Broadly speaking, there are three client priorities: data accuracy, turnaround time and price.

In general, a lab has to sacrifice one to deliver the other. For example, if a lab rushes every sample, they probably aren’t double-checking results, which can lead to issues in accuracy.

By and large, our state-licensed clients are interested in the speed of turnaround time - and for good reason!

Until they get results back, their samples are stuck on the shelves, unable to be transferred elsewhere. In the case of distillate, they need to get the potency result in order to accurately dose their downstream products.

We’re constantly improving our processes to ensure that we provide the best service possible for our clients.

Our turnaround time is 3-4 business days, and we work hard to schedule client pickups around their own internal production schedule to maximize efficiency.

Tia : How do you measure success at PSI Labs? What do you think is your key to success?

Ben : When we send out data that is precise, accurate and reproducible, we’ve done the most important aspect of our jobs. We continuously strive to improve the way we work - from our scientific methods to client service. It is important for us to stay on top of new developments in our industry and cannabis research.

The icing on the cake is being able to help clients perfect their methods, whether through R&D testing (everything from clones to soil, different parts of the plant, swabbing the room, etc.), problem solving, or just general brainstorming.

One of the ways that our team is so successful is being able to clearly communicate complex, scientific concepts to our clients in a way that anyone can understand.

We currently have three employees with a PhD, four with a MSc and a small army of highly trained scientists and technicians with a BS. We value ideas and insights generated by both individual employees and those generated from the synergy of a team dynamic.

Tia : Does PSI Labs plan on implementing or offering any new analysis options or cannabis testing? If so, what is planned to be offered in the near future?

Ben : We plan to add additional cannabinoids, terpenes and pesticides. Stay tuned!

Tia : If you could smoke with anyone in the world (past or present), who would that be? :)

Ben : It would be pretty incredible to smoke with Carl Sagan - and just sit back and listen to him enthusiastically explain the wonders of the cosmos!

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