- Josh Sweigart Staff Writer
A spokesman for Hocking College in Athens County says school officials are optimistic the federal government won’t intervene in the Ohio school’s plans to host the the state’s first medical marijuana testing laboratory.
“It seems in our estimation that the current administration is very much concerned about states rights, and we figured that this would not be a problem going forward for that reason,” Tim Brunicardi said.
The Ohio law legalizing marijuana for medical purposes requires a state college or university to host the first lab testing the potency of products made by companies approved by the state to grow and process marijuana for medical purposes.
Hocking College’s announcement this week that it would apply came after state lawmakers had expressed concern public colleges would be reticent to seek approval because they rely heavily on federal funding and marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
Hocking College President Betty Young said in a statement that the decision to host a lab “was not based on the merits or lack of merits regarding cannabis,” but was to fulfill the law’s requirement that a public school run the lab.
“In addition to the legislative mandate, Hocking College’s role will be to ensure public safety by providing the necessary lab services that will assure access to a safe medical product to the citizens of Ohio,” she said. “The research and academic potential of serving as the lab testing site will support the kind of hands on, high tech training that is the hallmark of Hocking College.”
College officials say they already planned to begin offering a laboratory sciences program training students to become medical, chemical and forensic lab technicians. The medical marijuana lab will help support that program, they said.
Hocking College is a 2-year school with about 3,000 students.
Brunicardi said the school won’t use public money to build the lab, which is estimated to cost about $5 million and employ about a dozen people. He said the school is creating an endowment to allow for private investors and the lab will be self-funded.
The college is partnering with Cleveland-area neuroscientist Jonathan Cachat, who owns the company CCV Research, to run the lab.
State law requires for the first year of the medical marijuana program that the quality testing lab be operated by a institution of higher education that is public, located within the state of Ohio and has the resources to operate a lab. After a year, private labs can be licensed.
A lab must pay $2,000 to apply and $18,000 to get a certificate of operation; license approval costs another $20,000 a year.
Cachat has praised Ohio’s law for creating an objective testing site, preventing “lab shopping” seen in other states by companies seeking labs that would give them the results they want.
CCV Research has estimated that by 2020 Ohio’s lab testing industry could be worth half a billion dollars.