January 2020


Part 6: With only one functioning cannabis testing facility, how can retail owners and growers be sure of their product?

Further complicating the “Napa Valley” narrative is a lack of cannabis testing in the county limits, but cannabis owners are able to work around the dearth with courier services from other cities in Colorado, like Green Parcel Services. But Nordic Analytical, and the soon-to-be-open Free Fall Labs, are helping fill the demand. (Noah Weeks for PULP)

By Michael Gorman

High Hopes is a collaboration between PULP and Colorado College’s Journalism Institute.

In 2015, Pueblo County’s then-director of economic development Chris Markuson was quoted in a story in High Country News suggesting Pueblo might one day become the “Silicon Valley” of cannabis.

Four years later, as of mid-December, that amounted to one fully operating testing facility called Nordic Analytical, a branch of an already-established facility in Denver, and Free Fall Testing Labs, which had a licensing hearing slated for later in the month. That lab, which has applied to test retail cannabis, has been in the zoning process since mid-2017 and hopes to operate inside a former Pizza Hut. (Kim Toman, whose phone number appears on a licensing application form, did not respond to calls or a voicemail.)

The situation is far from the futuristic technological advancement of Silicon Valley.

Cannabis industry workers in Pueblo County have largely had their testing done from non-local facilities, which have made it a priority to be as accessible as possible for the growing market of cultivation and retail in Pueblo County.

Evan Contreras, a business development associate at Rm3 Labs in Boulder, stressed the company’s priority for accommodating cultivators and growers all across the country.

“We try to make it as easy as possible for them,” he said. “We try to make it very convenient for them to test with us, because obviously we understand there’s a whole lot more than just testing when it comes to marijuana.”

Nordic Analytical, which opened a branch in downtown Pueblo on Nov. 4, shares a similar goal.

“Being up in Denver, logistics were getting harder and harder to get samples all the way up to Denver from areas like Trinidad, Pueblo, and Walsenburg,” said Nordic’s operations manager Lisha Baurkot. “There are so many outdoor cultivation facilities down here that we wanted to make testing more accessible for them and [we] also kind of just fell in love with the Pueblo area.”

Nordic Analytical handles all state-mandated testing requirements, which include potency, homogeneity, residual solvent analysis, microbial contaminant testing, pesticide testing, and mycotoxin testing.

The new Pueblo facility also offers terpene profile analysis, shelf stability, and moisture content services, which are not state-mandated but provide cultivators and retail stores a better idea of the smell, taste, and effect of their products — and is a proprietary service from Nordic.\

Because of the nature of an industry freshly free from prohibition, state regulations change often.

“It is a big challenge,” said Kimia Mahmoodi, president of Nordic Analytical Laboratory. “At the same time, it keeps us busy. We are working towards it, learning… it’s a new industry.”

While facilities like Boulder’s Rm3 will continue to be crucial in statewide testing, the new local presence of Nordic Analytical, and potentially Free Fall Testing Labs, could help ease load.

About the Authors

Miriam Brown

Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Miriam is a student journalist at Colorado College’s Journalism Institute. She worked for CC’s independent student newspaper, The Catalyst, for two years in a variety of roles, including reporter, section editor, copy editor, and co-editor-in-chief.

Michael Gorman

Junior, studying race, ethnicity, and migration studies and journalism at Colorado College. From Bethesda, MD, with journalism experience in the Journalism Institute at CC as well as running The Sideline Observer, a student-run online media organization. @SidelineOMike

Noah Weeks

Noah grew up in St. Louis, MO, and is a senior Film and Media Studies major at Colorado College. His interests include public policy, political journalism, and sustainable international development, and his documentary “Guns for Everyone” was featured on Rocky Mountain PBS’s series “In-Short.” Noah can be found on @WeeksNoah.

Ana Mashek

Ana is from Swarthmore, PA. She’s currently a sophomore at Colorado College, where she is pursuing a degree within their Journalism Institute. She works for the school’s independently run newspaper, The Catalyst, as both a writer and layout editor. @ana_mashek

This series was produced by Colorado College journalism students and PULP.

High Hopes

What has happened to Colorado’s ‘Napa Valley’ of weed?

Intro: In 2014, Pueblo was referred to as the “Napa Valley” of cannabis, but by whom?

Part 2: License and Registration, Please

What does it take to earn a license in a tightening Pueblo cannabis industry?

Part 2

Part 3: Rising Tide in the Desert 

How federal cannabis regulation trickles down to raise water prices for Pueblo businesses.

Part 3

Part 4: Bloom Doom, Seedless in Pueblo

How federal cannabis regulation trickles down to raise water prices for Pueblo businesses.

Part 4

Part 5: From the Ground Up

Fluctuating market prices have made hitting profit thresholds a veritable science for cannabis growers.

Part 5

Part 6: What happened to the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Testing? 

With only one functioning cannabis testing facility, how can retail owners and growers be sure of their product?

Part 6

Part 7: Driving the Business

The white vans army fuels gets the cannabis from grow to the store.

Part 7

Part 8: Seeds to Retail Shelves

What happens in a Pueblo dispensary, anyway?

Part 8

Part 9: Not One Typical consumer

The white vans army fuels gets the cannabis from grow to the store.

Part 9

Part 10: High Hopes: Profit, Taxes and the Budweiser of Cannabis

Which companies have found success or failure in the new and tumultuous landscape of cannabis in Pueblo County?

Part 10

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