Spotlight Series: Jodi McDonald, Keystone Labs
This week we're chatting with Jodi McDonald from Keystone Labs. Keystone is a privately owned independent contract testing laboratory in Edmonton and they specialize in medical marijuana product testing (amoung other things). By offering a diverse selection of GMP-compliant analytical and biological testing services, Keystone Labs is able to adapt to meet your testing needs. Learn more about the medical marijuana testing services they offer here.
What does Keystone Labs do?
Keystone Labs is a regulated, contract test lab. We provide laboratory expertise to people who need it, but don’t have the space or the experience to perform the testing themselves. I started the company in 2005, after seeing an opportunity to add value to regulated production and innovation in Western Canada. We focus on testing highly regulated products that have federal government regulations for production and distribution, like pharmaceuticals, medical devices, natural health products and most recently, cannabis.
Who can use the Keystone Labs services?
Everyone who legally can possess cannabis can send Keystone Labs their products for testing. If you can legally grow cannabis or if you are a patient with a medical document, we can help you to feel more comfortable with knowing that your medicine is safe and consistent.
How and why did you decide to branch into cannabis testing?
Keystone has been providing testing to health innovation companies since 2005, and when the regulations for the MMPR were being rolled out, we saw an opportunity to bring our expertise in testing regulated products to the new industry. In August 2015, we obtained a controlled substance license and began testing cannabis at that time. Keystone Labs also saw a niche market to assist personal growers and consumers and developed KEY-BOX to increase access to testing across Canada.
What is a KEY-BOX and how does it work?
KEY-BOX is a personal medical cannabis testing kit which allows personal growers and medical cannabis users the opportunity to obtain the cannabinoid profile and potency of their dry flower or cannabis oil/extract. It includes the quantitation profile of the following cannabinoids; (includes Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabigerol (CBG (neutral form) & CBG-A (acid form)) and Cannabinol (CBN), Cannabidiol (CBD (neutral) & CBD-A (acid form)), Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC (neutral) & THC-A (acid form), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and Cannabidivarin (CBDV) and potency (Total Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)). KEY-BOX is ordered online at www.key-box.ca and shipped by Canada Post to the client. The kit contains all the supplies needed to conduct a simple chemical procedure to isolate the Cannabinoids from the dry flower or cannabis oil/extract into a sample liquid. The client completes the chemical procedure, place the sample tube in the box, adheres the tamper-proof sticker over the box flap, to insure the sample is not compromised. The kit includes a return postage label and is applied to the outside of the box. The client drops off the test kit with a sample at any Canada Post office for delivery back to Keystone Labs. Once Keystone Labs receives the test kit with the sample, it is analyzed and the results are sent back to the client by e-mail. The price of the kit includes; shipping the test kit both to the client and back to Keystone Labs, contents to complete the chemical process, analysis of the sample and a validated data report signed off by Keystone Labs’ quality assurance person.
Soon, in Canada, each household will be able to grow up to four plants. Will this have any effect on your business?
I am excited about what the future holds, I believe that the move to legalization will offer new opportunities for us to provide testing services and knowledge to the community. Keystone will continue to offer regulated testing services to personal growers so that they can maximize plant production and determine optimal harvest conditions.
Why is it so important to have a third party lab test cannabis products?
Third party testing adds confidence in the supply of products. The producers rely on the expertise of a test lab to provide data about their products. Third party testing is an unbiased confirmation that reassures the producers their products were produced as they expected and meet the stringent requirements Health Canada has. It also adds confidence for consumers about the quality of the products they are purchasing.
What kind of cannabis products do you test and what are you typically looking for?
Keystone Labs is able to test dry flower, oils and extracts, as well as edibles. Most commonly we test for potency and profile (we test which cannabinoids are present and how much of each one); we have the capability to perform all of Health Canada requirements for products, with the exception of pesticides. We are working on bringing pesticides testing online soon.
How has your opinion of medical cannabis been influenced by working with these products?
I have read a lot of scientific papers about the endocannabinoid system, the interaction that phytocannabinoids have in our bodies and the outcomes of patient groups who choose to use cannabis therapeutically. From a scientific perspective, there is definitely something important happening. I enjoy reading about innovations in science and look forward to learning more as the boundaries of what we know about cannabis are explored.
We have witnessed incredible stories in the community we have been welcomed into; the stories about patients taking control of their treatment options and exploring what other patients are working through. It has brought the theoretical, scientific, statistical (dry and boring) papers to life and from that perspective, we believe strongly in access to safe cannabis for individuals.
What advice would you give to a woman who was interested in participating in the cannabis industry?
Get involved with the local community, build a tribe around you and the ideas that you have a strong passion for. Listen to what people are talking about, what they are struggling with and find a place where you can add value to the community.
Keep dreaming, but go and do something about it.
Finally, whats your favourite aspect of your job and why?
My favourite thing about every day is the potential. I never know what might happen the next time the phone rings or someone walks through the door. It might be someone calling to ask for help figuring out a problem they are having with their products or it could be someone with an idea about a cure for a disease.
I love the constant change, the seeking of information and finding answers and understanding how all of that adds value to our clients lives and to the lives of the patients that they work for. In the end, knowing that we make a difference in the health of our community is a huge reward.