Designing a Cannabis Research Lab

Designing a Cannabis Research Lab

Key considerations and priorities for launching a cannabis research facility

MaryBeth DiDonna

Designing and building a cannabis research laboratory comes with a unique set of concerns and standards. An ongoing obstacle to these existing challenges is that laws and regulations vary from state to state. Lab planners who are designing and building a cannabis research lab must not only make themselves aware of their area’s regulations, but must also meet with lab managers to determine what is needed for their specific facility. Needs will vary depending on whether the lab is a new build, or some sort of renovation or retrofit.

Lab Manager recently hosted a webinar on “Setting Up a Cannabis Lab.” The guest speaker was Dr. Pritesh Kumar, CEO of PhytoSciences Consultants, which represents patients and provides quality control and assurance services to the medical cannabis laboratory testing industry. Kumar earned his PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology, with a focus in cannabinoid (cannabis) pharmacology, and serves as a cannabinoid research scientist, pharmacologist, laboratory manager and consultant.

Kumar began his presentation by discussing the industry supply chain between cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers, and the laboratory testing procedures that need to happen throughout. The industry supply chain is very complex, especially early, and each part of the supply chain depends on each other for necessary testing, and labs are involved with each segment of the supply chain. Quality standards and testing requirements for cannabis are dictated by each state, which Kumar touched on during his presentation. Minimizing equipment downtime in testing labs is extremely important because of the ongoing demand for testing labs. Lab planners must know how to design and implement certain pieces of equipment or laboratory modifications in order to increase efficiency in testing labs. 

Kumar’s “main takeaway” of the webinar, he said, was design considerations for lab ventilation. He explained, “Lab ventilation is very different than most other building sites—for example, for renovation projects where an office, classroom, or other space is being transformed into or retrofitted into a lab space. Design often will involve a significant change to the ventilation system. All laboratory ventilation systems are designed to protect the people and have a level of safety for the substances or gases that are offsetted or generated during the normal operating condition. However, for a cannabis testing lab, there are other angles in mind, such as the need to separate contaminants and prevent experiments from being compromised. In this respect, the ventilation system is intended really to maintain clean areas as positive pressure zones and potentially toxic areas as negative pressure zones. So that’s key.”

Kumar also spoke about on-site gas generation and solutions, and how to best understand critical design considerations. Additional information was presented on air systems, including variable air volume in regards to both airflow differential control as well as space pressure control.

At the conclusion of his presentation, Kumar answered questions from webinar attendees, including questions about design requirements for microbial contaminants, the recommended square footage of a cannabis research lab, whether a LIMS system is required for a cannabis testing facility, and how to research state and federal requirements for establishing this kind of lab. 

To learn more, download this on-demand webinar from Lab Manager