Andrea Holmes

Dr. Andrea Holmes speaks at the Northeast Nebraska Hemp Farmers Forum in Pilger, Neb., last summer.

The first cannabis testing lab in Nebraska has opened on the Doane University campus in Crete.

Cannabis Testing Laboratories, a wholly-owned subsidiary whose parent company is Doane University, received certification from the International Standards Organization, Doane spokesman Ryan Mueksch said in a press release. This certification is required by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture for cannabis labs to operate in the state.

“This is a stringent certification that is only awarded to the best testing laboratories,” said CTL founder Dr. Andrea Holmes, the director of cannabis studies and a professor of chemistry at Doane. She believes Doane is setting a precedent for the future of cannabis testing in Nebraska.

“CTL has set the standard high to test accurately and reproducibly,” Holmes said. “Our lab employs experts in the cannabis industry.”

These experts include chemists with PhDs and quality control managers with years of pharmaceutical industry experience, she said. Another unique feature of the company is its all-female management team, led by lab director Dr. Arin Sutlief.

Sutlief stated in the press release that innovation, research, entrepreneurship and education will be the central pillars of CTL as they set themselves apart to become leaders in cannabis testing not only in Nebraska and the Midwest but also nationally.

Doane University has been at the forefront in the Nebraska hemp movement and a leader in cannabis education. CTL will not only provide farmers with continuous local testing, but will be an education resource for the university. It also positions Doane to be on the cutting edge of cannabis-testing technology.

The only testing required at this time by the state of Nebraska is the determination of cannabinoid levels such as THC and CBD. Holmes believes eventually the industry will have stronger regulations and more stringent testing will be necessary.

“New technology will be needed to test for pesticides, residual solvents, yeast, molds, heavy metals, aflatoxins and more,” she said. “This will require new infrastructure and technology needs as well as scientists trained in these specific areas.”

Last August, Doane launched a Professional Cannabis Certificate Program, the first of its kind offered by a university in Nebraska. This June, the university announced the expansion of its cannabis course offerings, with seven three-credit cannabis-related courses available beginning this fall.

The lab is expected to serve as a resource for evolving biotech pertaining to the rapidly growing hemp industry. Internship and experiential learning opportunities will be made available to Doane students who wish to have hands-on experience in the lab, Mueksch stated.

Scores of Nebraska farmers have been licensed to grow hemp. According to Mueksch, in order to get their product tested, they have previously had two options, sending to state-approved labs in either Kentucky or Tennessee.

There are currently 60 DEA approved cannabis-testing labs according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 10 of which are in the Midwest. Mueksch said the Nebraska Department of Agriculture waived DEA approval for labs in 2020 but requires ISO certification. After signing with accrediting body Perry Johnson Laboratory Accreditation in May, CTL was quickly prepared for a site visit and audit at the end of June. On July 8, CTL received ISO 17025 certification, becoming the first lab in Nebraska to do so.

Dr. Jacque Carter, president of Doane University, said CTL provides a much-needed resource while Dr. Amanda McKinney, member of the CTL management team, stated hemp farmers in Nebraska have needed these support services.

Farmers can send their cannabis samples to the lab by any method they prefer, Holmes said. USPS doesn't ask what you are shipping. UPS and Fedex do ask, she said. Farmers can also drop samples off at the lab.

“UPS has given us problems before and refused to ship hemp samples,” Holmes said. “It is just too bad that we need to struggle with things like that.”

To avoid such issues, the Holmes suggests sending samples by FedEx and calling them “botanical testing samples” or something similar. That seems to work, she said. In due course, they will have a courier service picking up samples throughout Nebraska.

“We have conducted several hundred tests already,” Holmes said. “From farmers and processors – even from out of state.”

Those who buy CBD products can also benefit from CTL testing. The FDA published a study that there are so many products on the market that are mislabeled, Holmes said.

“Consumers of CBD products want to know if they are getting what the label says,” she said. “Oftentimes they don’t.”

Anyone can ship samples to CTL. The lab’s website, CTLCrete.com, has details on which forms to fill out. The lab’s motto is: Outstanding customer service, fast turnaround, accurate testing, competitive pricing and local drop off.

“We want to earn our clients’ trust as a reliable and responsive testing partner,” Holmes said. “We will take care of our customers and work with them.”

Jon Burleson can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.  

Jon Burleson is the Midwest Messenger reporter, based out of eastern Nebraska. Reach him at jon.burleson@lee.net.