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April 21, 2013

For government bean-counter, a weed education

(Continued)

SEATTLE —

Steenhout is traveling to marijuana grow operations, processors and testing labs in California, Colorado and Washington.

On his cellphone, he keeps video of a massive, 75,000-square-foot marijuana grow he visited in Colorado that he uses to impress the folks at the smaller Washington operations.

One morning recently, dressed in a green sweater, jeans and sneakers, Steenhout walked into a first-floor office in Seattle’s University District — the Care Wellness Center, a clinic that writes authorizations for medical marijuana patients.

Steenhout was there for presentations from Cale Burkhart, who makes marijuana-infused lotions, creams and tinctures, and from the proprietors of Analytical 360, a Seattle lab that tests marijuana and marijuana products for strength and impurities.

Clear glass mason jars filled with dried marijuana flowers, leaves and a viscous brown liquid — pot-infused, vegetable-based glycerine, a potent tincture that can be taken under the tongue with a medicine dropper — were lined up on a table as Burkhart spoke.

He described how the lab tests the strength of his infusions, and then gives him a formula to determine how much more glycerine he needs to add to dilute the tincture to its desired potency, 75 milligrams per fluid ounce.

Steenhout took notes on a white legal pad in a folder on his lap, examined small jars containing Burkhart’s products, such as a muscle-and-joint rub made with pot, mint oil and cayenne pepper, and asked questions that betrayed how far his education has come.

Should the recommended serving size vary among tinctures and other types of edibles, such as brownies or drinks?

What should the minimum qualifications be for lab workers who sign off on marijuana quality-assurance tests?

Does Analytical 360 just use standard lab procedures from the United States Pharmacopeia, or from overseas compendia as well?

About an hour later, Steenhout was inside a red, two-story building fenced with barbed wire in industrial South Seattle — a marijuana grow operation that helps supply the Conscious Care Cooperative, a medical marijuana collective with 8,000 patients.

He was surrounded by hundreds of pot plants of various sizes, but seemed most impressed with the few pages of a document describing the grow-op’s standard procedures — what nutrients the plants are given and when, when foliage sprays are applied.

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