Natchez-based cannabis testing lab remains shutdown; owner says state officials ‘will give us no information’

Published 3:55 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2024

NATCHEZ —Rapid Analytics, a Natchez-based laboratory facility that among other things tests medical marijuana, remains shut down by the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Mamie Henry, an owner in the lab, said Wednesday a meeting with state health officials last Friday yielded no answers to her company’s questions.

“They still will give us no information except that they are working on contracting with another lab to do the re-testing,” Henry said on Wednesday afternoon.

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Henry said she and her attorney, whom she did not name, and other company officials were to have a virtual meeting with state officials last Thursday, “but they (state cannabis program officials) forgot about it,” she said.

The meeting was rescheduled for last Friday.

The health department shut down Rapid Analytics — one of only two testing facilities licensed to test medical marijuana in the state — after receiving an anonymous tip that the company was not properly testing for pesticides in medical marijuana, health department officials have said.

Henry vehemently disputes the claim that Rapid Analytics does not test for pesticides or does not test properly for pesticides.

None of the medical dispensaries whose cannabis was tested by Rapid Analytics of Natchez can sell any of those products, the health department said. That number represents about 70 percent of the state’s dispensaries.

Henry said Rapid Analytics customers are now purchasing “whatever they can get their hands on that has been tested by our competition.”

That competition is Steep Hill Labs of Jackson, whose chief executive officer is Stacey Pickering, former state auditor and former head of the state’s Veterans Administration who resigned after he was linked to a scandal while in that job.

“The message I want people of Natchez to understand is our lab is completely shut down. They could have only shut us down to just the testing for pesticides. But they shut us down completely,” Henry said.

The company also tests for purity and nutrients in water and is capable of performing a number of tests needed by the agriculture industry, “but they have shut down our entire lab. We could still have our clients and could have subbed out that one test while they investigated the claim and re-tested,” she said.

However, the state’s cannabis program has not sought the samples from Rapid Analytics for retesting.

“We were looking to expand and try to pick up some of the chemists from Delta Energy’s lab in an effort to hire more local scientists to work in our lab. We are completely a locally owned business. We are the only female-owned lab and we employ local people. And five of our lab employees are minorities,” Henry said.

“People of Natchez need to understand the importance of this lab in their town. The founder chose to locate it in Natchez, rather than some location along the interstate that would have been more convenient, because of the people of Natchez. Our city government, our fire marshal, our city inspector — they were all very helpful and showed that Natchez is a wonderful place to open a business and operate a business. We need to protect that and be proud of that.

“This shutdown is affecting our local economy. These are good jobs and the state has shut us down,” Henry said.

The Democrat has reached out to officials with the state cannabis program for a response.