‘They were sent …to close the lab down’: Natchez cannabis testing facility will fight to keep license

Published 12:47 pm Friday, February 23, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Mamie Henry, majority owner of Rapid Analytics, a testing facility for medical marijuana and the agriculture industry, said officials with the state’s medical cannabis program accomplished their ultimate goal.

The Mississippi State Department of Health released a press statement on Thursday announcing its intent to revoke the license of Natchez’s Rapid Analytics, saying the “disregard for regulatory compliance poses a threat to the public health and welfare.”

“The mission is complete. They were sent and set out to close the lab down and that’s what they did,” Henry said.

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On Dec. 21, 2023, the state’s medical cannabis program, which is a division of the Mississippi State Department of Health, placed an administrative hold on a large number of cannabis products after it said it had found discrepancies surrounding test results for pesticides and mycotoxins completed by Rapid Analytics of Natchez.

Though Rapid Analytics performs an array of tests other than testing cannabis products, Henry said the health department shut the lab down completely.

The state then launched a massive re-testing of the products originally tested by Rapid Analytics.

The state contracted with Steep Hill, the state’s only other licensed medical marijuana testing facility and Rapid Analytics’ only competitor, to re-test the products at state expense.

Before being shut down by the state, Rapid Analytics tested about 70 percent of the medical marijuana sold in Mississippi, Henry said.

CEO of Steep Hill is Stacey Pickering, the former Mississippi state senator, former state auditor and former Mississippi Veterans Affairs director.

Henry said her company is appealing the decision and is working with attorneys at Jackson firm Balch and Bingham to do so.

“We have 20 days to appeal the decision and we are filing that appeal today,” Henry said.

She said her company and attorney has been “ghosted” the officials from the state’s medical marijuana program and the state’s health department.

“We have yet to receive any documentation from the state that we requested after the initial cease and desist order,” she said. “We still have not had a hearing set by the state for our initial appeal.

“When they came in to the lab 40 days after the initial cease and desist, they came in to find anything they could to validate their initial attack on us,” Henry said. “We will have a reply to each and every allegation they have made and feel confident that when the truth comes out, it will be seen for what it is.”

In the press release issued on Thursday, MSDH officials said the decision to revoke the Rapid Analytics license “follows an investigation conducted between Dec. 21, 2023, and Feb. 9, revealing significant deviations from regulatory standards and approved procedures.”

According to the release, state officials claim Rapid Analytics’ “disregard for regulatory compliance poses a threat to the public health and welfare. As such, MSDH had determined to revoke the establishment’s license effective March 13.”

Jeff Keller, Ph.D., founded Rapid Analytics in Natchez after being given provisional approval by MSDH as a cannabis testing facility on Nov. 18, 2022.

Keller is the founder and director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Pennington Biomedical in Baton Rouge. Kyle Felling, Ph.D., was co-founder of Rapid Analytics and a minority partner.

Keller, who Henry said is still involved with the company, sold the majority stake in Rapid Analytics to Henry in 2023.