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Marijuana lab in Bozeman seeing high moisture content in samples as growers rush to fill demand

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Olivia Weitz
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Andy Johnson, division manager at Stillwater Laboratories in Bozeman, prepares a marijuana flower sample for moisture testing.

There are five state-licensed labs in Montana that test marijuana for everything from THC content to pesticide contamination.

Stillwater Labs is the only lab in Southwest Montana. With the rush to grow and store enough product to stock dispensaries, lab staff say high moisture content has been an issue in the recreational samples they’ve tested so far.

01_06_Marijuana2.jpg
Olivia Weitz
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Marijuana is crushed up before it is put onto a metal tray and loaded into a machine to be tested for moisture content. The plant is heated and turns to ash before the machine releases test results.

Andy Johnson, the lab’s division manager, uses a machine to test marijuana plant samples for moisture content, which can lead to mold.

“Once I close the machine it raises the temperature, and it burns off the moisture and then the machine measures the amount of moisture that’s released into the air,” Johnson explained.

If a sample tests higher than the statewide standard of 12% the lab alerts the grower. Growers can dry out the plant and still sell it.

Leading up to recreational sales Johnson says some growers stockpiled weed and may not have used best storage practices.

“Recently we’ve been getting more moisture fails than usual because people were in such a rush," he said, "but now that they’re back to growing and then immediately selling it as soon as it’s ready we’re seeing moisture levels starting to drop again."

Recreational sales became legal in Montana on Jan. 1. The state Department of Revenue says there are 74 licensed dispensaries in Gallatin County.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.