Tucked away in a sprawling yet unassuming business park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I find myself visiting the cannabis testing laboratory where most of the Florida Medical Marijuana cultivators have their products analyzed. Today, I am meeting with the Co-founder and President of EVIO Labs Florida, Chris Martinez to learn about the inception of the only ISO 17025 accredited Florida cannabis testing lab, discuss the budding industry and learn about his future expansion. EVIO is Florida's first, and only, accredited cannabis testing lab, marking the beginning for a swiftly growing and remarkably proactive company.
First Impressions of a Cannabis Laboratory
Once buzzed into a secure front door, nothing distinguishes this space as the premier testing destination for Florida’s medical marijuana. However, sitting in the conference room while waiting for Martinez, I had an opportunity to absorb the environment. Immediately I am struck by the sterility and simplicity of the facility. The atmosphere is extremely hygienic, yet inviting, warm, and vibrant with activity.
Lab testing for cannabis consumption is fundamental as the marijuana industry continues to bloom at a dizzying pace. The tour of EVIO Labs Florida encompassed the observation of multi-million-dollar laboratory instruments and was nothing short of incredible. The high-end equipment, automation, technology, and milieu confirm the ambition, drive, and passion of these cannabis medical and science professionals.
The city of Fort Lauderdale was chosen carefully by Martinez after discussing the idea of medical cannabis testing with city officials throughout the entire Broward County region. Eventually, Martinez received special authorization to open his business. As attitudes about marijuana worldwide continue to change towards focusing on health benefits, harvesting support from local governments is valuable to firms during the rapid growth of the cannabis industry.
Federal Legality Continues to Limit the Industry
In every state in America, the legal cannabis industry continues to struggle with the confining Schedule I limitation marijuana unfortunately still faces. According to the Federal Drug Administration, Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. This inaccurate and outdated status is singlehandedly preventing the cohesive agreement of state laws, regulations, trade, and research throughout the United States. Without a comprehensive plan from the federal government, legality within the cannabis industry and testing products is vital for consumer health, confidence, and patient safety.
My tour of EVIO concluded with viewing the segmented rooms for extractions, sample prep rooms, and a brief chat with the staff. With a background in the medical field, working with patients and medical devices, Martinez never imagined he would be involved in the medical marijuana testing business, let alone a pioneer in the Florida cannabis testing industry. Like most new professionals to the cannabis industry, Martinez has a personal story which brought him into the tribe of cannabis believers. After witnessing the health and wellness benefits marijuana provided to people, Martinez admits, his initial opinion of cannabis changed.
Developing the Solution
Martinez partnered with a technology expert, and they decided to reach out to EVIO Labs. While negotiating the partnership, Martinez chose to license the EVIO Labs name with exclusivity in the Florida market. The agreement with EVIO gives Martinez 100% autonomy over the decisions made in Florida. With every state having different laws, regulations, and expectations, this was a wise decision and inspiration for growth within the company.
Martinez and his partner quickly rewrote all the lab software and developed PURE LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) under their software company, MJ Buddy Technologies, a cannabis software and research firm. LIMS is also known as the “brain” of the lab. He has trained his staff to operate off tablets in a paperless environment to avoid errors and improve accuracy. This was just the beginning of Martinez, making his own mark on the industry.
With the passage of the Farm Hemp Bill, the need to involve Hemp (CBD) testing quickly became another priority with EVIO Labs, Florida, and the Hemp Institute (THI) was designed. THI is an ecosystem for the industry that provides a series of services that include hemp testing, CBD product efficacy with peer to peer studies looking at patient DNA profiling, a clearinghouse for buyers/suppliers, hemp seed DNA validation and shelf life and stability testing for products like edibles. THI aims for speed and accuracy as the hemp and CBD markets mature swiftly. THI is also collaborating with professors from the University of Florida, University of Miami, Colombia University, and Duke University for further insight and support.
The need to give back to patients and to promote education is another goal Martinez had in creating the app MJ Buddy. Options for patients to input the chemical profiles of the products they medicate with, track their sessions, and product efficacy. Through business intelligence software, they then provide patients a better starting point for their wellness plan and create data where there currently isn’t any. The goal is to aggregate data based on ailment and provide this data back to patients free of charge. With his background as a medical professional, an entrepreneur, husband and father of 2, Martinez knows the importance of paving the way with data in creating a central point of research and collaboration that leads to relief for patients and families looking for an alternative to pharmaceutical medications.
In the few hours, I had to spend with Martinez and his staff; I witnessed an intelligent, happy, and hard-working team with a passion for patient wellbeing. In less than 12 months, Martinez opened another state-of-the-art facility in Gainesville, Florida, with a third Florida location and expansion into other markets on the horizon. The evident success and rapid growth of the cannabis industry are clear in what Martinez has been able to do in Florida with cannabis testing. If the past two years are any indication of the future of cannabis and hemp testing, Martinez and EVIO Labs Florida are certainly names to watch.