California judge rules shuttered cannabis testing lab can reopen

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A California Superior Court judge has ruled that a cannabis testing lab in the San Francisco Bay Area can reopen with immediate effect following its license revocation and closure in January. According to details of the initial lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court, the claimant said that its rights had been violated.

Hayward-based Harrens Lab was the company forced to forfeit its testing license, which was confiscated by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) on Feb. 4. The BCC alleges that the California cannabis company failed to abide by state rules when it used a third-party courier to transport cannabis samples. The California cannabis company has also been slammed for not taking solid representative testing samples.

Moreover, the owners of Harrens Lab have been accused of modifying laboratory premises without approval from the agency, shipping cannabis goods and samples without state-mandated Metrc labels, sidestepping the creation of shipping documents ahead of transporting cannabis products, as well as failing to install the necessary video surveillance system.

San Francisco Bay Area cannabis testing lab denies allegations

While the cannabis testing lab has been shuttered since its license was confiscated, the owners did not give up in fighting their innocence. All allegations were denied by Harrens Lab, which the BCC says was operating under a provisional – as opposed to an annual – business license.

Based on the circumstances, state law stipulates that an appeals process could not take place. Nonetheless, Harrens demanded in its lawsuit that the BCC issue a temporary stay and protective order to repeal the license revocation. Fortunately for the company, the appeal was accepted and the business was recently given the go-ahead by a judge to reopen instantly.

James Anthony (Harrens’ attorney) gave the cannabis testing lab the benefit of the doubt. The legal representative noted that the vast majority of licensed cannabis businesses in California continue to operate under provisional licenses. The reason for this, he says, is because obtaining an annual permit can take months, or even years, to accomplish.

As of October 2015, 2020, “almost the entire multi-billion dollar cannabis industry was running on provisionals – 7,093 provisionals to 1,661 annuals,” wrote the attorney.

BCC “prohibited from enforcing the ‘revocation’ issued” to Harrens Lab

On Thursday, March 4, the BCC was informed by California Superior Court judge Roesch that it was “prohibited from enforcing the ‘revocation’ issued” in February to Harrens Lab. Consequently, the lab was instructed to “continue to act under its provisional license until further order by the court.”

Moving forwards, another hearing has been arranged for March 25. On this date, both parties are expected to continue their argument in regards to whether or not the state can impose a preliminary injunction against the lab. Depending on the outcome, cannabis companies conducting business on provisional licenses may or may not maintain the right to due process.

“The lab’s position is that the (83 percent of the) provisional licensees that form the bulk of the multi-billion dollar California cannabis industry have a constitutionally protected property interest in their licenses. And that therefore the government cannot shut them down without due process of law,” Harrens’ attorney Anthony wrote in an email to MJBiz Daily.

“Judge Roesch remarked that it will be an ‘interesting case,’” continued Anthony, who noted that a concluding ruling could take months if Harrens is victorious at the forthcoming hearing.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra responded to the lawsuit by saying that the 8,280 provisional licenses currently held by California cannabis companies are meant to be temporary. With this in mind, he says, those businesses don’t have the same rights as full annual licensees. Currently, just 1,670 annual permits have been distributed among lucky applicants.

After being contacted by MJBizDaily reporters, the BCC did not respond to comment.