By Jackie Borchardt

North Coast's 5,000-square foot lab looks more like a high school chemistry classroom than a medical marijuana business.

Machines the size of mini-fridges and computer monitors dot lab tables throughout the room. A periodic table hangs on the wall. Employees wear white coats and latex gloves. 

There is no scent of marijuana here.

Well, you can catch a faint whiff of it in one corner of the lab, where a chemist uses tweezers to place tiny marijuana buds into test tubes. Small plates hold small mounds of green powder – finely ground cannabis.

Ohio's medical marijuana program has gotten a late start and ramped up slowly since the first marijuana was harvested last fall and sold in January. Little attention has been paid to the state's three private testing labs, which must operate independently from growers, processors and dispensaries.

The program's least-visible entities may be its most important.

Testing is also one factor in the high price of legal marijuana here. Every batch of dried marijuana flower, marijuana extract and manufactured product must be tested for potency and contaminants such as lead and pesticide residue. 

The Enquirer and Mansfield News Journal recently visited North Coast's 5,000 square foot lab to see how it works.

House Bill 523, passed in May 2016, required the state to license testing labs to ensure patient safety.

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