Puyallup Tribe plans pot testing lab

The Trans-Pacific Trade Center at 3700 Pacific Highway E. in Fife is the site for a planned marijuana testing laboratory run by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.
The Trans-Pacific Trade Center at 3700 Pacific Highway E. in Fife is the site for a planned marijuana testing laboratory run by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.

A testing laboratory is the first foray into the marijuana industry for the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, and may not be the last.

The Puyallup Tribe, having worked out a deal with Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Liquor and Cannabis Board, is moving equipment for the lab into a Fife building that houses the tribe’s cancer-treatment center. Inslee’s signature this week made the compact official.

The lab plans to offer safety and potency tests to holders of state marijuana licenses, among others. Other clients could include universities doing scientific research on marijuana, said tribal spokesman John Weymer, who called the lab “Phase 1” of the tribe’s plans.

“Our tribe feels that the medical aspect of cannabis is very important and as we grow we want to incorporate that into our health system, possibly,” Weymer said Wednesday.

Besides the recently acquired cancer center at 3700 Pacific Highway E., the Puyallups have what Weymer said is the largest tribal health clinic in the state, on Tacoma’s East Side.

The Puyallup Tribe is the third Washington tribe to cement plans to take advantage of a 2014 U.S. Department of Justice policy calling for respecting tribal policies on marijuana, and a 2015 state law outlining the compact process. The Squaxin Island and Suquamish tribes have opened retail marijuana stores.

Weymer said the tribe would be open to talking to the other tribes about its services. He said local universities have expressed interest and the tribe is open to anyone in need of testing recreational and medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana “is where we want to excel,” he said.

The agreement describes “a compact to enhance public health and safety, including development of safe and effective medical marijuana as a treatment alternative in appropriate cases.

“The initial version of this Compact will address only one element of the broader subject area of marijuana: the opening and operation of a testing lab by the Tribe. The Parties anticipate that they will later amend this Compact to add other elements of the broader subject area of marijuana to the agreement, in order to ensure a lawful and well-regulated marijuana market, encourage economic development in Indian Country, and provide fiscal benefits to both the Tribe and the State.”

The state law on tribal marijuana compacts provides for tax exemptions in certain cases, but those are for sales and the Puyallup compact says the lab’s activities don’t fall into that category. Weymer said tribal operation of a lab doesn’t have tax implications.

Marijuana going through the state-licensed system must be tested for potency, moisture and contamination from microbes and foreign matter.

The cannabis board has certified at least 14 labs to do that work, including three in Thurston County and four in King County.

In the compact, the tribe pledges to abide by state rules for state-licensed clients, including having its lab certified and feeding results into the state’s tracking system.

The lab would submit to state inspections, as long as the cannabis board notifies tribal police ahead of time.

Like the other tribes with marijuana compacts, the Puyallup Tribe says it has decriminalized marijuana in certain circumstances.

The state and tribe “share a strong interest in ensuring that marijuana production, processing, and sales in Indian Country are well-regulated to protect public safety and community interests,” the compact says.


Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826, @Jordan_Schrader