Austin company could provide cannabis testing system for law enforcement

An Austin company may have a solution for law enforcement agencies struggling to tell the difference between legal hemp and illegal marijuana. 

Ionization Labs provides a product that allows anyone to test cannabis for the amount of THC and CBD present in the substance. 

With the state law defining legal hemp as a part of the cannabis plant with .3 percent or less THC, law enforcement agencies said they need to be able to test for THC content. With no crime labs equipped to do that in Texas, Ionization Labs believes they may be able to help.

With a little guidance, Ionization Labs said anyone can be taught to test marijuana and hemp for the presence of cannabinoids like THC. 

“We can train people very quickly through the processes we developed, and we haven't sacrificed any accuracy because we're using the gold standard for potency testing which is HPLC,” said Cree Crawford, president and co-founder of Ionization Labs.  

The entire testing process takes about 20 minutes. 

“There are 14 cannabinoids that we detect and today, really for the most part, the industry is extremely interested in five of them, and law enforcement, they're really interested in two,” said Alex Andrawes, CEO of Ionization Labs.  

Law enforcement, district and county attorneys said the state's hemp law did not provide additional funding for them to pay for those tests and most didn't budget for it. 

Ionization Labs said sending a substance to a lab is typically $75-150 per test and shipping time can affect the plant's potency.

“The sooner you can get results, the better,” Andrawes said.  

For the Ionization Lab system, the HPLC hardware is about $30,000. While a subscription to the Cann-ID software depends on the number of tests run each month, it's typically between $20-50 per test. 

“It's cost savings. You don't have to hire a PhD necessarily in order to run tests,” said Crawford. 

Ionization Labs said they are more than willing to sit down with prosecutors or law enforcement agencies to discuss how they can help following the hemp law debacle. They also work with hemp producers and research and development.