Wednesday, February 8, 2023     Volume: 23, Issue: 49

Santa Maria Sun / Spotlight

The following article was posted on December 25th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 43 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 43

The first cannabis testing lab in Santa Barbara County is opening in Lompoc


Despite the number of cannabis farms dotting hillsides throughout Santa Barbara County, there’s currently no local laboratory for farmers to take their plants for state-required testing or other cannabis-related scientific needs. 

Merso Labs will be the first cannabis testing facility in Santa Barbara County when it begins accepting samples within the next month or two.

But that’s set to change. Merso Labs, located on Laurel Avenue in Lompoc, should begin accepting samples within the next month or two, Director of Laboratory Services Kelsey Gorter said. The lab is running tests on its different instruments to obtain final state approval.  

“We have been working really hard to validate all of our methods on every instrument, and that’s part of our process,” Gorter said. “[The state] wants us to show it’s analytical sound, absolutely bulletproof.”

The process of opening the lab began two years ago, Merso Labs CEO Kaleb Asfaha said. He was a graduate student at UC Berkeley at the time, and he had a job offer, but wanted to do what many people in Silicon Valley do—create a start-up.

After looking into the idea of opening a cannabis testing laboratory, Asfaha said he quickly realized how much of his experience in school and in the pharmaceutical industry easily translated to this new line of work. 

Like Asfaha, this venture is Gorter’s first foray into the cannabis industry. Prior to this, she spent time making wine in the county, as well as managing a winery laboratory in Paso Robles. 

“When there’s a new industry, there’s no talent to pull from because it’s brand new,” Asfaha said. “So all you can do is pull from the neighboring industry. Cannabis is the right blend of pharma and ag.”

When the lab does open, state-required testing will include analyzing samples of products prior to them hitting retail shelves to ensure there are no pesticides, heavy metals such as lead, bacteria, or other potentially harmful materials. Gorter said the lab will also measure the potency of the products and the different types of terpenes it contains, which are organic compounds that form the cannabis’ flavor profile. And the lab won’t just test the cannabis flower that’s smoked; the facility will also look at other forms of the product such as liquid THC and edibles.

In addition to the state-required testing, the lab will perform other functions for members of the cannabis industry.

“Not only can we test your cannabis flower and oil so that you can get into a dispensary, but we can help you monitor your soil for water and other nutritional values to ensure you have data on your crop,” Asfaha said. “We really are a scientific resource.”

Without a testing facility in the county, farmers often rely on labs in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz to complete state-mandated testing. Despite not opening yet, Gorter said the lab has already experienced a significant demand that it won’t be able to serve on its own due to the amount of cultivation and manufacturing that takes place in the county. 

“Even if there were five labs here in Lompoc,” Gorter said, “I don’t know that they could serve everybody.”

Asfaha said if the lab does expand, he’d like to see it happen in Lompoc where city officials have been supportive and the permitting process was straightforward. 


• The city of Lompoc is installing surveillance cameras throughout the city to improve public safety. As of Dec. 20, the city had installed 12 cameras throughout, but plans to install between 80 to 100 over the next several months, according to a news release from the city. 

• The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians announced it donated $25,000 to the Central Coast Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots campaign on Dec. 16. Through the funding it receives, the campaign partners with other nonprofits, such as the Salvation Army, to serve families throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. 

Staff Writer Zac Ezzone wrote this week’s Spotlight. Send news tips to 

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