The Long Beach Planning Commission on February 21 approved a conditional use permit for a facility to grow, test and distribute recreational cannabis in an industrial area on 15th Street, between Oregon and San Francisco avenues. The city is already home to 33 licensed cannabis businesses, many of which hold multiple licenses to cultivate, manufacture, distribute and sell both medical and recreational cannabis products. PRFCT Labs LLC is the first company set to open a licensed lab for recreational cannabis products.

In Long Beach, “adult-use” — another term for recreational — cannabis makes up close to half of all licenses issued by the city. (Visualization by the Long Beach Business Journal, Data Source: City of Long Beach, Office of Cannabis Oversight)

Labs are used to test crops and manufactured products for contaminants and determine the level of psychoactive substances in the plant or product. Cannabis companies use labs to perform product tests required by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control or for research and development purposes.

Trevor Barrett, the PRFCT Labs chief executive officer, said the city’s stance on medical marijuana first attracted the company to Long Beach when its leadership began scouting locations in 2018, before many cities had fully implemented local ordinances on recreational cannabis. “A lot of counties were in the dark then about what they were going to do in setting regulation,” Barrett explained. “Long Beach had already gone forward in allowing the medicinal permitting and we were in contact with people, and they [the city] were pretty public about the fact that they were going to go recreational.”

PRFCT Labs uses a process called “volatile solvent manufacturing” to produce extracts and concentrates from cannabis plants. “That’s really our main business, and cultivation is where our heart lies,” Barrett said. “We do it all.” The company’s Long Beach facility will include separate areas for cultivation, testing, manufacturing and distribution. “We’re just a boutique, craft cannabis brand, and what we do is produce the most high-end quality with the small space that we have,” Barrett explained.

Finding the right location for his business was a challenge, Barrett said, especially because of the additional safety requirements placed on companies like his that use volatile solvents to distill cannabis extracts. Volatile solvents, such as pressurized Butane, can be dangerous if handled improperly, leading some cities to ban their use in cannabis manufacturing or to limit licensing to certain zones. Because of the added restrictions, PRFCT Labs was limited in its choice of locations, and lower real estate prices led them to Long Beach.

“We were just looking for a centrally located county that accepts volatile solvent manufacturing for a company like ours. Long Beach did that,” Barrett said. “It’s still a grind, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like we got cheap rates by any means; we got fair rates.”

Before it is able to open its doors to clients, the facility needs to be licensed by the city and the state. The ease of the application process in Long Beach added to the city’s appeal, Barrett said, but an influx of applications may be slowing down the process. “I understand they’ve been flooded by a whole bunch of applications and everything’s come to a crawl,” he pointed out. The city has given out 21 licenses for recreational cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and retail since the legalization of recreational use went into effect on January 1, 2018. Barrett hopes that soon, he’ll have his, too. “I’m ready to open!” he said.