The Manhattan Project of Marijuana 

If pot is truly medicine, shouldn't it be standardized? Analytical Labs wants to test the potency and safety of Cali cannabis.

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"We're finding out CBD has an extremely medical effect but a non-psychoactive effect, and a lot of people really want that," Elan said. "A forty-year-old businessman doesn't want to get high. He needs the pain relief. They're able to do that with the books behind the bar."

Will, an East Bay resident in the advertising industry, said he met the lab's results with a skepticism that's been conquered by time. "I have more faith in this place than I do in peanuts right now, and I'm becoming less of a pothead."

The 32-year-old Will is a closeted toker who came in a year ago for migraines and because he liked pot. He found Harborside clean and less pricey than many thugged-out places in Los Angeles. "I thought, literally, 'I'm in Entourage. This is the cleanest pharmacy I've ever been in. It's nice, clean, safe, and well-lit."

But trial and error with some of Harborside's wares left Will super-baked at inopportune moments. So when the numbers showed up, "I was like, 'Oh, what's this? Really cool. Is this for real? Are these real percentages? How did you get these percentages?' And it helped me quickly pick my price range. A lot of times you want a lower-price medicinal marijuana that has a higher THC. I was questioning it for a little bit but as I kept coming back and saw the numbers kind of stay legit and not shift and things like this, I thought, 'Oh, this is really nice.' I felt comfortable. It makes it easy. You have such a selection that you want to look at it all and smell it all and it helps you narrow it down."

"Ford," a longtime local grower, patient, and activist who was writing letters to men and women in jail at the activism station, said the lab is changing people's habits. He's growing a strain of pot known as OG Kush and shows off pictures of his "babies."

"I'm thinking about bringing in my next batch for testing, 'cause I'm curious."

Ford said there is a lot of the marijuana equivalent of bathtub gin out there. He believes that testing will cause growers to take more care. "I've been involved and dropped out of bad operations," he said. "You can't have your dog near the plant, man. Dogs and plants don't mix."

In the final analysis, it's hard to think of any system more antithetical to the closed US drug-development system than contemporary US cannabis production. Bringing the two in line means the annihilation of one culture or the other. Which will win?

"Those two worlds are going to come together," Dave said. "The DEA has to accept it, and we as an industry have to go to a model that is more acceptable, more palatable for mainstream society."

The Analytical Laboratory Project is in the process of writing custom software for a lab management system. "Ultimately, this stuff will end up getting published, I think," DeAngelo said. "People are dying because of a lack of research."

Within the next month or so, Dave said the lab intends to branch out to thirteen Bay Area clubs. "If I had ten customers like Harborside, I'd be a rich man," Dave said with a laugh. "We know them all, and they want to do it." After that, he said, the lab will seek a special license from the City of Oakland.

An independent certification system consisting of specific labels and stickers is being developed for participating customers. Participants will also have to consent to undergo occasional audits, in which an undercover shopper obtains samples so that the lab can ensure that its labels haven't been copied or swapped.

Dig it: Analytical Labs wants to drug test pot clubs.

"If you want to be part of the testing program, that's what you have to do," DeAngelo said. "Because it's not just a marketing thing, it is about collecting this research. So the research has to be valid, we have to take these steps to make it valid."

Within a few years, the goal is to have tens of thousands of potential research subjects reporting coded results on surveys, the testing of tinctures and edibles, pesticides tests, and strain profiles correlated to effect and illness.

The Center and the lab fit into broader plans for legal change. The nonprofit Harborside Health Center gives thousands of dollars each year to activist groups like NORML. A fraction of every lazy, pothead dollar is being funneled into an engine for legislative reform.

"If every dispensary in the state of California would give the proportion of the money that they take in to the movement as Harborside does: the job would be done by now," DeAngelo said. "I want to see the law requiring cannabis to match the reality of what this plant is."

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