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How Durango’s Aurum Labs Outdrew Others to Win Colorado’s Hemp-Testing Showdown

In the historic Colorado railway town of Durango, sticking to their guns led Liz and Luke Mason at Aurum Labs to develop the most complex hemp and cannabis pesticide analysis to date.




Owners, Luke and Liz Mason are seen at Aurum Labs in Durango, Colorado in 2022. PHOTO COURTESY AURUM LABS

Aurum Labs in Colorado’s quaint railway town of Durango (pop. 19,007) outdrew the big guns and multi-state operators of cannabis-testing labs to walk away as the first independent pesticide testing lab fully certified by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Family-run Aurum’s owners, Luke and Liz Mason, looked to their chemists to rapidly develop the methodology to tackle the state’s rigorous requirement of 102 analytes — the most expansive pesticide analysis of hemp and cannabis in the nation.

Pesticide analysis in cannabis is relatively a new science, extremely complex and not like traditional dietary ingredient or agricultural product pesticide testing. The molecular structure of cannabinoids is so similar to pesticides that they create obstacles for proper analysis. Even the most experienced analytical chemists have struggled with this arduous method development.

Aurum Lab’s digital services for clients include online ordering, a secure COA database, verifiable COA’s with QR code, sample updates and direct communication with the lab. PHOTO COURTESY AURUM LABS

The Masons nonetheless set out to develop an efficient technique to meet the CDPHE’s comprehensive pesticide screening — a challenge exacerbated by the accelerated timeline that the CDPHE demanded. As an independent competing against large MSO testing labs with the leverage of capital and resources, the Masons still seized the day  — and the state’s full certification — thanks to the talents of its staff.

“Our laboratory staff has worked diligently over the last 12 months, often experiencing COVID supply chain issues that made this method development even more challenging” says owner and lab director Luke Mason. “Ultimately, it came down to the fact that we have some of the most technically sound and dedicated chemists in the industry, and we were determined to get it done.”

“Real people, real results”
Aurum Labs utilizes new liquid chromatography and gas chromatography instrumentation, coupled with triple quadrupole mass spectrometers (LC-MS/MS and GC-MS/MS) to analyze 102 pesticides. This new method is a significant expansion from Aurum Lab’s Colorado Cannabis pesticide method, where only 13 pesticides are analyzed. The new method is also more sensitive and selective, with pesticides detected at very low levels.


“It’s difficult to compete with these large, private-equity-funded labs, but Aurum is passionate about serving the evolving hemp industry” says Liz Mason, Aurum’s director of operations. “We are committed to staying on the scientific forefront to give the most comprehensive services to our clients. Like we always say, ‘real people, real results’.”

Currently, Aurum Labs is one of five certified hemp testing labs in the U.S. approved to perform this pesticide analysis and is the only independent testing lab. Colorado hemp producers have not been able to complete all compliance testing with a single lab… until now. With Colorado mining $1.7 billion in 2021 cannabis sales, Aurum and the city of Durango proved itself still quick-on-the-draw in the cannabis showdown.



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