Clinical lab expert and entrepreneur Malorie La Fuente envisions a fully transparent and safe environment for cannabis businesses and customers in the United States.
Her cannabis testing lab startup, Desert Cannalytix, is a response to the problematic testing practices that have marred the cannabis industry for years.
With a decade of experience in managing and operating hospital pathology and reference laboratories, Malorie may have the key to solving the currently troubled lab testing segment.
In a recent interview, Malorie tells us she knows exactly where to start to create an immediate impact.
“Nevada was one of the original pioneers in cannabis legalization,” she noted. “Knowing this, and already living in Las Vegas, I almost immediately saw an opportunity to jump in and be a part of the cannabis revolution.”
She explained that there is room for growth in the lab testing segment as many of the testing labs that initially popped up in the state have already lost their license to operate.
She also pointed to the overall economic growth in the state and some of the exciting things that go hand in hand with such development.
“It’s something you know is coming. With Elon Musk and his Boring Company’s Las Vegas Convention Center Loop completed that they’re saying will be expanded to other parts of the city plus the successful entrance into professional sports with the Las Vegas Raiders and the Vegas Golden Knights, it’s obvious that Las Vegas is about to explode. With that, I’ve seen traffic increase which signifies that we’re already growing and there are neighborhoods and homes popping up all over the place. Because of the growth, Nevada is poised perfectly for growth and Desert Cannalytix alongside with it.”
According to Malorie, she has been observing the problematic lab testing practices that have marred the U.S. cannabis industry for years.
“With my background, I knew what I had to do… Open a testing facility.”
Master of all trades
While studying Clinical Laboratory Science from the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health professions at St. John’s University in Queens, Malorie opted to pursue a generalist license over a specialist one.
“As a generalist in laboratory science, I was required to complete and pass courses and clinical rotations in the following fields: Microbiology, Serology, molecular diagnostics, clinical chemistry, cytogenetics, immunohematology, hematology, histology.”
Her university training has helped her familiarize herself with the most accurate techniques and sensitive tools to provide diagnostic information to clinicians.
“With healthcare, there is little room for error,” she stressed. “If incorrect or invalid results are reported, illnesses could be missed or also, a patient could be inappropriately diagnosed or treated for something they don’t have.”
A leader in training
According to Malorie, it was her generalist training that led to her quick promotion into supervisory and managerial roles a mere two years into her professional career.
“I can thank the extensive training and education I received from St. John’s University. My clinical rotations were at some of the best pathology labs in NYC.”
The promotions have since molded her leadership skills, which she says require special and charismatic traits.
“You end up dealing with a wide range of employees, peers, customers, and various other regulatory bodies so you have to be a people person. You will also need to learn that you can’t always be the good guy. You will have to make difficult decisions and will also have to have the difficult conversations.”
Malorie noted that she comes from a mindset of service to others, something totally opposite from the approach of many leaders she encountered in the past.
“I strive to make impacts and to leave areas in my life journey better than how I found them. I like to invoke passion and specific talents in those I deal with. My aim is to be a pioneer that leads others into new experiences and new ways of looking at things. Keeping up with current trends and also creatively coming up with innovative solutions to do things differently has been a huge part of my success in management.”
An idea sparked
What pushed Malorie to get into cannabis testing was a conversation she overheard, in which a cannabis business owner lamented about having to spend to test his products.
Malorie, who has extensive knowledge of the medicinal use of cannabis, was infuriated after hearing the entrepreneur complain how easier it was “back in the day.”
“While I understand, cannabis or any other plant medicine is not a cure-all, treat-all, those with symptoms and illnesses who could benefit from plant medicines, counted on safe products to consume,” she added.
Malorie then started exploring how to get into the testing business.
“I subscribed to cannabis testing platform mailing lists, industry newsletters, and webinar venues. The more I was exposed to my interest, the idea started to become a plan.”
Birth of Desert Cannalytix
Malorie would later call her mother to describe the concept of building a state-of-the-art testing laboratory that addresses the need for accuracy and reliability.
“She quickly offered me her best advice and where to begin. The first step was applying for a business license. This was the inception of Desert Cannalytix. I thought I was the real deal at that point. Little did I know, I had a long journey ahead.”
Malorie spent the first year and a half she spent waiting for the opportunity to apply for a license. At the time, the cannabis industry was governed by the Department of Taxation in Nevada.
“There was no movement but I didn’t give up working. I started putting time and money into necessities such as, building a website, developing a business plan, putting together quotes to develop a startup budget. I still didn’t know where I was going, how I was going to raise the money but I was moving forward.”
It was around this time when she met Las Vegas-based finance expert Bonito Sahagun, who would eventually become the CFO for Desert Cannalytix.
A shift in strategy
In the late spring of 2020, it was announced that due to a directive from Nevada’s governor, the state’s cannabis regulations would be governed by a Cannabis Compliance Board.
Although Malorie was initially excited by the news, she eventually noticed irregularities after another year passed and they still had no opportunity to apply for a license.
“Licensure is critical to opening. I was beginning to feel defeated. It seemed at the time, everything was working against me.”
Bonito’s advice to rethink their strategy prompted Malorie to find other ways to operate Desert Cannalytix without sacrificing her vision.
“One day, I had an idea to change our business model to strictly servicing CBD/ hemp and any other future plant medicines potentially coming down the pipe.”
Malorie shared that the market was just as large, if not larger for CBD/ Hemp.
“As the CEO and Scientific Director, the science and operations responsibilities come second-nature but finding the right person to help launch the startup and help facilitate the accounting & financial side of the startup operations was key. It was destiny that Bonito and I met because he really fueled my dream.”
With the bump in the road behind them, Malorie and Bonito are now launching an equity crowdfunding campaign for Desert Cannalytix on FINRA-registered platform Fundanna.
“Well-operated cannabis testing labs are the most secure investment to make in the cannabis space. The cannabis industry is definitely glamorous and can have passive trends, but testing isn’t going anywhere. Other future plant medicines and their producers are future customers.”
Malorie also takes pride in their upcoming Desert Cannalytix app, which she says has the potential to benefit the industry by connecting all of its parts into one source.
“Transparency is knowing what is going on at every step of a process. It’s a way to incorporate the beauty of AI to monitor trends and maintain organization within huge operations. Most successful companies and industries are incorporating this same technology into their workflows. It’s time to get real-time tracking into an industry in deep need of a central source of information.”