Irvine could become the third city in Orange County to allow marijuana businesses, following Santa Ana and Costa Mesa.

The Irvine City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 23 is expected to vote on a proposal to allow marijuana testing laboratories in industrial, medical and science districts.

[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]Irvine has explicitly banned commercial uses of marijuana — including cultivation, delivery and the operation of dispensaries — within city limits since January 2016. Officials said at the time they wanted to maintain local control as the state established a licensing program and rules for marijuana businesses.

However, Irvine has been approached about allowing the testing of marijuana, which is strictly regulated by state law, according to a city staff report.

“With appropriate restrictions in location and a strict permitting and regulatory process to evaluate cannabis testing laboratories, this new use can be allowed while protecting the health, safety and welfare of Irvine residents,” staff writes in the report, recommending approval.

The city’s Planning Commission, on Dec. 7, also unanimously recommended the council approve the proposal with conditions that these labs not be located within 1,000 feet of homes and schools.

Generally, testing labs receive samples of medicinal or recreational marijuana from a distributor to test for contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, solvents and other impurities, according to the staff report. If the samples pass the tests, the batches from where the samples originated are permitted to be sold at retail stores.

The proposed ordinance allows the city to deny a permit if there is an “over concentration” of testing labs in an area, the staff report states.

Check out our updated map showing shops licensed to sell recreational cannabis in California.

“We view (Irvine) as a city of innovation, and this is an innovative industry,” said Bryan Starr, president and CEO of the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce, which supports the testing lab proposal. “Testing itself is nothing different than testing any medical product.”

Starr said the only company he’s aware of that’s interested in conducting marijuana testing in Irvine is Vantari Genetics, headquartered on Technology Drive. The chamber hasn’t taken positions on marijuana cultivation or retail businesses.

If approved, Irvine will become the second city in Orange County to allow marijuana testing labs; Costa Mesa voters in 2016 passed a measure to approve them. Santa Ana is the only city in Orange County that allows sales of marijuana.

To learn more about marijuana laws in Southern California cities, check out the Register’s database here.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts 4 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Civic Center Plaza. Agenda: