Many Cal­i­for­nia mar­i­juana prod­ucts fail­ing safety tests

Manteca Bulletin - - State/Nation -

LOS AN­GE­LES (AP) — Nearly 20 per­cent of mar­i­juana prod­ucts in Cal­i­for­nia have failed tests for po­tency and pu­rity since the state started re­quir­ing the checks on July 1, a fail­ure rate some in the in­dus­try say has more to do with un­re­al­is­tic stan­dards and tech­ni­cal glitches than pro­tect­ing con­sumer safety.

The test­ing has been es­pe­cially tough on cannabis-in­fused cook­ies, can­dies and tinc­tures: about one-third have been blocked from store shelves.

In much smaller num­bers, test­ing com­pa­nies li­censed by the state are find­ing un­ac­cept­able lev­els of pes­ti­cides, sol­vents and bac­te­ria, in­clud­ing E. coli and sal­mo­nella, ac­cord­ing to data pro­vided to The As­so­ci­ated Press by the state Bureau of Cannabis Con­trol.

In the first two months, nearly 11,000 sam­ples were tested and al­most 2,000 failed. In some cases, the prod­uct must be de­stroyed. But many in­volve la­bel­ing is­sues that can be cor­rected. For ex­am­ple, a mar­i­juana bud that’s tested to show a dif­fer­ent po­tency than what’s on the la­bel can be re­la­beled and sold with the right spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

To the state, the strict test­ing pro­gram is largely do­ing what it was de­signed to do: iden­tify mar­i­juana buds, con­cen­trates, munchies and other prod­ucts that are in some way tainted and un­suit­able for eat­ing or smok­ing.

“Manda­tory statewide test­ing is a new thing and it’s go­ing to take some time for ev­ery­thing to run smoothly, but on the whole we’re pleased with how things are pro­gress­ing,” Bureau of Cannabis Con­trol spokesman Alex Traverso said.

But as reg­u­la­tors con­sider re­cast­ing rules gov­ern­ing the na­tion’s largest le­gal pot econ­omy, they are fac­ing pres­sure to re­vamp test­ing re­quire­ments that are be­ing al­ter­nately de­scribed as go­ing too far, not far enough, or an overly costly bur­den.

The Cal­i­for­nia Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, an in­dus­try group, is among those con­cerned the state is forc­ing grow­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers to hit too tiny a tar­get when gaug­ing lev­els of THC, the psy­choac­tive chem­i­cal that causes mar­i­juana’s high.

Rules re­quire the THC con­cen­tra­tion come within 10 per­cent of what is ad­ver­tised on a prod­uct la­bel. Com­pany ex­ec­u­tives say some prod­ucts are be­ing re­jected af­ter land­ing out­side the mar­gin by tiny amounts.

The Cal­i­for­nia Cannabis Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, an­other in­dus­try group, is push­ing for changes that in­clude al­low­ing com­pa­nies to chal­lenge lab test­ing re­sults.

“Even if the lab ad­mits it made an er­ror, there is no way to change those re­sults,” said Bryce Ber­ryessa, an as­so­ci­a­tion board mem­ber who is CEO of Tree­House dis­pen­sary in Santa Cruz County and pres­i­dent of La Vida Verde, which pro­duces in­fused cook­ies.

“Labs are not per­fect. Mis­takes get made,” he said.

At a state hear­ing last month, the Santa Ana-based test­ing com­pany Can­nal­y­sis urged reg­u­la­tors to broaden their rules to in­clude a test used in food and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­tries that com­pany of­fi­cials say can de­tect a large num­ber of po­ten­tially harm­ful species of mold and yeast not cur­rently cov­ered in state guide­lines.

The com­pany has seen ex­am­ples where mold was on cannabis but the sam­ple passed state tests.

Swetha Kaul, the com­pany’s chief sci­en­tific of­fi­cer who sits on the board of the Cal­i­for­nia Cannabis In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion, said in an in­ter­view the state needs to “cre­ate a big­ger net to catch things.”

By lim­it­ing its re­quired re­view to a few mold species the state is “es­sen­tially cre­at­ing a loop­hole where ev­ery other species can get by,” she said.

Cal­i­for­nia be­gan broad le­gal sales on Jan. 1 and gave com­pa­nies six months to sell off stock­piles of mar­i­juana, oils and ed­i­bles pro­duced with­out strict test­ing re­quire­ments.

The rules re­quire all cannabis prod­ucts to clear a range of tests at labs be­fore reach­ing con­sumers, from en­sur­ing THC is dis­trib­uted evenly in choco­late bars to mak­ing sure buds have not been con­tam­i­nated by fuzzy blan­kets of mold.

From July 1 through Aug. 29, labs tested 10,695 prod­uct batches and 1,904 were re­jected, a fail­ure rate of about 18 per­cent.

Claims on the la­bel, such as TCH con­tent, ac­counted for 65 per­cent of the fail­ures, or 1,279 tests.

This is how the rule works: If a bot­tled juice drink said on the la­bel it was 25 per­cent ap­ple juice, testers would have to find that the con­cen­tra­tion in the juice was within 10 per­cent of that mark, plus or mi­nus. It’s the same with cannabis.

Next in line: About 400 batches were flagged for un­ac­cept­able lev­els of pes­ti­cides. Im­pu­ri­ties such as bac­te­ria and mold caused 114 re­jec­tions.

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