How High ? Pesticide Levels and Other Food Safety Concerns Rising as Cannabis Use Increases
by Robyn Randolph , specialist , Food Laboratory Accreditation
The national attitude towards cannabis use has shifted in recent years , with more states legalizing marijuana for both recreational and medical use . Over the past two decades , twenty-six states have approved the use of medical marijuana . Since 2012 , eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational , adult-use of marijuana , with the number likely to grow in the coming years . 1 Many cannabis users are aware of the health hazards associated with smoking marijuana , which are similar to those caused by smoking cigarettes , but are unfamiliar with other potential public health concerns .
Pesticides and Potency
The use of illegal pesticides in cannabis farming has resulted in recalls for both medical and recreational cannabis . In 2015 , CNN launched an investigation into a Colorado dispensary and found that an illegal pesticide was found in high concentrations in a marijuana product , resulting in a product recall . 2 Between March and April 2015 , the Denver Department of Environmental Health quarantined marijuana plants from 10 businesses due to concerns over harmful and unhealthy pesticide usage . Several lawsuits have also been filed by consumers who were unaware they were inhaling and ingesting harmful substances . 3
Pesticides are not the only public health concern related to cannabis use . The potency , or the amount of the active ingredient delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ) present , must also be verified ; those that use highly potent cannabis can suffer adverse reactions , such as extreme anxiety . Medical edibles ( medibles ) are also a cause for concern . Medibles are food products , such as cookies , brownies or candy , which are baked with marijuana plant oils that contain THC . These are also foods popular with children , and there have been several instances of kids becoming violently ill after mistakenly eating a cannabis-laced food product . Microbial contamination becomes an issue , with pathogens such as Salmonella or E . coli possibly lurking within the food . Other impurities , such as insects or molds , could also be present in edibles .
CDA , along with other APHL member laboratories such as the Hawaii Department of Health and Oregon State Public Health Laboratories , are responsible for credentialing those private laboratories to perform cannabis testing . Some state departments of public health are tasked with developing programs that will ensure cannabis safety , often with very little federal guidance . For example , Oregon accredits laboratories through the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program ( ORELAP ) based on TNI ( The NELAC Institute ) standards . As of October 2016 , accreditation by ORELAP became a requirement for testing medicinal and recreational marijuana sold at medical dispensaries or retail stores ; about twenty private laboratories have been accredited with varying scopes of testing .
Despite states ’ relaxed view of cannabis usage , the US Drug Enforcement Administration ( DEA ) continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug . This prevents the federal government from providing cannabis testing guidance for state and local public health laboratories . These PHLs are tasked with creating their own cannabis testing programs , assessing the sources and hazards associated with cannabis production and consumption , and establishing action levels for each hazard based on its potential health effects .
While many tout its medical benefits , cannabis presents unique challenges to public health laboratories . If your laboratory would like more information regarding cannabis testing , please contact Jennifer Liebreich at Jennifer . liebreich @ aphl . org .
Because there are no minimum federal testing and / or certification guidelines , each state handles testing differently . For example , the Colorado Department of Agriculture ( CDA ) tests industrial hemp for potency and cannabis for pesticides only . Other laboratories are not directly involved with cannabis testing ; manufacturers send their samples to private , third-party laboratories for testing .
References : 1 . Williams , S . ( 2017 , March 19 ). Here ' s the scoop on a recently introduced Marijuana bill thatwould protect states ' rights - Nasdaq . com . Retrieved from http :// www . nasdaq . com / article / heres-the-scoop-on-a-recently-introduced-marijuana-bill-thatwould-protect-states-rights-cm762636
2 . Weisfeldt , S . ( 2015 , November 25 ). Who ' s minding the pot ? - CNN . com . Retrieved from http :// www . cnn . com / 2015 / 11 / 25 / us / colorado-marijuana-pesticides-testing / index . html
3 . Migoya , D ., & Baca , R . ( 2016 , October 5 ). Colorado ’ s largest pot grower sued by two consumers over pesticide use – The Denver Post . Retrieved from http :// www . denverpost . com / 2015 / 10 / 05 / colorados-largest-pot-grower-sued-by-two-consumersover-pesticide-use /
LAB MATTERS Spring 2017
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