1 in 5 Cali Cannabis Samples Fails 1st Round of Testing
As of July 1st of this year, all cannabis intended for the legal California marketplace had to satisfy the strict set of guidelines laid out by Prop 64, the recreational cannabis legalization law passed in 2016.
Among those guidelines were mandated 3rd party lab testing requirements to ensure the quality and safety of the products hitting store shelves.
The rules were actually supposed to kick in on New Year’s Day, but a 6 month grace period was granted by the state when it became apparent that nobody was prepared for the policy shift.
Even with the half-year warning, a lack of legal product led to a massive shortage of sellable weed right around the beginning of July as growers, distributors, and retailers anxiously awaited the first round of test results hoping that fresh crops of compliant cannabis would soon replenish statewide barren dispensary display cases.
Well, those results are now in and it doesn’t look good, fam.
Since July 1st, state licensed testing labs have analyzed 5,268 batches of cannabis and a highly disappointing 20% of them – 1 out of every 5 samples – failed to meet state standards.
This news might make you throw up a bit in your mouth, and it should, but not all of the failed tests were due to improperly grown weed.
According to the Bureau of Cannabis Control, more than 2/3rds of the samples (68% to be exact) failed due to labeling errors – most often were inaccurate claims of THC-levels and/or overall potency.
We’re not sure how a manufacturer (grower/extractor) is supposed to accurately label the THC content of a cannabis product BEFORE it is tested… Some recommend pre-testing the product before labeling but the costs of these tests are already affecting the sticker price of the weed and besides, different labs all too often produce wildly different results from the same exact same sample.
In most cases the amount of THC stated on the label was higher than what test results showed. So it is not really a safety issue at all, more just for consumer awareness that they might not be getting as much bang for their buck as they thought.
But of the 20% of tests that failed, 20% of those failures were due to something more sinister than misprinted stickers – they failed for high levels of pesticides.
There are 60 banned or regulated pesticides that testing labs must account for. Some samples barely exceeded allowable amounts of certain compounds found in commercial grade pesticides, some blew way past those limits, and still others tested positive for specific pesticides that are totally banned from use altogether.
Bloom Brand vape pen cartridges were among the first casualties once the disappointing results were made public. Somehow their products made it out of quarantine before test results were back and the carts found their way into over 100 Cali pot shops after the July 1st deadline. Once in, those lab tests showed that their questionable carts contain a banned pesticide called Myclobutanil, a product typically sprayed on food crops like grapes or almonds that becomes highly toxic when heated.
Bloom announced a “voluntary recall” which means they had to do something and rather than try to appeal or fight the test results, they accepted them and pulled the product.
So what does this mean?
It means another drought of high grade cannabis on legal dispensary shelves for an indefinite amount of time as there is no guarantee that the next round of testing will go much better.
Add to that the fact that there are only 31 licensed and approved cannabis testing facilities in the entire state. Most of them are physically located in Northern California and a significant number of them are not even ready to accept new clients yet.
This bottleneck in the supply chain needs to be remedied.
Besides bad labeling and potentially harmful pesticides, another 6% of the failed tests were due to microbial contamination, like mold and salmonella. Gross.
Another 5% were for concentrates that were still laced with unacceptable levels of residual solvents used during the extraction process.
Until the regulated cannabis market can clear these compliance hurdles, the grey and black markets in California will continue to thrive as demand is higher than ever, even if legal supply is not.