Arsenic Cannabis Contamination Highlights Dangers For Cannabis Consumers Across the U.S.
On July 13, 2023, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) announced in a press release that they had issued a product recall due to a positive test for arsenic discovered from lab test results following an audit. Recalls happen in all commodity markets and is a signal of a robust product safety program that includes enforcement.
The press release included the following statement for consumers/patients:
“Consumers should be aware that arsenic is carcinogenic and considered to cause a variety of diseases. Cannabis is efficient at absorbing and storing heavy metals and other pollutants found in soil and water, which increases the risk that marijuana users could ingest or inhale heavy metals. These metals can damage the kidneys and nervous system and increase the risk of some cancers.
Consumers who purchased the recalled products are encouraged to destroy them. OLCC staff has worked directly with retailers to halt the sale of the contaminated products, and will continue to look into the matter.”
This recall and the regulations that created it, highlights an important system that is used to protect the patients of Oregon. Unfortunately, not all patients are fortunate enough to live in a state with a medical cannabis program that tests for heavy metals and/or require centralized recall protocols.
In the Americans for Safe Access’ new report Regulating Patient Health: An Analysis of Disparities in State Cannabis Testing Programs, we examine the variations in lab testing programs between the states as well as the contaminants commonly found in cannabis and their potential impacts on patient health if consumed. Arsenic is just one of many heavy metals found in cannabis flower. However, as displayed in the map below, not all states test cannabis products for these contaminants before allowing their sale to consumers (See page 49 of the report for more details).
“Regulating Patient Health” sheds light on the pressing issues surrounding cannabis testing by identifying the significant inconsistencies between states in the types of tests required, the variety of contaminants tested for, the acceptable levels of those contaminants in cannabis products, and the procedures for handling failed tests. These discrepancies are especially alarming when looking at the quality of the overall product safety programs in the medical cannabis programs. In ASA’s 2022 State of the States Report: An Analysis of Medical Cannabis Access in the United States, which grades each state on their medical cannabis programs, the Consumer Protection and Product Safety section showed an average state score of 44%, making it one of the lowest scoring categories in the report. Without strong product safety protocols along the cannabis supply chain, lab testing is the last defense to protect patients.
On July 26, 2023 at 3 pm ET / noon PT, ASA will be hosting a webinar to discuss the findings of our new report with medical professionals, public health experts, and other stakeholders and explore the solutions presented in the report to ensure that patients and cannabis consumers have access to safe and accurately labeled cannabis products.
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