Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the federal government has said that states may pass laws legalizing pot if they have regulatory laws in place. And to date, 23 states plus Puerto Rico and Guam have legalized medicinal marijuana; and Colorado, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon have legalized the plant for both recreational and medicinal uses.
However, regulations vary from state to state and with lacking state oversight the quality of marijuana can vary greatly from one plant to the next. In her series, “A Tainted High,” Noelle Crombie reports on how in Oregon minimal state laws along with inconsistent lab results have led to dangerous pesticides in medicinal marijuana.
Medicinal marijuana can be used to treat a host of illnesses from cancer to seizures to chronic pain, nausea, epilepsy, concussions, Alzheimer’s disease, and bipolar disorder. But what if the plant was tainted with illegal pesticides often found in amounts far exceeding state regulations? That’s what’s happened in Oregon, according to an investigative report in The Oregonian.
The report found that cannabis bought at dispensaries which had passed pesticide tests, was in fact laced with the potent poisons. The Oregonian sent samples to two labs that specialized in testing for food pesticides. Both labs showed results with elevated levels of pesticides. Additionally, tenmarijuana extracts, which are made from the plant’s seeds and flowers, were found to contain pesticides, many of which are considered potential carcinogens by the federal government. In all, 14 chemicals were found in eight samples. That’s a problem for the 70,000 Oregon residents that use medicinal marijuana.
Patients, meanwhile, can’t be certain that what they are buying has been analyzed for pesticides — even when documentation accompanies the products. Lab representatives said that just because a sample sold at a dispensary came with a lab certificate doesn’t mean that particular portion had ever been tested.
Lab results are inconsistent meaning some labs have said that their certifications are showing up on products that have never been tested. Not to mention that there’s no state oversight so some labs have trained chemists on staff and others do not. Plus it’s up to growers to remove dangerous and tainted products, they’re not yet forced to do so.
Again, The Oregonian:
Once chemicals are detected, it’s up to the grower or dispensary to keep the product off the market. Lab owners say, however, that nothing stops unethical growers from retesting tainted cannabis. What’s more, the marijuana testing industry is a competitive one shaped in part by pressure on labs to pass products to earn repeat business.
The findings aren’t all that surprising when you consider the whirlwind nature of this new industry. It will take time for regulations across the states to be up to snuff. And in the mean time, it’s still the wild west when it comes to marijuana consumption both for recreational and medicinal purposes and it’s up to the individual consumer to get to know their growers and ensure for themselves that the products are safe.