Nearly 1 in 5 cannabis products fail testing in California

September 11, 2018

Over the past two months, the state of California tested nearly 11,000 marijuana products for potency and purity and almost 2,000, or about 18 percent, failed the tests. [U.S. News & World Report]

The majority of the products that failed tests, however, are not blocked from placement on pot shop shelves. Rather, the products must be relabeled, often to reflect their actual THC content.

Between July 1 and Aug. 29, labs tested 10,695 product batches in California. A total of 1,904 batches failed the tests. Improper claims on the product labels, such as THC content, accounted for 1,279 failed tests, or 65 percent of the failures.

State rules require the THC concentration of a product determined by testing to come within 10 percent of what is advertised on its label.

Secondly, about 400 batches of marijuana products failed tests due to unacceptable levels of pesticides. Other impurities, such as bacteria and mold, resulted in 114 failed tests.

Critics are simultaneously describing the state’s testing requirements as too rigid, too lenient and overly costly.

Marijuana company officials say the state is rejecting some pot products after they fall outside the 10 percent margin by tiny amounts. Likewise, some industry officials say there is no way to change testing results in cases in which the laboratory makes a mistake, even if the lab admits to the error.

Some lab officials say a large number of potentially harmful species of mold and yeast can go undetected in pot products because they are not currently covered in state guidelines. At a state hearing last month, the Santa Ana-based company Cannalysis urged regulators to expand their rules to include a test used in food and pharmaceutical industries that detects species of mold and yeast.

Additionally, the California Growers Association recently complained in a letter to the state that “testing is currently costly, slow and inconsistent.” Testing for a small outdoor marijuana farm can typically cost $5,000 to $10,000 in California.

As California has rolled out its recreational marijuana program this year, concerns have lingered that much of the state’s cannabis business remains in the black market. One indicator of that has been that marijuana tax revenue has not come close to reaching the state’s projections.

California regulators responded to concerns about the state’s testing program, saying it is a work in progress, but it is largely accomplishing its goals of identifying marijuana buds, concentrates, edibles 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,” said Bureau of Cannabis Control spokesman Alex Traverso.

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This is not unusual. That is why the government has MULTIPLE agencies to keep quality and consistency. The FDA ensures drugs are consistent. The weights and measures agency ensures we are getting the right amount of ketchup or cereal. I’m not sure which agency it is, but someone goes to gas stations to ensure gasoline is also of the right octane and being dispensed appropriately. At $4 a gallon, that’s great to know I am getting the whole gallon I paid for.

Something that is growing in nature and must be bred to a certain potency is both an art and a science. It’s a brand new thing to have the Government butting in. Give it time. I still think it is safer than the visitors and residents of SLO County that drink wine and take Xanax and THEN think it is fun to drive on our roadways. 

Was California expecting compliance and quality in this industry?

Is there ” compliance and quality” in any industry Jorge? I think not. As far as cannabis, this is just the growing pains that any start-up industry goes through, and just like any other industry you will have those who will skirt the law, try and push off a questionable product to any unsuspecting customer while charging outrageous prices. What you have in cannabis customers is a better informed consumer (believe me, those of us who have consumed over the years know what’s what) and the option to grow your own rather than purchasing from a retailer, both of which should make the cannabis industry more robust and honest.

I don’t grow (no room) and I buy from a dispensary, with all the deals that go on throughout the week (“Flower Friday”, “Two For Tuesday”, etc.) I pay an average of $5.00 a gram, and the quality is always excellent. The dispensary I do business with is locally owned and operated, and they take great pride in a business they have fought long and hard for and it shows in their products. Besides, there’s also a good, clean, honest competition among dispensaries in the area I live in, which keeps prices low and insures a healthy future.

This highlights one of the major problems associated with SLO county’s approach to legalization. I can’t afford to pay $300/ounce for something I can grow for about $25/pound. Once you add testing, it gives sellers an excuse to raise the price. When I’m in control of the grow, I’m in 100% control of quality; I don’t need to worry about greedy growers and sellers. Dumping pesticides on the plant to increase yields does not hurt the grower or seller, only the user. The county’s law inevitably hurt users, with many of them using cannabis for medicinal reasons.

I see it as less than 10% failed because they are potentially harmful. That is pretty impressive to see that over 90% is clean this early into mandatory testing and I would bet any other agriculture product would fair much worse if they had to go through the same stringent testing. I’m happy to see the state is catching the bad pesticides, molds, and mildews that can cause serious harm to people with compromised immune systems and preventing them from reaching the market. The ones with mislabeled THC content isn’t harmful, just business as usual within testing companies. Anyone who has had product tested knows if you pay more you can get higher THC test results from most labs, now it is coming to bite them in the behind which is good.