Michigan’s medical cannabis program is just over a decade old. Yet the state only licensed its first cannabis testing facilities in August 2018. And already, regulators are issuing health and safety advisories for more than a dozen strains of medical marijuana sold at a pair of dispensaries. The product recalls affect strains sold between Dec. 12, 2018 and January 3, 2019. The recalled strains failed laboratory testing for a number of reasons, including mold, chemical residue, bacteria and yeast.
Michigan’s Regulations are Catching Up With Michigan’s Cannabis Industry
Michiganders have enjoyed legal access to medical marijuana since 2008. But it was only in 2016 that Michigan’s conservative state legislature began crafting bills to better regulate, tax and license Michigan’s medical cannabis industry. By that point, however, an entire network of unregistered caregivers and unlicensed dispensaries had emerged to serve Michigan’s quarter-million-plus medical cannabis patients. Knowing it couldn’t simply crack down on the entire unlicensed industry, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) put in place a set of emergency rules to help businesses and caregivers transition.
In the meantime, LARA set about licensing caregivers, processors, producers, distributors and dispensaries. But LARA left a crucial part of the medical cannabis supply chain for last: testing facilities. Lack of testing facilities became the final roadblock for Michigan’s regulated MMJ program. And in August, LARA finally licensed two testing facilities: Iron Laboratories and Precision Safety Innovation.
Today, Michigan’s medical cannabis patients are seeing why testing labs are so important. In a press release posted online, LARA issued two health and safety product recalls. The recalls affect strains on sale in two Michigan dispensaries. At The Green Mile Detroit dispensary, LARA recalled four strains. Gelato and Girl Scout Cookies failed lab tests for total yeast and mold count, while Superman OG failed for chemical residue. The dispensary’s Mimosa strain failed tests for bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria and total coliforms—as in, E. coli. Not good. The press release lists specific lot and production batch numbers of the impacted strains.
At another dispensary, Compassionate Care by Design in Kalamazoo, LARA recalled 11 strains, including a number of Kush and Skunk strains. All products at Compassionate Care by Design failed lab tests because of chemical residue contamination. Often, that means pesticides and other fertilizer or grow chemicals.
Michigan’s Rapidly Growing Cannabis Industry Needs More Testing Labs
Michigan needs more cannabis testing labs. Especially after voters legalized adult-use cannabis, home cultivation and retail in a 55 to 45 percent ballot referendum in the 2018 midterm elections. And especially if Michigan lawmakers who oppose legalization continue to try to gut voter-approved provisions.
Michigan’s adult-use cannabis law lets Michiganders grow up to two mature plants in a private residence for private consumption. But after the Nov. 6 election, Republican state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof introduced a bill to ban home-grown cannabis. And even before Michigan voters legalized weed, their lawmakers preemptively banned cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages—a product that doesn’t exist in any legal market in the United States.
Without adequate lab testing, both medical cannabis patients and retail customers are at risk of consuming contaminated, sub-par products.