It’s common knowledge that California’s weed regulations are strict, but few thought they were this extreme. As of July, cannabis has to undergo new forms of testing. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control implemented this new process to detect pesticides, bacteria and other chemicals. They discovered a shocking about of tainted weed in California, leaving consumers and producers to wonder what’s next for the world’s biggest recreational weed market.
California’s New Weed Testing Regulations
California weed companies were living in a regulatory grace period—that is, until July 1st. Since then, licensed weed businesses cannot sell untested cannabis products. This means that cannabis producers have to hire a third-party lab to test for a long list of components.
These range from toxins like heavy metals, pesticides, processing chemicals, solvents to cannabinoids, terpenoids and moisture. If California weed is tainted with any of these components, it cannot go to market.
Additionally, packaging requirements became more complex on July 1st. Now, all weed product packaging must be tamper-proof and adhere to labeling requirements. This means telling people clearly and accurately how much THC is in a product.
Though this all important information, all these regulations come with a hefty price tag for weed businesses. Paying for lab testing prior to July 1st to ensure that products would pass and complex packaging can cost more than some small weed businesses can afford to pay. Even titans of industry like MedMen took a hit when they had to sell off their untested supply at huge discounts at the end of June. Think 70 percent off.
As if state regulations weren’t enough, jurisdictions within California can impose additional laws on weed packaging and processing. On top of that, they can increase taxes or ban weed completely.
There Is A Lot of Tainted Weed In California
According to the Orange County Register, tainted weed in California accounts for 20 percent of weed tested so far. This means that 1 in 5 quantities of the 5,268 batches tested failed and cannot go to market. Considering that California is the largest adult use weed market, a 20 percent hit is far from insignificant.
And this is only a small portion of the market. California only has 31 labs licensed to test cannabis. It can take weeks for weed producers to get backtesting results.
Additionally, authorities recalled whatever weed was on the shelves on July 1st. This left many dispensaries without enough product to sell for the first weeks of July. Even now, some are still without enough weed, either because their weed failed testing or they’re waiting for results.
Why 1 in 5 Cannabis Products Failed Testing
Luckily, most of the weed fails to meet safety standards simply has inadequate packaging. Alex Traverso, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Cannabis Control, explained to local news that 68 percent of the cannabis companies that failed testing exaggerated their products’ THC content.
Ever eaten a store-bought edible designed to get you high but felt no effects? It’s possible it had less THC— the compound that gets you high—than advertised.
Conversely, 19 percent of cannabis that failed testing came back positive for pesticides. This can mean using too many pesticides or pesticides that the state has outlawed. There are over 60 types of pesticides that growers cannot use in excess, or at all.
Some cannabis business owners are outraged that weed requires more intense testing than other products. For instance, weed produced by farmers cultivating land previously used for other crops might fail pesticides tests, even if they never used the chemicals in question.
Only around 6 percent of weed tested to date failed due to bacteria and mold. This can happen if producers don’t dry store weed properly.
Are California Weed Testing Regulations Too Strict?
Weed scarcities, failed weed testing and strict packaging laws have people wondering: Are California’s weed laws too strict for an already challenging new industry? Only big cannabis companies can pay to develop complex packaging and lab testing and afford to lose product. California’s weed regulations put small businesses at a disadvantage. They also limit consumers’ options and create weed shortages.
But the world is watching the West Coast’s recreational weed market. It’s important for the cannabis industry that no one gets sick from tainted weed in California, either from the black market, pesticides or bacteria. If weed legalization goes awry in the largest recreational weed market in the world, other states will be wary of legalization for a long time.