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Half of Maine’s Medical Cannabis May Contain Pesticides, Officials Say

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Sep 25, 2023   
A cannabis stem, held in gloved hands, trimmers at the ready.

Image credit: iStock

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Almost half of Maine’s medical cannabis products would fail the contaminant tests that the state’s recreational cannabis products are subjected to. That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by Maine’s own Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP).

Marijuana mold in Maine

In Maine, medical cannabis – unlike recreational cannabis – is not required to undergo testing. But two recent studies have brought this unbalanced status quo into question.

As reported by the Portland Press Herald, the OCP recently collected 127 samples of medical cannabis from recent inspections and ran them through the same testing process required in the adult-use program. Of the 127, 57 (44.9%) would have failed. In other words, the samples contained significant levels of contaminants such as pesticides, mold, and mycotoxins.

These findings have been corroborated by another, larger study by Nova Analytic Labs, one of the state’s four licensed cannabis testing labs, which found that almost 21% of around 1,400 samples of medical cannabis would have failed the recreational-use pesticide testing panel, compared to just under 4% of 3,200 samples from the adult-use market.

According to the Portland Press Herald, the failed samples in the study contained varying levels of myclobutanil, piperonyl butoxide, bifenthrin, bifenazate, and/or imidacloprid – all of which can cause severe health complications if ingested by people with weakened immune systems.

The findings have spurred the lab workers at Nova Analytic Labs to call for more testing requirements within Maine’s medical cannabis sector.

“We need thoughtful testing regulations in the medical market,” Christopher Altomare, CEO of Nova Analytic Labs, told the Herald.

“At the end of the day, what we (testing labs) do is public and patient safety and I don’t feel that Maine patients are being adequately protected.”

The OCP did once push for mandatory testing for medical cannabis products, but reportedly received significant pushback from medical cannabis companies in the state, which argued that the requirement would be too costly.

During a webinar last week, the OCP’s director, John Hudak, refuted this argument and hinted that the agency was taking steps to revamp its testing requirement policy.

“If a business model is one in which producing clean cannabis is too costly, there’s something wrong with the business model,” he said. “We’re not going to focus on profits at the expense of patients’ health.”


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