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Oregon Authorities Will Now Randomly Test Cannabis Products

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Apr 21, 2020   
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The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) will soon begin randomly testing marijuana products for the presence of undisclosed ingredients and additives.

Investigating the vaping

In a press release on April 17, the government agency said the testing initiative was in response to the recent outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injuries (EVALI) across the US.

“That public health crisis resulted in the hospitalizations and deaths of hundreds of people known to vape nicotine and cannabis,” the OLCC wrote. “In Oregon 22 people were afflicted with vaping-associated lung injuries, including two fatalities.”

Rather than nicotine or cannabis, the injuries are widely thought to have been caused by additives found in illicit vaping cartridges, such as the cutting agent vitamin E acetate. Several studies have found these additives absent from vaping products sold in the legal cannabis markets.

“Vitamin E acetate is very heavily used in the illegal vaping market; 20, 30, 60 percent of a cartridge could be vitamin E acetate,” Dr Swetha Kaul, vice president of the board of directors at the California Cannabis Industry Association, told Analytical Cannabis last October.

Under current Oregon state law, all marijuana items intended for sale in the medical and recreational markets must be sampled and tested by accredited labs. These tests should detect any suspicious additives, such as vitamin E acetate.

But, to add an extra layer of compliance, OLCC staff will now also test legal cannabis products for additives during random inspections.

“During the vaping crisis, OLCC took the position that specific additives suspected of being contained in nicotine and cannabis vaping products were adulterants and based on existing OLCC rules should not be contained in marijuana products,” the OLCC wrote.

“But the OLCC lacked specific authority to require random sampling and testing to detect adulterants and other contaminants in the marijuana products of licensees. The rule, which takes effect April 20, 2020, changes that.”

Testing the right market

As the root cause of the EVALI outbreak is still largely thought to be the illicit market, it’s difficult to know whether these extra checks for the legal market will have any effect on EVALI cases, which have been declining since September 2019.

“These black market products are not safe and are too readily available. Banning vapes would leave those illicit products as the only ones available,” Aaron Riley, president of the Los Angeles-based cannabis testing lab CannaSafe, said following the EVALI outbreak last year. “The opportunity is to educate the public, government, and media on the real risks of purchasing products from illicit markets.”

Speaking to Analytical Cannabis earlier this month, Riley championed the safety of the legal markets and urged state authorities to further support them to help undermine their illicit counterparts.

“One of the common questions I get in interviews is ‘how do I know I'm buying a safe product?’” he said. “And it starts with buying it from a licenced legal dispensary.”


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