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Regulating Heavy Metals in Cannabis: What We Can Learn From the Pharmaceutical Industry

Published: Nov 12, 2020   

The lack of federal oversight with regard to medicinal cannabis and hemp products in the US has meant that it has been left to the individual states to regulate its use. Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, while 11 states allow its use for adult recreational consumption. The sale of these products is strictly regulated by their THC and CBD content, depending on their use. However, it’s also critical to monitor levels of contaminants such heavy metals, as the cannabis plant is known to be a hyper-accumulator of heavy metals in the soil. Unfortunately, there are many inconsistencies with heavy metal limits in different states where medical cannabis is legal. Some states define four heavy metals while others specify up to eight. Some are based on limits directly in the cannabis, while others are based on consumption per day. Others take into consideration the body weight of the consumer, while some states do not even have heavy metal limits. So clearly there is a need for consistency across state lines, in order that consumers know they are using products which are safe to use. This presentation will take a closer look at how the pharmaceutical industry changed its 100-year old sulfide precipitation test for a small group of heavy metals, to finally arrive at a list of 24 elemental impurities using plasma spectrochemical techniques. The cannabis industry can learn a great deal from this process to not only understand the many potential sources of heavy metal contamination, but also how the final cannabis products can be contaminated by the manufacturing equipment, the extraction process and the delivery systems used.

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