With tax revenue down 42 percent from the governor’s early rosy projections — just $68 million, down from the projected first-year tally of $118 million — and difficulties making marijuana edibles easily identifiable, the “Colorado model” for legally selling pot has hit some rough road.
Those who grow and sell pot were pretty much on the same side as those who buy and use the product from the 2012 campaign to pass Amendment 64 until very recently. But it appears that may have changed with the industry and consumers splitting over some basic food safety concerns.
Colorado still is not requiring that all marijuana be subjected to basic microbial testing for pesticides and contaminants such as mold and mildew. The state voter initiative that made pot legal for recreational uses beginning 16 months ago does require such testing, but that provision does not apply to medical marijuana sales.
Consumers are now voicing their concerns about the loophole.
Colorado medical marijuana sales — to only a few thousand people registered with “prescriptions” for pot to treat various aliments — date back to 2001. The product for these medical uses was never routinely subjected to laboratory testing for basic food safety purposes.
Marijuana for recreational use is subjected to lab testing for microbial contaminants. Testing results, however, are not disclosed to the public because the state Marijuana Enforcement Division considers the data “proprietary.”
That difference in how pot for medicine and pot for recreation is treated has resulted in legislative action. In a 5-0 vote on Wednesday, the Colorado Senate’s State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee approved Senate Bill 260 to require medical marijuana product testing.
The bill was sent to the Senate Finance Committee, which could send the measure on for a floor vote. But with less than three weeks to go, the Colorado Legislature has so far pretty much let the existing pot laws stand.
Testing for contaminants — with public testing results — might happen because cannabis consumers are demanding it. The Denver-based Cannabis Consumers Coalition came out in support of SB 260 at the Senate hearing on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the same group announced it had been successful in getting the Denver Department of Environmental Health to release test results for recreational pot that state agencies were keeping secret. That announcement, in part, states:
“Pesticide violations were issued to the following recreational marijuana grow facilities: Mindful, Green Solutions, Evolutionary Holdings, Green Cross Colorado, MMJ America, Organic Greens, Altitude East Treatments, RINO, and Sweet Leaf. All violators were using Eagle 20EW, and petroleum based fungicide that is harmful to humans and animals. Altitude East Treatments was also using Mallet and Avid, both also harmful to humans and animals. Green Cross Denver was also using Mallet. Many of these violators are well known. Mindful, formerly Gaia Plant Based Medicines, is owned by Meg Sanders who was the only industry appointee to Governor John Hickenlooper’s Amendment 64 Task Force.
“This is dangerous to public safety, and we need better testing policies that put consumer safety first. Retail cannabis is supposed to be tested for harmful pesticides, and there already exists a list of acceptable pesticides. This is at best gross negligence on behalf of the offending businesses that shows more concern for money than for safety.
“How many other violators are out there that haven’t gotten caught?” asks Larisa Boliver, the Cannabis Consumers Coalition’s executive director.
At the legislative hearing, a spokesman for the Marijuana Industry Group claimed there is a shortage of test facilities, high costs, and too many inaccurate test results. Testing of medical marijuana would not begin until July 2016 under SB 260.
Another consumer group, the Cannabis Patients Alliance, also endorsed the bill, with their spokesman urging lawmakers to, “Stop the delays, stop the excuses.”
A month ago, Denver ordered eight commercial pot growers to quarantine hundreds of plants for pesticide use, including possible use of pesticides not fit for human consumption. Marijuana plants now fill the space once used as warehouses, especially in the immediate Denver area.
Colorado currently has 19 licensed labs for marijuana testing, but only three for the microbial contaminants.© Food Safety News