Random Sampling of Cannabis in Denver Dispensaries Identifies Yeast and Mold Issues

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Colorado Does Not Currently Require Testing of End Products
on Retail Shelves but Recent Assessments Bring Issue into Spotlight

In August there was an assessment
initiated by the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) that
consisted of 25 randomly selected cannabis retail stores. From these stores, products
consisting of raw plant material, specifically flower, shake, and pre-rolls,
were randomly pulled for sampling. Samples were tested for pesticides and total
yeast and mold by a state and ISO-certified cannabis testing lab. When we first
reported on the matter in August, we quoted Kara Lavaux of DDPHE, who stated,
“There are currently no contaminant testing requirements for end products on
retail shelves. This assessment is an exploratory effort to understand if there
are contaminant concerns at the point of sale.”

In mid-October, DDPHE
announced one of the largest recalls
of
cannabis products – specifically flower, shake, and pre-rolls – which had been
distributed to 144 retailers across the state. While DDPHE did not specify whether
the recall was a result of the assessment noted above, Lavaux previously stated
to Cannabis Benchmarks that the results of the assessment could trigger
enforcement actions.

Now, Westword
is reporting that DDPHE’s assessment found that 20 of 25 retailers had
products on their shelves that tested above the state’s acceptable levels for
total yeast and mold. Overall, of all the products tested, roughly 35% to 40%
of samples failed for total yeast and mold. Westword’s report is based on an
analysis of DDPHE dispensary inspection reports filed in early September, but
noted, “officials would not confirm whether all 25 of the tests … were part of
the planned assessment …, though they acknowledged that some were.”

The report states that
most of the dispensaries that saw products they stocked fail testing purchased
those items from wholesale providers. Products are tested by cultivators and
product manufacturers prior to being sold or transferred wholesale, but there
are no requirements for packaged products to be tested once they reach the
point of retail sale. Additionally, cultivators and product manufacturers can
gain “process validation,” which allows them to submit samples monthly for
testing, rather than screening every batch. One store owner interviewed by
Westword noted that the state’s tracking system, METRC, would not allow
retailers to take in products that had failed required testing or did not
qualify under process validation.

The report notes that
investigations are still ongoing, with how and when the products in question
became contaminated yet to be determined. DDPHE’s official report on its
assessment has not yet been released either. Based on Westword’s report,
however, it appears that there is a possibility that additional product could
be removed from circulation, which would tighten supply that is reportedly
already strained this year. Depending on the findings of the investigation, it
is also plausible that additional regulation and testing requirements could be
implemented in the future if contamination issues are as widespread as they
have been portrayed.

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