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Could California’s Legal Weed Be Tainted?

There could be problems with the first few batches of legal weed in California.

Tim Kohut

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Could California's Legal Weed Be Tainted?

If you plan on being one of the first customers to purchase California’s recreational weed upon its January 1 inception, you may want to consider the question: Could California’s legal weed be tainted?

That’s because the first batch of cannabis sold in California dispensaries will not have to be grown under the stringent regulations that will ultimately be put into place. This could lead to your pot potentially containing mold, pesticides or other contaminants synonymous with an unregulated cultivation process.

A ‘Green’ Process: Could California’s Legal Weed Be Tainted?

While stricter regulations will be ushered in next year, growers and sellers will be allowed a six-month grace period to sell their preexisting inventory, which (for the most part) was cultivated under the state’s incumbent medical marijuana guidelines, a loosely-regulated system that’s been in effect for nearly two decades. Stricter requirements are on track to be phased in by the start of 2019.

Donald Land, the chief scientific consultant at Steep Hill Labs Inc., which tests cannabis for pesticides in several states, had one warning for those planning on hitting the dispensaries on opening day—”Buyer beware.”

Earlier in the year, Steep Hill found that a whopping 93 percent of samples collected from 15 Southern California dispensaries tested positive for pesticides. It was later hypothesized that the cloning process was to blame for the tainted plants, and new measures were needed for regulation.

Land says most people are under the false pretense that current pot regulations fall under the federal regulations of the U.S. Agriculture Department or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This, however, is not the case, considering the plant is still considered illegal under federal law. Therefore, it’s up to the state to regulate the plant.

“Unfortunately, that’s not true of cannabis,” Land said. “They wrongly assume it’s been tested for safety.”

However, before California enforces a stricter testing policy in 2019, Bureau of Cannabis Control spokesman Alex Traverso believes every pot product needs to be labeled accordingly. In other words, every customer should be notified whether or not their cannabis has been properly tested or not.

“That’s one of the biggest reasons for regulation: to establish rules that protect public safety and improve the quality of the product,” Traverso said. “When people see a sticker that says `Not tested,’ at least they know and they can choose whether they want to purchase that or not.”

Final Hit: Could California’s Legal Weed Be Tainted?

While the potential for tainted pot seems dangerous at first glance, some around the industry are downplaying the need for strict regulations.

Mike Winderman, the manager of the Los Angeles-based medical dispensary, The Green Easy, says that people have been smoking tainted weed for years, but only now have begun to express their dismay.

“I think it’s a little funny that this year everybody’s caring about pesticides,” he said. “People have been smoking weed 30, 40, 50 years, and it’s never been an issue.”

He did, however, go on to note that testing for pesticides would be necessary, but he does think the problem is overexaggerated at the moment.

Land also admitted that less than five percent of medical marijuana, which has been legally sold in California for 20 years, is regularly tested.

Fortunately for Californians, that practice, or rather, non-practice, will soon be a thing of the past.

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