Cannabis Products Recalled in Arizona Over Possible Contamination

Onion Bhaji was recalled due to possible contamination with Aspergillus.
Arizona
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Regulators in Arizona announced this week that a cannabis establishment in the state has voluntarily recalled a certain product that may be contaminated with a fungus.

The Arizona Department of Health Services said on Monday that a product known as Onion Bhaji was recalled “due to possible contamination with Aspergillus, a fungus that can cause allergic reactions or infection, usually in people already sick with something else.”

“The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) is advising purchasers to dispose of the product described in the table below, which was found in laboratory tests to be positive for Aspergillus,” the agency said, adding that, to date, “no illnesses have been reported.”

“This announcement is being made out of an abundance of caution. Customers who have purchased potentially contaminated products should not ingest, inhale, or otherwise consume them and should dispose of them. If you have already consumed any of the products and have any of the symptoms described below, please contact your healthcare provider or seek care in the event of an emergency,” the announcement said.

The agency said that laboratory auditors with the Department of Health Services “were made aware of errors in testing results, leading to potentially false negative results for the contaminant.”

“Once [Arizona Department of Health Services] discovered the potential contamination, they contacted the facility that produced the products. The licensee took immediate action to work with all distribution and retail partners to remove any potentially impacted products from store shelves,” the agency said in this week’s announcement.

The product was voluntarily recalled by The Flower Shop; according to the Phoenix New Times, the product is “sold in The Flower Shop’s three metro Phoenix locations and distributed to nearly 170 other dispensaries across Arizona.”

Product recalls are a reality of any legal cannabis market. Arizona legalized recreational marijuana for adults in 2020, when voters there passed a ballot measure that ended prohibition. Legal pot sales began in January of 2021. 

In the three years since then, marijuana sales in the Grand Canyon State –– including both  recreational and medicinal –– have totaled more than a billion dollars

“Recreational marijuana sales for 2023 totaled about $1.1 billion, and medical contributed $348 million for total 2023 sales reaching $1.43 billion. Recreational sales amounted for more than 76% of the total, an increase from the 70% of sales it represented in 2022. In 2021, the first year adult-use recreational sales were legal, they were just 45% of the total,” the AZ Mirror reported in March.

“Since January 2021, recreational sales have totaled $2.8 billion, while medical has brought in slightly more than half that at $1.65 billion. The medical market dropped below $40 million in July 2022, and has not come near that mark in the ensuing months. Medical sales reached a peak of $73.4 million in April 2021, but since the inception of the dual market, medical sales have reached new lows seemingly every month. Recreational sales, which began in late January 2021, have fluctuated between $80 million and $93.5 million since July 2022. Since then, they hit a high-water mark of $100 million in March 2023 settling in at the mid- to lower-$80 million range. But recreational sales did dip in January 2024, registering just $76.8 million, the lowest since February 2022’s $72.8 million. It is the first time since June 2022 that monthly recreational marijuana sales fell below $80 million.”

The outlet explained that a third of the “revenue raised by the excise tax is dedicated to community college and provisional community college districts; 31% to public safety, including police, fire departments, fire districts and first responders; 25% to the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund; and 10% to the justice reinvestment fund, which is dedicated to providing public health services, counseling, job training and other social services for communities that have been adversely affected and disproportionately impacted by marijuana arrests and criminalization.”

But according to the Mirror, the state has also “reported a steady decline in medical cannabis program participation, as the number of qualifying patients continues to drop every month.”

Still, the new law has led to something of a “green rush” for entrepreneurs in Arizona.

Eivan Shahara, the CEO of Mint Cannabis, a cannabis retailer in the state, told High Times earlier this year that the business is “anticipating an even busier 2024, as we prepare to employ more people to serve more customers at our additional dispensary locations.”

“The marijuana industry is blossoming into a significant job creator,” Shahara said. “It’s estimated that the cannabis industry employs about 500,000 full-time equivalent positions in the U.S., with about 280 new jobs being added daily. This showcases a promising trend, as more than 100,000 new jobs were established in the previous year, making the cannabis industry one of America’s fastest-growing job sectors.”

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