California just recalled tens of millions of dollars of pot products in what is probably the world's largest pot recall ever. Authorities in California are forcing 29 different pot businesses to pull back tens of thousands of pounds of pot, vape pens, and edibles, after the lab that tested those products was found to be falsifying results.
The recall, which accounts for tens of millions of dollars worth of products, has the potential to bankrupt some of the pot businesses implicated. But it’s not just California’s potrepreneurs that should be worried, California’s recall should be concerning anyone purchasing pot in Washington. In fact, it should probably be more concerning for us than anyone in California.
Why should we care about a product recall two states away? Because what California is so concerned about—that certain pot products were not tested for pesticides—isn’t even illegal in Washington.
California’s pot recall shows us just how lenient pot laws in Washington are. When the thing that causes another government to issue the largest recall in the state isn’t even illegal in your home state, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your own laws.
Washington is one of the only states with legal pot that doesn’t require pesticide testing. That sets us apart from not only California, but also Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, and Massachusetts, where state laws require every batch of pot products be tested for pesticides.
California’s pot recall started after the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control found that Sequoia Analytical Labs, a state-certified pot lab in Sacramento, had been faking pesticide results for some 850 different batches of pot products. California law requires that every pot product is tested for 66 different pesticides, but Sequoia Analytical only had the ability to test for 44 of those chemicals, for the remaining 22 the lab’s director just marked the results “undetected,” even though no test had been completed.
Like I said earlier, none of those tests are required on Washington’s pot, despite the fact that there’s ample evidence of illegal pesticide use. Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has a list of allowed limits on approved or not approved pesticides, but their method of enforcement is to just rely on complaints. When someone complains about a product the state might (or might not) send a sample to the Washington Department of Agriculture (WSDA) where it is tested for pesticides. This complaint-driven process means there can (and almost certainly is) pot tainted with illegal pesticides being sold in Washington’s stores. A recent report that analyzed those WSDA results found that 43 percent of samples during a recent 16-month stretch contained either banned pesticides or illegal amounts of approved pesticides. When I asked the LCB if this private report on WSDA results was accurate they said they weren’t compiling the WSDA test results, which tells you something about how seriously they take pesticide violations in the state.
State law is not standing in the LCB’s way. The LCB has the legal power to regulate cannabis testing requirements and the board can force a recall of products when they have illegal amounts of pesticides on them, but they have never done so, according to Mikhail Carpenter, an LCB spokesperson.
“Almost all recalls have been licensee initiated. Licensees voluntarily recall product on their own or as a result of an investigation,” Carpenter said in an e-mail. “It is similar to the process for most agriculture products, where an issue is identified and the agency directs the business to conduct the recall of the product and monitors the process.”
So not only does our pot regulator not require pesticide testing, they have never forced a recall when they have unequivocal proof that illegal amounts of pesticides have been used.
Private companies in Washington are now stepping up and doing the testing even when the state doesn’t require it, and they’re finding similarly troubling results. One of those private companies, Seattle’s Uncle Ike’s chain of pot shops, has started to publicize every time they catch illegal pesticides in products. Their results are alarming, including one failure that Uncle Ike's says showed a vape cartridge from the brand Ionic had illegal amounts of two different pesticides. Making matters worse, it’s not clear if Ionic even knows where the tainted pot came from. The state told me that they confiscated the product and are doing their own investigation. We’ll see if they can find out who grew the contaminated pot.
Don’t hold your breath for a state-mandated recall.