3,900 responses were received and 98.4% said to leave the testing rules unchanged
By Keith Mansur
Oregon Cannabis Connection
May 20, 2017 — Oregon Health Authority (OHA) made a proposal in March to change the pesticide testing rules for recreational cannabis products. The changes they put forth would roll back requirements on flower batches and concentrates to ridiculously low levels even though concentrates and flowers have shown a contamination rate of over 25% on concentrates and 10% on simple flower samples.
The proposal was met with substantial resistance from consumers, organic growers, and testing labs almost immediately, which prompted Andre Ourso and the regulators in charge to do something they have not typically done before making unilateral decisions regarding cannabis … get public comment on the proposed changes. The comment period started in mid March and ended on April 30th.
After six weeks of comments pouring into their office, the results are overwhelmingly in support of the current testing rules. Over 98% of respondents urged the OHA to to make their proposed changes, with only 0.6% asking them to adopt the rollback. About 1% of the respondents had a mixed reaction and generally wanted pesticide rules to remain but other aspects of the rules modified to help keep some of their testing expenses down.
Testing labs, which have a deep understanding of the pesticide contamination problem, and have been generally opposed the changes. They were accused of collusion and price gouging by Don Morse, founder of Oregon Cannabis Business Council. The OCBC is an industry association representing a small group of processors and dispensaries. Those accusations were determined by OCC to be completely unfounded and a appeared to be an attempt from some processors and businesses to cut their testing expenses which are now much higher than they were when there were no standards or certification of labs.
Industry leaders encouraged.
“Public health is in fact the mission of the OHA, and relaxing standards for the most concentrated cannabis products runs contrary to their purpose,” Peter Gendron of Oregon Sungrown Growers Guild told OCC. “The public has spoken, and demands that the state require stringent, consistent standards of purity and potency for the products we consume and clear, definitive labeling of the contents in accordance with the law.”
“We hope that Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority will listen to the overwhelming voice of Oregonians and many in Oregon’s cannabis industry who support quality control pesticide testing and safe products in Oregon’s cannabis market,” explained Rowshan Reordan of Green Leaf Lab.
“These results are a testament to the importance of clean cannabis to Oregonians,” Bethany Sherman of OG Analytical told Oregon Cannabis Connection (OCC). “It is now more important than ever for the OHA to implement policy that aligns with this overwhelming consensus and keeps Oregon’s cannabis clean. We hope to see a solid set of permanent rules released next week that reflect this objective.”
“Oregonians want Clean Cannabis, as evidenced by the thousands of Oregonians who submitted comments to the Oregon Health Authority,” explained Oregonians for Public Health and Safety. “Oregonians clearly want cannabis to be guaranteed free from harmful levels of pesticides and other contaminates.”
Comments were overwhelming
They received over 3,900 comments in all, yet less than fifty supported the testing rules changes. Most of the comments in support of the rollback were submitted by processors and businesses that would benefit financially from the reduced standards. But, their small turnout was completely overshadowed by the response from concerned consumers, responsible businesses, and upstanding growers and processors that have few problems with the rules, costs or pesticide standards that exist.
“I think it is important that all cannabis and cannabis products sold in Oregon are safe for consumers,” explained Robert E. in Bend. “As a middle-aged recreational cannabis consumer, I want to know the cannabis products I purchase will not endanger my health. With so many cannabis products failing to meet the current testing standards, it doesn’t make sense to make the standards more lenient as has been proposed by the OHA.”
Ryan of Southern Flame, a new OLCC recreational business, explained in his comments to OHA, “We at Southern Flame believe the current pesticide testing laws for recreational cannabis in Oregon are necessary to prevent contaminated cannabis from getting to the consumer.”
Rob McCorkle of KGB farms, a tier II indoor recreational licensee, siad to OHA, “At KGB Farms we strive to produce the highest quality product with the intention of providing pesticide/pest and mold free products to the consumer … As a new burgeoning industry, we owe it to our consumers to make sure that they are consuming the cleanest product possible at all times.”
“Oregon has made a national reputation as being the first state to insure public health and safety in the newly regulated cannabis industry,” explained Nicholas Mahmood of Green Source Gardens, a sustainable recreational grow in Wolf Creek. “These proposed rules would rules will essentially allow 99% of concentrates and extracts, and 80% of cannabis flower, to be sold in the market without being tested for pesticides. There is no reasonable justification for these proposals.”
The OHA now has to determine the best path forward, which is apparent to anyone that can read. Why they deferred to public comment on such a serious health and safety issue is not readily apparent. One can only surmise that pressure from a very vocal minority of well funded businesses brought on the proposals, but massive negative consumer reaction was feared. After the fiasco surrounding their testing rules roll out in October, one can understand their hesitation.