By Keith Mansur
Oregon Cannabis Connection
May 25, 2017—Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released the revised cannabis testing and labeling rules that will go into effect on May 31, 2017. They did not make any changes in the pesticide testing requirement of concentrates or percent of flower samples as had been proposed in March.
Also, they will not allow the combination of separate batches for testing as was proposed. The will allow remediation of products that test positive for two particular compounds—piperonyl butoxide or pyrethrins—which are legal for use but which have shown above the allowable limits regularly in testing. They will also increase the maximum batch size from 10 pounds to 15 pounds. Other changes are also included and summarized in a 6-page bulletin released late today.
Substantial changes in the recreational testing were proposed and opened to public comment for 6 weeks, ending April 30. The proposed changes OHA submitted were met with a huge and very one-sided response from consumers, businesses, and growers that strongly favored leaving the testing rules unchanged. By the cutoff date, they received roughly 3,900 responses and over 98% supported no change in the rules.
Oregon’s testing standards for cannabis are the strongest in the nation and require a comprehensive pesticide screen, testing for THC and CBD levels, and a number of other tests to ensure quality and safety in cannabis products.
Early this year, a number of very vocal cannabis processors complained that the testing standards were driving up testing costs and creating a shortage of concentrates on dispensary shelves. But, by the time the new rulemaking period came around, the shortage had all but ended as laboratories caught up on their backlog. However, the proponents of changing the rules continued to push and even accused the labs of intentionally driving up costs by making the rules overly strict.
The Rules Advisory Committee for testing that was created to hammer out new testing rules spent weeks working on possible changes, but many on the committee were surprised during the final meeting to see the drastic proposal from the OHA.
“These [proposed] changes were introduced at the RAC,” Roger Voelker of OG Analytical and a member of the RAC explained to OCC in March. “We thought we were going to be talking about some of the problems concerning edibles and batch sizes and addressing a wider scope of issues but they brought these changes, to our surprise.”
The most glaring problem with their proposed rule change on pesticide testing was the removal of batch testing on concentrate products in lieu of a single annual test of a random sample from processors. This is antithetical to the severe contamination problem that exists with concentrates, which showed a minimum of 26% failure rate due to pesticide levels. Luckily, that provision was not adopted.
“These draft rules are absolutely 180 degrees the wrong direction for health and public safety in Oregon,” explained Caleb Hayes of Oregonians for Public Health and Safety in March. “But Also, these rules are also 180 degrees the wrong direction for the cannabis industry in Oregon. This is going to lead to news stories of contaminated cannabis in the market, and that will have a chilling effect on our economy in the cannabis space.”
Remediation of contaminated products was also proposed and was included in the new rules, but there are significant issues surrounding the process. Full Circle CO2 in Central Oregon pointed out several major drawbacks to remediation, including: Allowing remediation does nothing to discourage the use of pesticides within the industry, running against the intent of the law and endangering air, soil, and water quality in addition to human health; No provisions are made for the separation of these product within facilities, increasing the likelihood of cross contamination during the remediation process; No provisions are made for informing the public that they are purchasing and consuming remediated products.
“They’ve acted in the interests of the industry instead of in the interests of the consumer,” explained Ruby of Full Circle CO2 in regards to the new remediation rules. “To allow remediated products and then deciding not to have rules regarding labeling of those products runs counter, I believe, to the legislation that was passed.”
With these changes in rules, Oregon will continue to have the most comprehensive testing requirements in the nation for cannabis. It’s under these standards that Oregon will insure the health and safety of consumers is protected and promote better practices among growers to create quality, pesticide free cannabis.
Review the entire section of rules here.
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