(3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona lawmakers are once again considering a bill designed to weed out moldy marijuana.
The state Senate unanimously passed SB 1494 on Wednesday. The measure would direct the Arizona Department of Health Services to establish standards for independent labs to test medical marijuana for unsafe levels of microbial contamination, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, growth regulators and residual solvents.
Nearly every state with medical marijuana requires some sort of laboratory safety testing, although the level of contamination that is deemed unsafe varies. As of 2018, only Arizona and Rhode Island did not require contaminant testing, although Rhode Island is already accepting applications for independent labs to begin the process.
After an investigation by Arizona’s Family found mold on some marijuana sold in Phoenix, a state lawmaker introduced a testing bill last session that passed the state Senate but failed on the final vote in the House. Changes to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act require support by three-fourths of each chamber.
SB 1494 sets licensing fees for third-party labs, and directs ADHS to set marijuana potency standards and remediation protocols if testing flags a sample. The bill by Republican state senator David Gowan gives the department leeway to determine remediation steps but suggests the requirements could include destruction of products or revocation of a growers’ license.
Mandatory testing would begin June 1, 2020. A summary of the bill prepared by legislative staff is available here.
Currently, some Arizona dispensaries and individual patients pay independent labs to test samples.
In a recent test of 250 flower samples in Arizona, C4 Laboratories in Mesa said 20 to 30 percent had mold levels that were off charts, potentially a risk for Arizona’s sickest patients.
“[Patients with compromised immune systems] take this medicine and they're counting on it to alleviate symptoms and give them a better quality of life,” said founder Ryan Treacy. “If we aren't here to ensure that medicine is clean, then we may be adding to their problems as opposed to helping fix them.”