Wilsonville, Ore. – Marijuana testing is creating several quandaries for Oregon regulators at a time of overall uncertainty for the newly legalized crop, according to a state official.
Testing for pesticides poses one challenge, as the necessary instrumentation is expensive and complicated, said Jeff Rhoades, senior adviser on marijuana policy for Gov. Kate Brown.
While state regulators want to protect public health, testing is a large barrier to entry into the legal recreational marijuana market, he said during the Oregon Board of Agriculture meeting in Wilsonville, Ore., on Nov. 30.
An overly strict testing regime would be a disadvantage to small growers while favoring large out-of-state companies, Rhoades said.
Its a very delicate balance with testing here, he said.
One pesticide thats commonly used on grapes, for example, breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when set aflame, he said.
Meanwhile, marijuana is sold not just as a flower, but also in the form of various tinctures and extracts that require specific testing methods, Rhoades said.
It cant be just a one-size-fits-all approach, he said.
There are also no federally approved pesticides that are specific to the psychoactive crop, Rhoades said.
Oregon has 18 laboratories accredited to test marijuana, but just four are able to test for pesticides.
Other marijuana traits that are tested for include microbial contamination, solvents and potency.
Potency testing has also encountered problems since it became mandatory on Oct. 1, said Rhoades.
Marijuana growers were receiving greatly variable results from different labs, and so were flocking to those providing the highest potency ratings, he said.
Lab shopping was happening all over the place, he said.
Regulators are now trying to create a standardized testing protocol for potency so growers can expect uniform results, Rhoades said.
Taxes from marijuana sales in Oregon are expected to be a boon to state coffers, but first the Oregon Liquor Control Commission must be repaid for its extensive work in creating a regulatory system for the crop, he said.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has also been heavily involved in regulations involving pesticides, food safety and accurate scale systems, Rhoades said.
Exactly how the agency will be repaid for these efforts is currently unclear, though the issue is being discussed and will likely surface during the 2017 legislative session, he said.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which has made banks leery of dealing with marijuana companies – a complication that raises additional issues, Rhoades said.
Its an all-cash business at this point, which creates public safety concerns and tax collection concerns, he said.
Regulators in Oregon and the seven other states where recreational marijuana is now legal were hoping for clarity from the federal government that would enable more banking involvement, he said.
With the recent election and upcoming change in presidential administrations, however, theres great uncertainty about federal marijuana policy, Rhoades said.
The Obama administrations approach – which allows recreational marijuana as long as its kept out of the black market and away from children, among other measures – can be immediately reversed by the Trump administration, he said.