The British Columbia government says the testing it commissioned of illegally-sold cannabis products has revealed many contain pesticides and other contaminants including heavy metals.
As a part of a pilot project in collaboration with the BC Centre for Disease Control and the National Collaborating Centre on Environmental Health, B.C. sent 20 cannabis samples seized from illegal pot shops to a federally-licenced lab for testing.
Those tests revealed the presence of 24 different pesticides, along with “unacceptable levels of bacteria, fungi and heavy metals,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Wednesday.
According to the collaborating centre, just three of the 20 samples would have immediately met federal standards for sale in a legal store. Nine would have been outright rejected, while eight would have required further investigation.
Just two of the 20 samples had no detectible pesticide residue on them, while “the majority of samples contained four or more residues, and one sample contained eight residues in total,” according to the centre.
Four samples also showed unacceptable levels of arsenic.
The centre compared those findings against a recent analysis of legal cannabis, which detected just two pesticides in eight of 63 samples tested.
“You may be under the illusion that this is all produced in an organic, pesticide-free environment. The reality is, what we’re finding, is it is not,” Farnworth said.
Farnworth also used the media event to speak out against illegal cannabis edible products sold in packaging designed to resemble popular candy or snacks.
Those products are often much stronger than edibles sold legally in the province and could be confused for candy by children.
“To adults who use, don’t buy illicit cannabis because you don’t know what’s in it and it may be contaminated. If you choose to use cannabis, buy it legal,” he said.
“To adults who have children in their lives, do not buy illicit cannabis packaged to looked like candy, because kids can mistake it for candy and end up in hospital.”
Farnworth added that people who continue to patronize illegal producers are potentially enriching organized crime groups, and are hurting legitimate businesses who have played by the rules to acquire licensing.
As of this month, Farnworth said there were 370 legal cannabis retailers in the province, while 160 illegal shops have been shut down or closed on their own.