Smoke Screening

A new law will give MMJ patients a financial break while requiring testing of medical marijuana

Beginning Nov. 1, 2020, dispensaries will be required to test their products for contaminants and solvents.
Beginning Nov. 1, 2020, dispensaries will be required to test their products for contaminants and solvents.

Medical marijuana patients in Arizona still run the risk of buying products that are tainted with pesticides, herbicides or even mold. But as of Nov. 1, 2020, patients will no longer need to fear for pollutants or leftover solvents in their medicine, thanks to a new testing law passed by the Arizona Legislature.

SB 1494, signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey June 7, established several changes to the state's medical marijuana laws.

First, cardholders will only have to renew their cards every two years as opposed to every year, effectively cutting the current renewal fee of $150 in half. And since patients will only have to visit the doctor every other year for their renewal recommendation, patients will save money on that front, too.

On top of saving patients money, SB 1494 will establish strict requirements for dispensaries to test all of their products, not only for potency but for contaminants and solvents as well. Dispensaries—many of which already work with independent labs—must appoint a certified third-party testing facility.

Even before the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in May that cannabis extracts were legal under the voter-approved medical marijuana program, the industry was clearly moving toward the oily concentrates, which are used in vape pens, tinctures and edibles as well as sold under names such as wax and crumble. The extracts offer reliable dosing and convenience for many patients.

For this reason, the new testing standards that will be implemented by SB 1494 will help ensure patients are getting safer meds. Concentrates are created with solvents like butane and CO2, so it is a no-brainer to require that test results are easily accessible for patients, who have every right to know if their medicine is tainted with harmful pollutants.

Requiring laboratory testing is a logical and necessary step by Arizona lawmakers to assure that Arizona's 200,000 card-holding patients are receiving clean and safe medicine.

Be aware, the testing requirements will not be implemented until Nov. 1, 2020. So until then, there is a chance that moldy buds and butane-riddled concentrates could be on the shelves of dispensaries statewide. Even once the law goes into effect, it will still up to patients and caregivers to request this information.

Many dispensaries do advertise lab results, but it's primarily to advertise THC/CBD cannabinoid content. If you're lucky, a microbial and pesticide test may be posted. Even so, this is something you have to dig for, and it's a practice that is at the discretion of the dispensary until November.

The use of CBD, a non-intoxicating active ingredient in cannabis, is useful for patients who are sensitive to the side-effects of marijuana caused by THC—the intoxicating, psychoactive part of the plant. CBD can be used to treat many of the same symptoms treated by THC without the intoxication. When considering the example of a child who may need CBD to treat their seizures, THC would be considered a pollutant in their medicine. Accountability for the accuracy of labeled levels of cannabinoids like THC and CBD needs to be vetted as well. ■

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