Pubdate: Thu, 17 Mar 2016
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald (Hilo, HI)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Marina Starleaf Riker, Associated Press


HONOLULU (AP) - Industry experts say there are a lot of chemicals 
that could contaminate Hawaii's medical marijuana.

Dispensaries are set to open throughout the state in July, and 
lawmakers are pushing a broad bill to address many of the obstacles 
the industry is facing. One is how to regulate marijuana testing.

The proposed state law would set requirements for testing medical 
marijuana's potency and also would test for contaminants such as 
heavy metals, bacteria and pesticides, which industry experts say is 
necessary to ensure patient safety. Under state rules, dispensaries 
must send all marijuana products to a certified laboratory for testing.

Other states have had problems establishing rules for testing. That 
includes dealing with recalls because of contamination and facing 
marijuana shortages when crops were lost to pests.

"You have states stumbling around trying to figure this out," said 
Chris Walsh, managing editor of the Marijuana Business Daily. 
"They've implemented testing regulations, but in many cases they 
don't really know what they're doing."

The proposed Hawaii law would require testing for potency of 
chemicals that naturally occur in marijuana, such as THC, the main 
ingredient that can cause psychological effects. It also would set 
limits and test for pesticides currently regulated by the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency, as well as solvents used to make 
products such as oils and tinctures.

Most industry advocates were supportive of the Hawaii bill, but 
wanted to change some of the proposed rules to increase safety and 
keep costs down for patients.

Christopher Garth, the executive director of the Hawaii Dispensary 
Alliance, said testing for heavy metals could be unnecessary. 
Meanwhile, he wanted stricter rules for allowable pesticide levels 
than currently required in the bill, but said the state should narrow 
the list of pesticides to ones likely to be used on marijuana.

Because marijuana has been federally illegal for so long, it can be 
difficult to make rules for testing because there's little research 
on it, Garth said. For instance, marijuana can be smoked, eaten or 
applied on the skin, so it can be difficult to establish policies on 
pesticide levels without data, he said.

"There is no national or federal standards, which makes it a little 
tricky," Garth said.

The state Department of Health can award dispensary licenses in April.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom