Pubdate: Mon, 08 May 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Jacquie Miller
Page: A10


Canada's medical marijuana growers will have to start testing all
their products for unauthorized pesticides, says Health Canada,
stepping up the government's response to concerns about tainted marijuana.

The policy was announced Friday night as the department released test
results that showed another marijuana producer, Ontario-based Peace
Naturals Project Inc., had a plant test positive for a pesticide
ingredient not approved for use on cannabis. Peace Naturals identified
the source of the problem as cross-contamination from a product used
to sanitize a plant harvest room.

On Tuesday, Gatineau's The Hydropothecary Corporation voluntarily
suspended sales after Health Canada informed the company myclobutanil,
an unapproved pesticide, had been found on plant leaves.

The 43 producers licensed by Health Canada provide medical marijuana
for more than 130,000 patients across Canada. Health Canada requires
the companies to test for mould, heavy metals, and harmful bacteria
but has relied on them to police themselves when it comes to pesticide

That changed Friday, when Health Canada said mandatory pesticide
testing was necessary to "ensure that Canadians can continue to have
confidence in obtaining safe, quality-controlled medical cannabis."

Only 17 pesticides are approved for use on cannabis, the department
warned in a statement. "There are no exceptions to these requirements,
and no situations in which using a pesticide that is not authorized
. for cannabis cultivation would be acceptable."

Concern has been growing in the past several months after three
marijuana producers recalled products found to contain unapproved
pesticides, including myclobutanil. Some patients who say tainted
marijuana made them sick have joined three class-action lawsuits now
seeking certification in the courts.

Myclobutanil has been used by illegal pot growers to control mould.
The pesticide is approved for use on some fruits and vegetables, but
not for plants that are dried and smoked.

Health Canada maintained that the levels of myclobutanil found in the
recalled products from legal producers would not cause serious health
problems. But officials also stepped up enforcement. In March they
began a series of random, unannounced inspections to test plants,
dried weed, cannabis oils and pest-control products for unapproved

Test results from plant samples taken at seven sites came in and
revealed the problems at Hydropothecary and Peace Naturals. Plants at
the five other companies showed no signs of pesticide contamination,
said Health Canada. They are Tweed in Smiths Falls, RedeCan and 7
Acres in Ontario, and Tilray and Broken Coast in B.C. Results of tests
on dried weed and oils at the seven sites aren't available yet.

The substance found on a leaf from Peace Naturals, piperonyl butoxide,
was at a low level of 0.78 parts per million, said Health Canada.
Piperonyl butoxide is combined with pesticides to increase their
effectiveness, and is considered an "active ingredient" in pesticides,
said Health Canada. It is not contained in any of the pesticides
approved for use on cannabis.

A statement from Cronos Group Inc., the parent company of Peace
Naturals, identified the source as "cross contamination from a
sanitation protocol" the company no longer uses.

The piperonyl butoxide was in a "PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory
Agency) approved product" used to sanitize empty rooms between
harvests, said the statement released late Friday.

That sanitation method has "not been practised since new management
implemented an improved production methodology after taking control of
Peace," said the statement. Cronos Group took over the company in
September 2016.

"There is no evidence to suggest that (piperonyl butoxide) at these
levels is likely to cause any adverse health effects when inhaled or
ingested," said the statement.

"However, out of an abundance of caution, Peace is in the process of
assessing which lots have been impacted, notifying patients, and will
voluntarily recall any products that have even potentially been

At Hydropothecary, a spokesperson said the company voluntarily stopped
sales as a "precautionary measure" while it searched for the source of
the pesticide.

"We want to be clear that we have no confirmed evidence that
unapproved pesticides or foliar sprays were intentionally applied to
any of our plants or plant materials by our staff," the company said
in an update posted on its website.
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MAP posted-by: Matt