It has been more than seven years since the state of Arizona legalized medical cannabis. But now, it may finally start doing quality control for medical cannabis products by requiring lab testing to identify pesticides, mold, and other harmful contaminants.
Republican Senator Sonny Borelli from Lake Havasu has presented a bill that would require lab testing starting in 2019 to ensure that the medical cannabis sold to patients is contaminants-free. The bill would require the state’s Department of Agriculture to test cannabis plants for pesticides and chemicals.
The proposal also plans to decrease the registration fee for medical cannabis. Currently, the registration fee costs $150, and the yearly license renewal fee is also $150. Borrelli wants to substantially lower the permit fee, saying that a $50 registration fee is reasonable and a permit renewal fee of $25 is very reasonable.
Proper labeling, too
Moreover, Borrelli’s proposed legislation – also known as Senate Bill 1420 – would also require the Health Services Department to test cannabis for potency. Aside from requiring products to be analyzed for harmful chemicals and for mold, the bill would require accurate product labels that disclose all the compounds that have been used in production.
This means that there should be accurate labeling for THC content. Borrelli said that if the product advertises 20 percent THC content and if it tests only at 5 percent, the producers will be required to re-label it.
The proposal would require more than $2 million for testing. This amount is just a small fraction of Arizona’s large medical cannabis fund, which is currently over $35 million. This fund actually keeps on growing each year, thanks to the low costs of regulating the state’s medical cannabis program and the high patient fees.
Proposal also wants cannabis license fee lowered
The proposal also plans to decrease the registration fee for medical cannabis. Currently, the registration fee costs $150, and the yearly license renewal fee is also $150.
According to Rep. Mark Cardenas, who is working with Borrelli to negotiate the bill, the current costs for the cannabis permits are considered by low-income patients as a hindrance to them receiving cannabis treatment.
Borrelli wants to substantially lower the permit fee by at least $100. He said that it is hard for even the health department to justify sitting on $35 million, so a $50 registration fee is reasonable and a permit renewal fee of $25 is very reasonable.
Proposal needs three-fourths legislative vote
Borrelli’s proposed legislation already has the support of 78 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors from both Senate and Congress. However, the bill will need 75 percent of the Legislature vote of 90 members for it to go into effect.
The state Senate’s committee on government is scheduled to vote on the bill today.
No testing protocol for most medical cannabis states?
In most states that have legalized medical cannabis, no testing protocol has been set in place. Testing is often not done at all, is often voluntary, or is poorly enforced. This lack of testing protocol can put patients, especially those with weakened immune systems, at great risk.
Arizona is no different. There is no government oversight of cannabis product safety in dispensaries.
And even with growing concern over contaminated legal cannabis products, former Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble stated last year that he does not think the state has to enforce purity standards for medical cannabis that are sold at dispensaries.
Humble had said that until there is compelling survey data on the injury and illness caused by contaminated cannabis, there is no mandate for the health department to take action. He, however, advised current ADHS director, Cara Christ, to make mandatory testing a part of its medical cannabis program.