Emerald Cup Cracks Down on Contaminated Cannabis

The Emerald Cup is the oldest and most prominent of the various Cannabis cups, but now is becoming a trendsetter in another regard. Tim Blake, the co-founder of the California-based Emerald Cup realized change was necessary when the cup developed a problem with contaminated Cannabis.

The cup’s roots are self-identified as hippie. Growers are supposed to follow an organic ethos that includes growing plants under the sun and not grow lights. The cup hired a testing lab for the 2015 iteration and found that about 17% of the entries were contaminated in some way. Banned pesticides, bacteria, and mold were found to the dismay of Blake’s team. Under the organic ethos, contestants were not supposed to be using pesticides, even if local laws permit their use. Cannabis found at the Emerald Cup has been thought to be of higher quality than Cannabis found at dispensaries, which means that California has a problem. Leafly reports that fewer than half of the dispensaries and delivery services test their Cannabis in a lab. Unlike Washington and Oregon, California does not require third-party lab testing. A legislative measure requiring tests of Medical Cannabis is not set to be enforced until January 2018. California currently has strict laws against using pesticides during the growing process.

In 2016, rules became much stricter. Entrants that submitted “dirty” samples were disqualified and blacklisted. Leafly reports that of the 1,000 entries, 25% of them were disqualified for containing traces of banned chemicals. These entries spanned over 735 strains of flowers and 263 varieties of concentrates. 40 of the flower submissions tested positive for banned pesticides.

The other problem is that contaminated and adulterated Cannabis does not usually get removed from the supply chain – so it is not disposed of and runs the risk of being further processed and sold in other products. A study from Steep Hill Labs found pesticides in 84% of Cannabis tested during the peak harvest time in mid-September. There are many organizations that sell of the rejected items or try to use them as part of another product to mitigate loss. The onus is on the cultivator to dispose of rejected materials.

Cannabis industry experts warn consumers to not automatically assume that their marijuana is safe. It does not matter how the plant is consumed. If harmful contaminants are present, it does not matter if someone smokes or vaporizes the product. Consumers and patients in California can see lab results if they ask, but in busy shops, it can be difficult. This presents a hazard to patients that use Medical Marijuana to treat certain conditions. Those receiving chemotherapy and other immunocompromised individuals could become gravely ill from exposure to ‘dirty’ Cannabis.

In any other industry, a company falsifying lab results or making unsubstantiated claims could be facing stiff fines and even criminal prosecution. Cannabis laws are handled by the states for now, and each state tends to focus on specific areas such as pesticide use or mandatory lab testing so navigating the inconsistencies is difficult for growers, producers and consumers alike.

Many cultivators and manufacturers already have a system in place to combat or even to prevent rejected materials from reaching consumers but a quality revolution remains on the horizon. In an industry that fights hard for legitimization and support, product safety and quality assurance are tantamount to their success.

While the FDA does not currently regulate CBD and Cannabis, companies that manufacture products can plan ahead by implementing compliance and quality oriented workflows through Electronic Batch Record software from InstantGMP, Inc. Learn more about all of our solutions and how your company can get started on the path to compliance.