Alert: Concerns Re Pesticide Testing Requirements & Legacy Stock

Aug. 12, 2022

This message is to address concerns raised recently by some cannabis licensees and labs about the implementation of the pesticide testing requirements. Specifically, two issues have been raised that this message is intended to address:

  1. Requests to extend the deadlines for implementation; and
  2. Concerns that some products sold to retailers violate our longstanding pesticide limits.

1Request to Extend the Deadlines. The Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) remains committed to the implementation deadlines established by WAC 314-55-102 (11) and defined in Policy Statement PS-22-01 that describes rule “phase in” and “sell down” periods. During the rule project for testing, the LCB identified and made clear the need for mandatory pesticide testing of cannabis products. The intent was to have this safety improvement implemented without delay. In considering a reasonable timeline for transition, while maintaining the importance of consumer safety improvement, the LCB provided six months for the transition. This was the maximum amount of time the LCB would consider for a transition period. The intended result was to have all product harvested after April 02, 2022 be tested for pesticides. Extending this requirement beyond September would bring an unnecessary layer of complexity to the transition, as the LCB did not intend the exception to include the fall harvest. The rule project followed an extended project timeline. As early as 2018, several stakeholders, including medical cannabis patients, consumers, and licensees, urged the LCB to require cannabis producers and processors to test adult-use cannabis crops for pesticides. Licensees have been aware of this interest for several years before rule making and adoption. Although the LCB would have liked the transition to occur sooner than currently afforded, we do not want transition time delayed into 2023, as it further deteriorates the importance of consumer safety.

2: Concerns that some current products sold to retailers violate our longstanding pesticide limits. Industry members have expressed concerns to the Board and staff that some producers are rushing products to retailers they know exceed authorized pesticide levels in order to beat the Sept. 30, 2022 testing deadline. If true, this would be a violation of state rules as well as concerning to the LCB, consumers, medical patients and for the majority of producers who are following state regulations.

To guard against illegal use of pesticides, the LCB has safeguards to prevent product with unauthorized pesticides from entering the market as well as random and complaint-driven, post-market testing. To that point, there are three ways in which product is tested for pesticides:

  • Random sampling. A randomized list produced each month by LCB staff: Compliance consultants submit 75 samples per month for testing. This is harvested, shelf-stable product only. Product on shelves in retail stores is not tested because by the time the test comes back from the lab, the product would already be sold to customers;
  • Pesticide Investigations: A full sampling of all products: LCB officers conduct targeted pesticide sampling when investigating complaints alleging use of unauthorized pesticides, or when an officer has reason to believe that a cannabis producer might be using unauthorized pesticides. Officers also perform follow-up investigations of producers who have failed randomized pesticide testing. Investigatory sampling involves a full sampling of a cannabis producer’s inventory, which includes sampling plants as well as a cross-section of all harvested and processed material. Officers may also sample containers, and collect soil and water samples. These samples are secured as evidence and are sent to the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture (WSDA) laboratory for analysis. If a laboratory report indicates the presence of unauthorized pesticides that exceed the action levels prescribed in WAC 314-55-108, the cannabis associated with the sample is seized and destroyed to prevent it from entering the retail stores, or being diverted.
  • Quality Control (QC) samples. These are the samples that are part of the new pesticide and heavy metal testing requirements. With the CCRS traceability system, Enforcement and Education Division staff can now see the QC failures in CCRS. The LCB has a practice in place in which we identify those licensees who are responsible for the majority of the failures and conduct a pesticide investigation at those locations.

 

Prohibition on Unauthorized Pesticides that Predate Recent Rulemaking

Although the testing requirements have only recently become effective, the prohibition against using pesticides that are not on the PICOL list has been in place since the first producers were licensed in 2014. As the use of pesticides is a public safety issue, the LCB will continue to be especially vigilant in looking for products that are potentially hot for pesticides. Licensees who are found to be intentionally bypassing state regulations face product seizure and violations.

The LCB developed a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document to provide clarity on the implementation of new quality control rules and timelines. The questions cover topics for cannabis Producer/Processors and Retail licensees. After reviewing the FAQ, if you have additional questions please contact your Cannabis Compliance Consultant. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

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