A breach of public trust’: Lawmakers want changes following ‘Republic’ report on contaminated marijuana

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Arizona legalized medical cannabis in 2010, and is now home to a market packed with a variety of high-quality products.

By Ryan Randazzo | Arizona Republic

Some Arizona lawmakers are unhappy with how the state health department is implementing a law that requires marijuana to be tested for contaminants, and they want changes — soon.

State Sen. David Gowan said he was concerned by the results of an Arizona Republic investigation that found marijuana heavily contaminated with pesticides was sold to medical patients last fall.

The Republican from Sierra Vista sponsored a bill in 2019 that became law, requiring lab testing of marijuana — intended to prevent the kind of contamination uncovered by The Republic.

“What you saw here should not have occurred,” Gowan said. “It should concern a lot of people.”

Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-South Phoenix, also found The Republic’s findings troubling.

“The people of Arizona assume we are protecting the health and safety of marijuana consumers, and clearly we fell down,” Rios said. “This is a breach of public trust. So it is very concerning.”

Does 2019 law need another look?

Lawmakers in 2019 approved Senate Bill 1494, which Gowan sponsored, without a single vote opposing the measure.

It took effect in November 2020, requiring every batch of marijuana grown in Arizona to get tested at a state-certified laboratory to ensure it was free of certain pesticides, solvents, heavy metals and other contaminants like E. coli bacteria.

The test results:The Republic had marijuana tested to see if it was safe.

“That is the whole purpose. I wanted to make sure people who may be ill who are utilizing this as medicine are not poisoned by the medicine they are using,” Gowan said.

The Republic received a tip last fall that a Phoenix company, Grow Sciences, was selling marijuana that had far more pesticide than allowed. Grow Sciences advertises its products as “100% lab tested, and free of mold, mildew, with no harmful pesticides.”

The Republic purchased two strains of the company’s marijuana and had them tested at a certified lab, and the results showed that the products were contaminated with the pesticide imidacloprid at a level far exceeding what is allowed by the state.

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