If you’re reading this magazine, you’re likely already aware of the host of potential benefits it offers to people with serious, chronic, or debilitating conditions. You may also know that medical marijuana is not always an option for individuals with such conditions. This is due, in part, to the variance in state laws, which range from complete medical and recreational legalization (think California, Colorado, and Washington) to treating marijuana as a Schedule I drug with serious consequences (states like Idaho and South Dakota).
In addition, states have different laws on the regulations that govern the testing marijuana for pesticides and fungus before sale. Some of these laws are very strict (which is good news if you live in these states), and others are very lax or non-existent. In a previous issue, we discussed in more detail the potential harm of ingesting or smoking medical marijuana that contains pesticides or fungus.
This article will give you more information on the testing laws and standards, and it explains what patient access looks like. We have broken it down, state-by-state, so you can see how the laws in your state compare to others.
Testing Laws: Alaska requires that all manufacturing facility growers pass inspection in a laboratory test. If testing in a laboratory is unfeasible, growers must still pass an inspection, but it can be by other means. One caveat is that there are a limited number of facilities in Alaska that can handle testing. Unfortunately, this has created a ‘bottle-neck’ for growers trying to get tested.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: There is very little information on the consequences that growers may face for not having their batches tested. However small-scale growers are required to test from “time to time,” and can be shut down if they do not pass standards.
Patient Access: After successfully registering online to carry a medical marijuana card, patients can grow up to 6 plants or have a registered caregiver grow plants for them. Carry laws restrict both patients as well as recreational users to carry a maximum of one ounce of marijuana flower on them at any given time. The legalization of recreational use does not override any laws that apply to medical marijuana users. However, many people recommend continuing to carry and renew your medical license, particularly if you are under 21 years of age.
Testing Laws: Unfortunately, Arizona does not have any testing laws. Your best option, in this case, may be to ask your grower (if you know them) what they use when growing their plants.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: N/A
Patient Access: Medical marijuana cardholders who are registered with the Arizona Department of Health Services can grow up to 12 plants if they live over 25 miles away from the nearest dispensary. Patients can obtain and carry a maximum of 2.5 ounces in a two-week period.
Testing Laws: With so many medical marijuana (and now recreational) marijuana users, it is surprising that there are currently no regulations in place to ensure that marijuana is pesticide and mold free. In late 2015, the state passed a set of bills that will force the state to develop testing regulations, which should be completed in early 2018.
These laws will ultimately require growers to test marijuana for mold, pesticides, and other “foreign” material such as insects. Additionally, laboratory tests will be required to report levels of THC, CBD, etc. found in each strain. In a recent investigative report by NBC, scientists examined several samples from growers in southern California; 93 percent contained pesticides that exceeded safe levels for human consumption. Ask your local dispensary where their products come from and if they have been tested.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: Testing will be regulated by and will occur under the close watch of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the State Department of Public Health. It is not yet clear what the penalties will be for failing testing standards, or how these laws will be enforced.
Patient Access: Statewide, recreational use allows users to possess up to one ounce and grow up to six plants. In contrast, medical marijuana patients are permitted to grow as many plants as deemed necessary for their needs and can possess as much as necessary. However, laws do vary greatly from one county to the next. Humboldt County allows medical patients to grow up to five acres’ worth of plants. Fresno County, on the other hand, has banned all cultivation and sale of marijuana. Check your local county laws before deciding to grow.
Testing Laws: Colorado has some of the most rigorous testing laws of any state. In addition to testing for levels of THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, and CBN, all growers must have batches of marijuana annually tested for pesticides, fungus, mold, and other contaminants. Batches that fail inspection must be reported to the Marijuana Enforcement Division and any facilities that carry products from that batch. These laws also apply to the cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: Although there is no clear indication of the fines associated with failing to test batches, a product that is not tested must be labeled with the following statement: “The marijuana contained within this package has not been tested for contaminants.” A product that has been tested is also labeled that it has passed testing. Packaging must also inform the patient on any pesticides or herbicides used in the growing of the plants. This ensures all patients are well-informed of the growing practices used.
Patient Access: Recreational cultivation laws allow for up to 6 plants per individual (no more than 12 per household), and individuals are permitted to purchase and possess up to one ounce. Medical marijuana users also may grow up to six plants per individual, and they can possess up to two ounces of usable marijuana.
Testing Laws: Connecticut requires growers to test marijuana for the use of pesticides, mold, and other contaminants. Growers are required to label their products with the testing date, and whether or not the batch passed or failed testing before selling products to a dispensary. Dispensaries are then required to label products with information informing the patient on which growing facility was responsible for growing the product. Importantly, the law does not require the dispensary to label products with information on whether or not the growing facility passed or failed contaminant testing. If, for some reason, the package is not labeled with testing information, ask the dispensary to give you this information to ensure the product is safe for consumption.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) is responsible for ensuring that testing has been completed. Before sale, the DCP must approve the testing report produced by an external testing company for each growing facility. In interviews, growers report that the testing and protocols are very rigorous but ultimately certify the production of a safe product. The repercussions for non-compliance are not clear, but properly labeling products helps ensure that testing is occurring and accurate.
Patient Access: Connecticut does not allow individuals to grow plants. All plants must be grown by a licensed facility. Patients can possess up to a one-month supply of marijuana. The actual amount likely depends on your condition and physician.
Testing Laws: Testing of marijuana in Delaware currently works on a type of “honor system” between a compassion center (dispensary) and the Department of Health and Services (DHS). Upon opening, a compassion center must disclose their plan for testing, including if it will be done in-house, what tests will be conducted, and how they plan to grow without pesticides. It is unclear how the DHS interprets this information and what their standards are for approving growers. Once a grow facility is approved, there are no binding laws that say they need to test their products, and the law does not make clear what “testing” actually entails.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: As the law is loosely written, it is likely that there is little to no enforcement of testing. Although products are required to be labeled “this product is free of contaminants,” a lack of mandatory testing means this label is potentially meaningless.
Patient Access: Currently, medical marijuana patients are not allowed to cultivate their own plants. Possession is limited to six ounces, and a compassion center only allows a purchase of three ounces within a two-week period.
District of Columbia
Testing Laws: Washington DC currently does not have regulations requiring testing of marijuana, but this will hopefully change soon. Steep Hill, a rigorous testing facility located in several states, will soon open a testing facility in Columbia, Maryland, not far outside of DC. Recently, the company held a testing event in DC where they provided information on THC/CBD levels. The company is working toward their goal of making sure marijuana is safe to use, and will hopefully be influencing policymakers in DC to create laws and enforce testing.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: N/A
Patient Access: Recreational users may possess up to two ounces of dried flower and are permitted to grow up to six plants. As of late 2016, medical users can possess up to four ounces of dried flower. Prior to recreational legalization, medical users were not allowed to cultivate plants for personal use. With the recent increase of possession from two ounces to four ounces, it is not clear whether medical patients can grow more plants than recreational users. To be safe, it is assumed that medical patients can grow a maximum of six plants as well.
Testing Laws: Currently, Florida is operating under laws that were passed in 2014. Growing facilities are required to test for THC and CBD levels, as well as for contaminants. The law only states that marijuana must be “safe for human consumption,” but it does not give the actual levels that are considered safe. Additionally, the primary tester is the growing facility itself, but they do have to contract out with a licensed laboratory to ensure their products are safe. The law does not state how often these third-party certifications need to occur. In late 2016, new laws were passed that gives more individuals access to medical marijuana. These laws are still being defined, so testing laws may or may not change soon.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: As of now, the Department of Health can impose fines up to $10,000 that violate any laws, including failing to have their products tested. However, since the current law is not clear on how often testing has to occur, the enforcement of these laws is also ambiguous.
Patient Access: Until early 2017, medical marijuana patients could only obtain low-THC marijuana through a certified physician or a few dispensaries. Florida is slowly opening more dispensaries and growing facilities to facilitate better access for medical patients, so laws may change in the future. Home cultivation is currently not allowed. The old and new laws state that patients can only consume tinctures, oils, and capsules (non-smokable forms). Limits on possession are not clear.
Testing Laws: Hawaii’s current testing laws require testing of marijuana for contaminants by a certified laboratory; however, the law does not specify what testing should be done. At the time of writing this article, Hawaii was under the process of passing more vigorous testing laws, as well as allowing dispensaries to open. Testing laws will likely mirror those currently being used in the state of Oregon. Lawmakers in Hawaii note in the bill that, if testing laws are too restrictive, testing will lead to an increase in costs, which has been a major hurdle in Oregon (more on this later).
Enforcement of Testing Laws: Currently enforcement is not clear. Labeling regarding testing or the presence of contaminants is not required on products.
Patient Access: Patients may grow up to seven plants, and can possess up to four ounces.
Testing Laws: Like Massachusetts, Colorado, and Connecticut, Illinois testing laws are rigorous and help to ensure marijuana is pesticide- and contaminant-free. A certified laboratory is required to test random samples of marijuana from growers to check for the presence of pesticides, toxins, and other contaminants. The Department of Agriculture can also test random batches to ensure compliance. All testing data must be kept on file for up to five years, must be given to the dispensary, and must be provided to patients if they ask for it. Illinois could improve their testing laws by additionally testing for the presence of metals and additional solvents, as is done in Colorado. They could also label their products with the testing results to better inform patients. Although products are likely pesticide free, you may want to ask your dispensary for more information on the products you are using.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: The laws allow several state departments, as well as the State Police, to inspect growing facilities and require cannabis testing at any time. Enforcement is likely rigorous due to the random nature of sampling, and the requirement that growers have testing documents on file.
Patient Access: Medical patients can possess up to 2.5 ounces unless their physician provides the Department of Public Health a recommendation that 2.5 ounces is not enough. Personal cultivation of plants is currently not allowed. As the medical marijuana program in Illinois is still considered a pilot program, all laws are set to be repealed in 2020. Depending on the success of the program, the laws may or may not change at that time.
Testing Laws: Maine currently requires that test batches produced by growing facilities be tested by the Department of Health and Human Services. Results are then provided to dispensaries. However, the law does not provide information on how often testing needs to occur, or what levels of pesticides and other contaminants are considered acceptable. Further, the law does not require that the information be made available to patients. Although pesticide use is illegal, there are exceptions to its use. Maine also allows growing facilities to be tested for organic growing compliance, as it is defined by the US Department of Agriculture. If you are concerned about pesticide use and the presence of contaminants, purchasing organic products may be your best option.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: There are not clear laws that dictate how testing laws are enforced. Frequency and repercussions for failing to meet testing standards seem largely based on the discretion of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Patient Access: Both recreational users and medical patients can grow up to six plants, can have an unlimited number of seeds on-hand and may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.
Testing Laws: Medical marijuana will be available to medical patients through licensed growers and dispensaries starting mid- to late-summer in 2017. The state of Maryland will require testing for pesticides and the presence of heavy metals, fungus, and foreign contaminants. The law requires that levels of acceptable contaminants follow guidelines made by the American Herbal Pharmacopeia, which is the go-to guide for many states in determining acceptable contaminant levels. If a growing facility fails the test, they can rework their batch to ensure its compliance. The facility is not allowed to sell to a dispensary until they have passed certification from a licensed laboratory. Although products do not have to be labeled with information on whether the product passed testing, it must provide information on which grower produced the product. You can likely find out more information by contacting the grow facility.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: If any testing laws are violated, the Medical Cannabis Commission can fine a licensed grower or independent testing facility up to $5,000 per violation. However, it is not clear how often grow facilities will be inspected or how often batches will be tested.
Patient Access: Until medical dispensaries are opened, medical marijuana patients in Maryland lack access to marijuana. The state will allow medical patients to possess up to four ounces of marijuana, but in-home cultivation of plants will be illegal.
Testing Laws: Massachusetts has some of the most detailed and rigorous testing laws. Whereas many laws use ambiguous language that allows for potentially biased interpretation, Massachusetts uses great detail to dictate the steps that should be taken to test products at each stage of production. Growing facilities and dispensaries are required to have all products tested by a certified laboratory for the presence of pesticides, heavy metals, fungicides, toxins, and foreign contaminants. The products cannot exceed levels that are safe for human consumption, as it is dictated by the US Department of Agriculture. Additionally, non-organic pesticide use is illegal. A product that passes inspection will bear the following label: “This product has been evaluated for environmental contamination (impurities) assuming that no more than 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of finished plant material (or the equivalent amount of concentrate) will be consumed per day.” Testing is also required to determine levels of CBD and THC in products. Although the exact laws governing the growth and sale of recreational marijuana are still being written, many hope that these same standards are applied to non-medical products.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: Any products that do not pass inspection cannot be sold to medical patients. The batches can be retested once, but if they fail again, the product must be destroyed. Certified laboratories are required to submit thorough reports to the state regarding their compliance with the testing laws.
Patient Access: Patients are allowed to possess and grow up to a 60-day supply of marijuana. Unfortunately, the laws are not clear on how much this is, but police officers are informed that a 60-day supply is no more than 10 ounces of flower material or 1.5 ounces of resin-concentrate. Several confiscations have been reported in the state, so it is wise not to grow more than you need. Recreational use limits possession to one ounce in public settings and up to 10 ounces for personal use. Both recreational and medical users can grow up to six plants.
Testing Laws: Michigan currently does not have any laws to govern the testing of marijuana. Some dispensaries require testing before they sell a grower’s supply, but there are no regulations currently in place. Several laboratories exist, so many are optimistic that testing will become the norm in the future. If you can, visit a dispensary that requires testing before they sell products.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: N/A
Patient Access: Medical patients are allowed to grow up to 12 plants and can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.
Testing Laws: Minnesota’s marijuana testing requirements are left mostly up to the discretion of the grower. However, there are checks to make sure growers are producing a safe product. Growers are required to submit a plan to the state that details how they will test their products, what their own limits are for contaminants (hopefully these are well-informed), and the course of action in case products are not compliant. Growers are also required to keep a physical sample on-hand for one year, in case the commissioner requires retesting of the sample. Labels are not required to display information on testing results.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: A commissioner can, at any time, check that facilities are compliant with their own standards for testing. However, the frequency of compliance checks is unclear, and fees for non-compliance are not stated.
Patient Access: Currently, it is illegal for medical patients to grow plants. Patients are allowed to have a 30-day supply on hand, but only in non-smokable forms.
Testing Laws: Montana currently does not require testing of marijuana for contaminants.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: N/A
Patient Access: Montana allows medical marijuana patients to possess up to one ounce, and grow up to four plants.
Testing Laws: The state of Nevada requires that all products be tested by a certified laboratory before they are sold by a dispensary. The laboratory must ensure that pesticides, toxins, heavy metals, and other foreign contaminants are at safe levels for human consumption. Nevada’s Department of Agriculture provides a list of pesticides that cannot be used to grow marijuana.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: Failure to pass testing means the growing facility or dispensary must destroy the batch. In late 2015, several dispensaries delayed opening for the first time because of a large amount of contaminated product. This indicates that testing laws are likely very strict and heavily enforced.
Patient Access: Medical marijuana patients can grow up to 12 plants and have 2.5 ounces of marijuana. With the legalization of recreational use, non-medical users can possess up to one ounce.
Testing Laws: New Hampshire requires testing for pesticides, fungus, and other contaminants. The law does not explicitly mention requirements for the testing for metals. It is illegal to use non-organic pesticides for growing plants. In addition to having marijuana products tested by a laboratory, a grow facility must also have their soil and water tested annually. Despite passing or failing, all products must be labeled that the product, “… is not certified to be free of contaminants.” However, all dispensaries are required to keep information on-hand that informs patients if products are certified as organic along with other information about the growing and processing of each product.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: If dispensaries are non-compliant in any laws, the facility must take corrective action within 21 days. The penalties for non-compliance are not clear, but facilities and laboratories are required to send all reports to the state to ensure they are meeting testing requirements.
Patient Access: Medical marijuana patients can possess up to two ounces of marijuana. Growing your own plants is illegal.
Testing Laws: New Jersey does not require regular testing of marijuana in the state. The law indicates that announced and unannounced testing by the state for pesticides, fungus, etc. may occur, but it is not required. The actual testing standards used by the state seem to be robust, but their potential lack of frequency makes their consistency in product quality questionable.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: The repercussions for testing failure are not clear. However, with the potential for random testing, it might make sense for growers to maintain safe levels of contaminants and pesticides.
Patient Access: Medical marijuana patients may possess up to two ounces of marijuana, but personal plant growth is illegal.
Testing Laws: The state of New Mexico requires that grow facilities (all non-profit) have their products tested before sale. According to the laws, facility testing can be random. One important thing to note is that some grow facilities can have testing waived if the state determines that there are not enough laboratories to test batches. Testing must ensure that levels of toxins, pesticides, and other contaminants (detection of metals are optional) are at safe levels. Product labels must contain the results of the testing, as well as the percent of CBD and THC found in the product.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: The law states that repeated testing failures will result in a suspension of the producer’s license, or a notice of contemplated action to suspend the producer’s license. Overall, enforcement seems to be high in the state.
Patient Access: Patients can grow up to 16 plants (but only four mature plants at a time), and they can possess up to eight ounces of marijuana over a 90-day period.
Testing Laws: New York testing laws require their grow facilities to have their products tested by a third-party laboratory. Levels of contaminants, pesticides, etc. must be at safe levels, as is determined by the commissioner in charge of testing. However, these levels are not explicitly stated in the law. The testing of soil and water is optional.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: There is no clear enforcement of the laws in place. Like many states, non-compliance with testing likely results in license suspension.
Patient Access: Personal plant cultivation is illegal. Medical patients can possess a 30-day supply of non-smokable products. What a 30-day supply means is not clear, but it is largely up to a patient’s physician.
Testing Laws: Until recently, Oregon required very strict tests for pesticides and other contaminants. However, many growers and dispensaries complained that the extra costs associated with testing were pushing patients to buy marijuana through non-legal means to save money. At the time of this writing, Oregon has passed temporary laws that have relaxed testing standards until firmer laws are passed in late 2017. Testing requires that products have safe levels of pesticides and other contaminants; however, some contaminants (like butane, propanol, and ethanol) are no longer tested for. Additionally, samples can come from larger batches, which reduces the chance that the entire product is safe.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: The state of Oregon currently appears to be in a battle with growers and dispensaries to find a middle ground that is both profitable and safe. One report found that several hundred batches have failed the testing process since the passing of temporary laws. However, there were no clear repercussions for growers.
Patient Access: Patients can have up to 24 ounces of marijuana and are permitted to grow up to six plants, plus 18 immature seedlings. Recreational users can have up to eight ounces at home and one ounce in public and can grow up to four plants.
Testing Laws: In late 2016, Rhode Island passed an emergency set of laws to help better regulate medical marijuana use within the state. Unfortunately, opportunities were missed to bolster the state’s regulations on testing. Currently, the law states that growers must disclose to dispensaries and the state which pesticides are used in the growing process. Pesticides must be a “minimum risk pesticide” and safe for growing food plants. The law does not require products to be checked by a laboratory. However, all products must be labeled with information on which pesticides and solvents were used to grow the product.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: The laws are very loose, and enforcement is not clear. The law does state that growers must have records on file that disclose the pesticides used, and facilities must use video surveillance to document the use of pesticides.
Patient Access: Medical marijuana patients can grow up to 12 mature plants, and can possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana.
Testing Laws: Like Massachusetts, Vermont requires disclosure of information and testing at every phase of production. However, the law does not make clear what the lawful level of contamination is. The law does state that no pesticides are authorized for use on marijuana, but the details of this are unclear. In general, the law says testing is required, but little information is given as to what this means. The law does not require product labels to disclose information on testing practices or potential contamination.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: Although the testing laws are vague, non-compliance with the laws may potentially result in suspension of a grower’s or dispensary’s registration certificate.
Patient Access: Currently, medical patients can possess up to two ounces of marijuana, and up to nine plants (only two mature at a time).
Testing Laws: Washington requires that all marijuana plants and products be tested by a certified laboratory at the time of harvest. Washington emphasizes testing for pesticides and requires laboratories to test for specific illegal pesticides. They also require labs to test for foreign contaminants and potency. Although the law states that only “Class A” marijuana that passes all inspections can be sold to dispensaries, there is no information on what this means.
Enforcement of Testing Laws: A first offense for non-compliance with testing or failure to pass can result in license suspension for ten days or a $2,500 fee for each specific offense. A third offense can result in the loss of license.
Patient Access: In Washington, medical marijuana users can have access to a combination of the following: 48 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, 21 grams of marijuana concentrates, three ounces of usable marijuana, or 216 ounces of marijuana-infused. Patients can also grow up to six plants for personal use. Recreational users can possess a combination of the following: six ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, one ounce of usable marijuana, 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form, or seven grams of marijuana concentrates. Recreational users are not allowed to cultivate their own plants.
The following states have legalized medical marijuana but have not yet developed plans for implementation, and therefore do not yet have testing laws:
- Arkansas: Laws will be written by July 1, 2017.
- Indiana: Laws will be written by July 1, 2017; the state recently allowed certain patients to consume low-THC products.
- Louisiana: Passed a medical marijuana plan in late 2016. It is estimated to take 18-24 months for laws to be written and enacted. Only non-smokable forms will be allowed.
- Ohio: Passed in late 2016. Laws will be written and put into effect by late 2018, but laws regarding testing and laboratory specifications will be known by late 2017.
- Pennsylvania: Passed in late 2016. Laws will be written and put into effect by late 2018. Testing of marijuana will be required, but specifics are not yet known.
The following states have legalized only the use of low-THC products (0.3 percent, unless noted otherwise). Low-THC products are federally in the same class as hemp products, so they can (and are often required to) be shipped across state lines. They are not technically considered medical marijuana products. Because of this, there is little information on the testing requirements used to ensure products are safe. These states are grouped into three categories below:
States in which low-THC products are allowed in clinical trials or by physician recommendation only. In many of these states, low-THC products are only available to individuals with epilepsy:
- South Carolina: Not more than 0.9% THC.
- North Carolina: Not more than 0.9% THC.
- Tennessee: Not more than 0.9% THC.
- Texas: Expansion of the law is being considered
States in which medical marijuana patients can possess a certain amount of low-THC products:
- Georgia: Patients can possess up to 20 ounces of low-THC oil.
- Iowa: Patients can possess up to 32 ounces of low-THC product.
- Missouri: Patients can possess up to 20 ounces of low-THC product
The following states have made all forms of medical marijuana illegal:
- Kansas: As of early 2017, considerations were being made for medical use.
- Nebraska: Many are hopeful that a bill will be passed in late 2017.
- North Dakota: At the time of this writing, a citizens’ initiative and the house had approved laws to legalize medical marijuana. The Senate had yet to finalize the bill.
- South Dakota
- West Virginia: At the time of this writing, a bill awaited approval by Governor Jim Justice. If passed, laws would go into effect by late 2018.
The Future of Testing Laws
As policymakers across the US start to appreciate the benefits of medical marijuana, new laws will be passed to increase access for people in need. Additionally, more states have legalized the use of recreational marijuana. As people learn more about the harm of contaminated marijuana, and as the business of growing marijuana expands, ensuring product safety will be critical. Many of the laws in this article will likely change over time, so if you are a medical marijuana patient, be sure to ask your dispensary about product contamination and pesticide use.