The Maine Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP) has found a contamination rate of 42 percent in samples taken from the state’s medical cannabis program, according to the OCP’s fall 2023 testing report.
Participants in Maine’s Medical Use of Cannabis Program (MMCP), unlike those in the Adult Use Cannabis Program (AUCP), are not required to submit their products for the testing.
The State of Maine currently has over 106,000 participants in the MMCP.
Based on 120 samples from the state’s medical cannabis program, the OCP has found that 50 samples — 42 percent — contained at least one contaminant that would have failed to meet the mandatory testing standards set under the adult use program.
The OCP reports that 30 samples failed for yeast and mold, 26 failed for pesticides, four failed for heavy metals, and one failed for “filth and foreign materials.”
The most common pesticide found in the contaminated samples was myclobutanil, a fungicide which releases cyanide gas upon combustion, which causes serious eye irritation and when inhaled can lead to coma, seizures, cardiac and respiratory arrest.
The AUCP has a pass/fail threshold for myclobutanil of 200 parts per billion (ppb) — eight of the medical samples tested by the OCP failed to fall under this threshold.
The OCP found that one medical cannabis sample contained a myclobutanil concentration as high as 58,600 ppb — 293 times the adult use testing threshold.
“Maine’s Medical Use of Cannabis Program (MMCP) falls critically short of national standards around mandatory contaminant testing, which puts the state’s most vulnerable medical patients at risk of complicating their medical conditions and experiencing symptoms of contamination that can be mistaken for symptoms associated with their condition,” the OCP report reads.
The report cites numerous policy challenges surrounding MMCP, including the lack of an inventory tracking system for addressing contaminated products in the supply chain, the lack of authority for OCP to seize and destroy contaminated cannabis, and strict confidentiality protections for program participants that prevent OCP from disclosing which businesses were found to have contaminated products.
“The results of OCP’s medical testing effort clearly demonstrate that without mandatory testing, contaminated medical cannabis products are sitting on the shelves of numerous caregiver retail stores and medical dispensaries across the state of Maine, being sold to vulnerable, unsuspecting patients,” the report states.
At an October “listening session,” the Maine Wire asked OCP officials about the more than 270 properties in Maine owned by Asian Transnational Criminal Organizations (ATCOs) that operate as illegal marijuana grows.
OCP Deputy Director of Operations Vern Malloch told the Maine Wire in the listening session that the OCP is aware of the ATCO-controlled illegal marijuana grow operations, but that the agency lacks the enforcement tools to take action against them.
Malloch also stated that “Because there’s no inventory tracking in [medical marijuana], it also allows them to buy from the illicit market.”