Health Canada Mandates Cannabis Testing for Pesticides

Kelly Weimert

May 18th, 2017


Female doctor with clipboard testing cannabis sativa flowers in the field

Given the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds the legality of cannabis in the United States, if investors and entrepreneurs are looking for more clarity to inform their decisions, then a great place to start is with Canada.

As Canada-wide legalization of recreational marijuana is about to be put into place, an increasing number of measures are being taken to ensure the standardization and quality of the plants being sold are fair and safe for consumers. And among the most recent measures is Health Canada’s decision to apply mandatory testing of medical cannabis for unauthorized pesticides.

United States’-based cannabis investors would be wise to take notes on what this means for the growing processes and practices for Canadian businesses as they’re like to face similar measures if/when the U.S. expands marijuana accessibility.

Reason for mandatory testing

For now, the testing mandate applies to medical cannabis only, which makes sense given that traditional pharmaceuticals have long been tested for quality and consistency to ensure the safety of the patient using them.

In February, Canada Health cited three recalls of medical cannabis related to the use of unauthorized pesticides as the driving force behind the inspections it plans to put in place.

What do the inspections entail?

The quality-control inspections of licensed producers will include random testing of marijuana products via samples collected from plant leaves, dried cannabis, and cannabis oil, if applicable. Additionally, it’s within the inspector’s right to test any products he or she suspects to contain pesticides found on site during their visit.

All licensed producers of medical marijuana are subject to the mandatory testing of all cannabis products destined to be sold, and the tests can be either via announced or unannounced visits.

These tests are in addition to the tests licensed producers are already subject to, which include testing products for microbial and chemical contaminants such as mold, metals, and bacterial and fungal contamination.

What are they testing for, exactly?

According to the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, there are distinctly 17 pesticides listed under the Pesticides Act (PCPA) that are authorized for use on cannabis crops and productions.

If a licensed producer is currently using any pesticides outside of the aforementioned 17, then they should expect legal action as no exceptions are being made to the requirements — Health Canada made clear that any use of a pesticide not listed would be deemed unacceptable and action will be taken.

What does this mean for growers’ future?

Health Canada only issued these new requirements this month, so details as far as how things will play out are still unfolding.

That said, in the coming weeks Health Canada is expected to provide additional guidance to licensed producers regarding how this mandatory testing will be implemented and enforced, including how test results will be reported to Health Canada.

So how, and to what extent, these measures will be enforced remains to be seen, but the guidelines are clear with respect to the chemicals that can and cannot be used in cannabis products made for sale.

Should United States growers expect similar measures?

As mentioned, there’s a lot that remains to be seen regarding the legality around cannabis in the U.S. given the mixed access across states.

But chances are, should cannabis become legal country-wide, officials will be looking at the models of standardization and quality control in other countries, like Canada, to inform future policies and practices.

Therefore, while no one can say for certain what will and will not be authorized with respect to medical marijuana testing, it’s safe to assume that there will be parallels between how Canada is managing medical marijuana and how the U.S. will plan to.

Kelly Weimert

About Kelly Weimert

Kelly is a full-time freelance writer based in Austin, TX. A happy hybrid of geek and hippie, when she's not nestled into her couch crankin' out crafty prose with her miscreant Chihuahua, you can find her frolicking outside to keep her sanity in check.

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