Washington state’s failure to adequately test cannabis products for pesticides and heavy metals is well-documented. 

The OK Cannabis program has stepped in to increase product safety while Washington state cannabis regulators continue to get their act together. The program does this by randomly testing products off from four participating retailers’ shelves

One unforeseen consequence of OK Cannabis has been an increased number of recalls of cannabis products from the WSLCB (Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board) since the program was implemented.

The Law Regarding Recalls

According to WAC 314-55-225 cannabis recalls are required when “circumstances exist that pose a risk to consumers.” 

These risks include: 

  • Proof that cannabis products contain unapproved pesticides or  approved pesticides at higher than allowable levels;
  • Proof that cannabis products contain residual solvents above allowable levels;
  • Evidence of anything else that poses a risk to consumers;

If a producer or processor is made aware of evidence that its product is unsafe, it’s the company’s responsibility to alert the LCB, and alert retailers and any other business that has purchased possibly tainted products.

OK Cannabis and LCB Recalls

According to state law, any product that failed OK Cannabis should have been recalled. Because a failed test, which failed according to the LCB’s standards, is sufficient evidence that the products are unsafe. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening in every case. There does appear to be some correlation between OK Cannabis and LCB recalls, however. 

OK Cannabis began in late 2018. From 2016 to 2018, the LCB issued a total of four voluntary, meaning licensee initiated, cannabis recalls. All recalls issued by the LCB have been voluntary. There was one recall in 2016, two in 2017, and one in 2018. So far in 2019, there have been a dozen recalls. 

While not all of the recent recalls have been linked to OK Cannabis, several have. 

Date Company Product OK Cannabis Fail WSLCB Recall
10/18 Clandestine Consulting All Products X
11/18 Ionic Cinex Cartridge X
11/18 Ionic Northern Lights Cartridge X
11/18 Exoticz Sugar Mimosa #26 Concentrate X
11/18 Sweetwater Farms Sour Tsunami #3 Flower X
11/18 Ionic Dutch Treat Cartridge X
2/19 Weed by Example Cotton Candy Kush Pre-roll X
2/19 G Stix Sativa Blend Pre-roll X
2/19 Emerald Peaks Certain products X
4/19 Maddog 420 AK-47 Flower X
4/19/-5/19 Skagit Organics Amazing Grace RSO, Certain Products X X
4/19 Regulator  Do-Si-Dos Cartridge X
4/19 Botanical Arts (Supplier for Regulator and Ionic) Certain products X
4/19 Auricag Certain products X
5/19 Washington Grow Solutions Certain products X
5/19 Mountain Hi Certain products X
5/19 Pacific Glo Certain products X
6/19-7/19 Aurum Farms Sunset Sherbert Infused pre-roll, Certain products X X
7/19 7/10 Reserve White Gorilla Concentrate X
7/19 Bacon’s Buds Big Smooth Pre-roll X
7/19 Rogue Farms Greenstone Jilly Beans Pre-roll X
7/19 DB3 Certain products X
7/19 Firebros Certain products X
7/19 Mink Farm Organics Certain products X
7/19 Freya Farms Certain products X
9/19 Heritage Farms Death Star Pre-roll X (Microbial)
9/19 Rocket Cannabis Sundae Driver Cartridge X
9/19 Green Haven Strawberry Shortcake Cartridge X

Doing it Right

Another April OK Cannabis fail was Skagit Organics. Its Amazing Grace RSO tested at slightly above the allowable limit for pesticides. Skagit Organics stepped into action.

“We initiated a recall for that specific lot of oil with the WSLCB because of the failure through the OK Program,” Matthew Friedlander, CEO of Skagit Organics told The Sesh. “According to the law when we are presented with trustworthy evidence that a product is not safe for sale we are required to do a voluntary withdrawal of that product. We also believe it was the right thing to do so we contacted each store and sent them the recall notices as well as posting on social media so people that follow us would have a chance to exchange that oil if they purchased it.”

The next company to fail OK Cannabis testing and then have an LCB recall was Aurum Farms. Last June, Aurum Farms’ Sunset Sherbert failed OK Cannabis testing and was followed by a voluntary LCB recall in July.

According to Aurum Farms’ website, starting in July, all of its products are being tested and the test results are published on its website. Aurum Farms not only followed proper protocol by self-reporting to the LCB but took further action to prevent failures in the future by testing each product before distribution.

Skagit Organics sees the testing failure as a good thing. 

“The whole experience was a positive for us,” Friedlander explained. “Many stores expressed to us how much they respected our taking responsibility as opposed to blaming the grower. We learned a lot and changed some of our processes leading to a better, safer product. We are now recognized as the example of RSO in Washington state that all other RSO is measured against.”

A Supply Chain Issue

In November of 2018, three of Ionic’s cannabis cartridges failed OK Cannabis testing. In April of 2019, Regulator a brand produced by Rolling Farms, had a cannabis extract cartridge fail OK Cannabis testing as well.

According to Top Shelf data, both of these processors listed Botanical Arts as a supplier. That same month, Botanical Arts alerted the LCB of failed testing, and the LCB issued a recall.

The Botanical Arts connection was the only apparent supply chain issue identified at this time. But there could certainly be more. This issue could explain why not every OK Cannabis testing failure has led to a recall by the LCB. If cannabis producers or processors didn’t grow the flower that was turned into other products and/or sold under a different brand, the law is less clear regarding who is responsible for the recall.

The supply chain issue and the lack of accountability that it creates is another topic entirely, and one that deserves to be thoroughly examined. 

Action and Accountability

While Washington state continues to establish a protocol for cannabis testing, the onus is on cannabis producers, processors, and retailers to ensure the products they are creating and selling are safe for consumers. OK Cannabis has served as a positive force for accountability in the interim.