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Missouri marijuana regulators defend product testing regime in aftermath of recall

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Missouri marijuana regulators defend product testing regime in aftermath of recall

Sep 19, 2023 | 6:55 am ET
By Rebecca Rivas
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Missouri marijuana regulators defend product testing regime in aftermath of recall
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(Rebecca Rivas/Missouri Independent)

The Missouri Division of Cannabis Regulation is responding to questions about the effectiveness of the software it uses to track information about marijuana products, including the results of state-mandated testing. 

In a guidance document issued on Monday, the agency addressed questions regarding testing regulations that cannabis businesses rely on to ensure product is safe — defending its protocols by arguing that regulations can only do so much when “bad actors” intentionally falsify records to evade oversight. 

“The risk of bad actors attempting to circumvent regulatory requirements exists in every regulated industry,” the division said in the guidance document. 

The new guidance comes on the heels of a major statewide recall of products infused with a THC concentrate, or distillate, purchased from a Robertsville-based company called Delta Extraction.

Delta is accused by state regulators of “inversion,” or bringing in illegal marijuana products from other states and adding it to their own products in order to keep their production numbers up. But the company argues it hasn’t violated the law because it was importing hemp, a federally legal substance. 

Missouri cannabis business owners told The Independent previously that there was “no way” for companies to know that Delta was producing a distillate that wasn’t made completely from Missouri marijuana — because it was listed as passing all the required testing in Metrc, the state’s tracking system. 

The state has paid the company running Metrc between $700,000 and $900,000 every year since 2020. 

Missouri company at center of cannabis recall used hemp instead of marijuana in products

From the moment the plant starts to sprout, it gets a tag that goes into Metrc, and that plant’s yield is tracked until it finds its way into a vape pen or joint. 

Various manufacturers saw the distillate listed on Metrc, along with the “certificate of analysis” from the lab that showed it was safe for consumers. They bought it and infused their products with the distillate, leading to 62,000 products being recalled in August.

In its Monday guidance document, the division responded to the question: “If marijuana product is recorded in Metrc as passing all required testing, how can a product still present a potential health risk?” 

The division said that “intentional falsification of Metrc records” and non-compliance can lead to unreliable test results

“Where records are falsified or sampling requirements are not followed, a passing test result does not mean all cannabis in a harvest or production lot has been appropriately evaluated,” the guidance document said. 

If a company has incorporated “unregulated cannabis” into products, the division said it can also present health risks. 

“For example, chemical conversion of CBD to produce THC can result in a product with harmful residual solvents, other harmful compounds, and even new compounds of unknown impact,” the division said in Monday’s guidance document. 

Using “highly toxic and illegal pesticides” can cause immediate and long-term health risks with repeated exposure, it stated.

The other question the division responded to was: “If licensees can falsify tracking information in ways that cause public health risks, how can downstream licensees protect themselves from purchasing noncompliant product from bad actors?” 

Regulators are committed to investigating any evidence of tracking and testing evasion or manipulation, the guidance document said, and “treating these events as particularly egregious violations.”

The division encouraged licensees to question distillate with “unusually low prices and unusually high availability of supply.” Licensees should also ask for evidence of the source of the product and establish contractual arrangements for return or refund of products later deemed noncompliant.

Rich Chrismer, a spokesman for Delta Extraction, said in an email to The Independent Monday that Missouri “approved all of Delta Extraction’s procedural documents and the company was always careful to be in compliance with (Division of Cannabis Regulation). The company’s operations, at all times, met all statutes and administrative rules outlined within Missouri’s cannabis program. There are many well-documented email interactions with its compliance officer approving this exact process.”

Delta sold at least 700 liters of the distillate in question, according to case documents. A liter of 80% concentrated THC can make more than 70,000 individual “doses” at 10mg THC a piece, industry experts say. 

That’s almost 50 million doses.

Delta Extraction is still fighting to get the recall overturned. The Administrative Hearing Commission will hold a hearing in the case on Sept. 29.