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Canadian Government Discouraging Independent Labs from Testing Cannabis

Scientists and activists in Canada say Health Canada’s restrictive approach to cannabis safety testing puts the public at risk because the department discourages laboratories from analyzing products that do not come directly from the 31 licensed medical marijuana producers in the country, the Globe and Mail reports.

Hubert Marceau, a co-owner of Laboratoire PhytoChemia, who are permitted to test cannabis, said his lab has fielded at least a dozen requests from patients, doctors and dispensaries to analyze products from both regulated and unregulated sources. The lab must reach out to Health Canada for guidance and their answer is usually vague, taking as long as eight months.

“Can we test for physicians? Can we test for patients?” he said he’s asked officials. “And always the answer was either fuzzy, or we are waiting for more information, or I’m forwarding you to whatever department — and we often didn’t get any answers.”

The Globe and Mail had nine samples of dried cannabis from nine unlicensed dispensaries tested by a lab, and found three of them would not meet Health Canada’s safety standards for their licensed growers. The samples contained “several different kinds of pathogenic bacteria,” that while undesirable, are unlikely to be harmful to consumers with healthy immune systems.     

The lab that tested the samples for The Globe asked to remain unnamed due to “fear that the federal government would sanction the lab and revoke its license, despite performing a valuable public service.”

Last month federal officials announced the creation of a task force to crack down on illegal dispensaries, saying they were putting consumers at risk because their products are not tested.

“These operations are illegally supplied, and provide products that are untested, unregulated and that may be unsafe,” a press release said.

In the announcement, there was no plan to allow independent testing.

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