Here are the complete results of Steep Hill Lab's testing of marijuana products purchased from 15 dispensaries in LA, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. At each dispensary, we bought one sample of flower marijuana (commonly used for smoking) and one brand of "vape" cartridge (which are filled with concentrated cannabis oil and used for inhaling marijuana vapor). Some dispensaries also gave us complimentary samples since we were first-time customers.
We obtained 44 products in all and Steep Hill Labs in Berkeley, one of the largest cannabis testing labs in the nation, tested them for 16 pesticides.
Forty-one out of 44 of the samples, 93 percent, tested positive for pesticides above the allowable limits in Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts and Nevada. These are states that currently regulate the use of pesticide in cannabis and are being used as models for future California regulations. California does not regulate the use of pesticides in marijuana at this time but the state says they will have regulations in place by January 2018.
Local news from across Southern California
Currently, California does not regulate the testing of marijuana products by commercial laboratories and state officials have yet to develop standards for product testing. As a result, there can be discrepancies in test results from lab to lab. Several dispensaries and manufactures tell NBC4 that the labs they have used to test their products provided them with different results than Steep Hill Lab.
The list of results tells you the dispensary where the items were purchased, the name/type of items, the total pesticide levels and whether they would have passed or failed regulations in other states. The pass/fail determination in those states is based on the levels of individual pesticides. If a product exceeds the limit on any of them, the product cannot be sold. We have provided total levels in the chart. Individual levels for each pesticide can be found in the attached lab reports.
NBC4 reached out to all of the dispensaries and manufacturers whose products were tested at Steep Hill Lab. Most of the companies and collectives didn't respond to our request for comment, but here are the statements from those that did.
At Bhang Vape, we have always been dedicated to providing our customers with the highest-quality cannabis products. That dedication is why we perform independent laboratory testing on every ingredient for cannibinoid and terpene content, microbials, residual solvents, and pesticides.
If any ingredient fails any part of the analytical analysis, we don't use it in our products...Period.
Because we are also dedicated to transparency, we place a Lot Number on every Bhang Vape cartridge to allow our customers to verify online the results of each analysis.
This week I had the opportunity to meet personally with Joel Grover and his investigative team at KNBC to discuss their findings. And in the spirit of Bhang's commitment to quality, I would like to applaud them for their thorough research and reporting. Since we previously had laboratory analysis performed on all the products which they had tested, a contradictory analytical finding was very concerning.
In an effort to prevent another set of contradictory findings, Bhang Vape will begin working with the testing facility utilizing the most advanced and accurate testing technology available.
We would also like to take this opportunity to emphasize Caifornia's need for standardization in testing, including: sample collection, methods of analysis, calibration standards, and operating practices. We feel it is incumbent on the Legislature to enact and enforce comprehensive standards that will ensure consistency of analytical results; which are essential to providing safe and pure cannabis products to the residents of the State of California.
As Joel Grover and his investigative team have expressed their commitment to this same outcome, we will continue to keep an open dialogue with them, assisting him and his team in whatever way possible to help achieve this goal.
Bhang Vape California
Hollywood High Grade (HHG) Dispensary Statement
Excerpt from the Hollywood High Grade letter --
HHG takes great care in providing premium, high quality medical cannabis to its patients and caregivers. The issue raised by your story is a major concern to the cannabis industry and we are thankful that California’s new licensing rules provide regulations for the mandatory and reliable testing of all cannabis products beginning in 2018. As part of our internal quality control procedures, we systematically test products and require a Pesticide-free certification from each of our vendors. If we find that a vendor has presented product this below industry standards we take immediate action as we have done in this instance.
Notwithstanding, as a result of the Channel 4 News test results, HHG immediately removed all products from the relevant vendors and have contacted these vendors regarding your findings. The management at Hollywood High Grade would like to thank Channel 4 News on its reporting of this issue as it is one that HHG takes very seriously as we strive to make sure the products it provides to its patients are of the utmost quality.
Read the complete letter from attorney representing Hollywood High Grade Dispensary
Editor's Note: NBC4 responded to the Hollywood High Grade Dispensary letter with these follow-up questions. Here is the text of an NBC4 email to the attorney representing the dispensary:
Thank you for your response and for the information you provided. We have a couple of follow-up questions.
1. The Bhang certificate that you included with your letter is cut off on each side. Can you send us a version that is complete?
2. How did you match this Bhang Certificate of Guarantee to the specific Bhang product we purchased for testing? Can you send us the other documents that connect this batch number and testing date to the product we purchased on 1/12/2017?
3. Do you have testing data for the flower product we purchased and the flower that was given to us for free? (Kosher Kush Flower and Organic Skywalker Flower)
4. Have you removed for sale the flower product as well as the cartridges?
Thank you again for your response and for this information.
Response From Hollywood High Grade
I have attached a copy of the complete certificate that was received by HHG at the time of the Bhang delivery corresponding to the item purchased on 1/12/2017. All Bhang products, including the flower that was reported as testing over safe levels was immediately removed from HHG's shelves. Testing records for flower are maintained in a manner that prevents their disclosure due to the California Medical Privacy Act and HIPAA regulations.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This follow-up statement provided by Hollywood High Grade should have stated that all Bhang products and all flower products (sourced from other vendors) that were reported to have tested for pesticides were removed from HHG's shelves.
Blooms Farms Statement
Thank you for providing the details we requested. We compared the results you provided with our own tests for the very same batch number (2062) and at the same testing facility (Steep Hill Labs in Berkeley, CA). Note: Our tests were reported on November 23, 2016.
As you have likely discovered through your research, cannabis lab tests regularly return conflicting and varying results - even when the same batch or infused product is tested at the same facility. One of the ways we manage quality and combat these irregularities is by testing each component of our oil blends. Batch number 2062 was made up of five components. We had each of these five components tested separately, which returned a weighted average calculation value of 1,028 ppb total pesticides and assuming a measurement uncertainty of 20 percent. This is a fraction of the result Steep Hill provided to you, of the identical batch, at 45,300 ppb. We're not alone in noting the wide variance in cannabis testing results as this industry continues to mature and grow.
It's worth noting that at 1,028 ppb we would be well within the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s threshold, which represents the country's most stringent regulations regarding pesticide use on cannabis. Our November 2016 test results from Steep Hill Labs are attached.
Bloom Farms is committed to the quality of our product and the safety of our customers. The state of California has not yet established contaminant thresholds and does not require product testing. However, as part of our quality assurance process, Bloom Farms proactively tests its products for quality, purity, and consistency before they're made available for purchase. This situation underscores the need for reliable and consistent analytical methods and processes inside testing labs. California cannabis consumers need the ability to identify companies and differentiate products based on quality and dependability.
Bloom Farms Media Relations
Editor's Note: We asked Steep Hill about the inconsistent results, and they told us in part:
[Bloom Farms] believes that the samples they sent in November and the sample NBC purchased in late January are from the same batch. We trust he is being honest in his belief. The samples provided in November and the one NBC presented to us in late January in their packaging are not the same exact sample - the subbatches pertaining to the samples from November were combined into a final blend that, apparently, was not subsequently tested before packaging and distribution - at least no combined-batch test from November was provided or claimed to exist.
They went on to say:
We encourage all customers to get at least two tests of final product, because viscous liquids and flowers are, by nature, heterogeneous and subject to sampling error, even when done correctly by trained personnel, but also because mistakes happen. Not many take our advice to get two tests per batch. Most producers/manufacturers don't even get one, although that, too, is about to change. Bloom Farms paid for testing. They're already doing more than most.
G FarmaBrands Statement
This is G FarmaBrand’s response to a request for comment on an NBC 4 news story about the emerging California cannabis marketplace. We were provided with a laboratory report, wherein a variety of commonly used pesticides were purportedly found in one of our products marketed and sold as Liquid Gold Pure Red Oil. After a careful review of the subject laboratory report, which we conducted in conjunction with outside industry-leading scientific experts, we not only reject the validity of the particularized findings of the laboratory report, we also generally reject the efficacy of the methods and practices employed by the subject laboratory, Steep Hill Labs.
It should be noted that Steep Hill Labs has a pecuniary relationship with companies that currently market and sell cannabis products that are in direct competition with those marketed and sold by G FarmaLabs. As a functional business competitor, Steep Hill Labs has a direct conflict of interest when it comes to testing or otherwise revieiwng [sic] any of our products. Moreover, Steep Hill Labs lacks even the most basic ISO 17025 accreditation, which is the legal requirement for any state-licensed cannabis testing laboratory.
As the leading producer of cannabis products in the State of California, G FarmaLabs only works with the most highly regarded, ISO 17025 accredited laboratories. With the aid of industry leading scientist, such as Dr. Jeffery Raber of the Werc Shop, Dr. Roberts of CW Analytical, and Dr. Leah Shaffer from CannaSafe Analytics, G FarmaLabs has always gone above and beyond all legally mandated safety standards, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to providing our consumers with safe, high quality cannabis products that are second to none.
G FarmaBrands objects to instant effort taken by one of its competitors to disparage its brand by peddling a self-serving and erroneous laboratory test report. We at G FarmaBrands want to ensure our consumers that we remain committed to leading the charge towards the development and implementation of consistent safety and regulatory standards, both internally and across the entire emerging cannabis product marketplace.
Crisitna Gonzalaez, Pharm.D.
CEO of G FarmaBrands
1 Stop/Kush Burners Statement
All of us here at 1 Stop are committed to providing patients with top quality medical cannabis products.
We appreciate the efforts being made by NBC to help establish testing standards in the cannabis community. The California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (BMCR), who will create the guidelines, is currently working on to establish such standards.
We are fully committed to patient safety and complying with all state regulations regarding pesticides set by the BMCR. We fully support the idea of legalization, the development of safety standards, and the evolution of the cannabis industry!
Spliffin is dedicated to providing the safest, cleanest possible cannabis products. Our products are voluntarily tested for purity and potency by independent, third-party laboratories. In this particular test, certain pesticide residues were detected at levels slightly exceeding guidelines imposed by other states that have legalized cannabis manufacturing. Our lab tests did show that Spliffin cartridges passed all residual solvent tests by zero detection.
California currently lacks the formal regulatory framework enacted in other states, and testing and safety requirements vary significantly from state to state. Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law, severely limiting research opportunities to remediate regulatory inconsistencies.
As the cannabis industry advances to mirror safety and production standards from other sectors, Spliffin is committed to working with industry and government leaders to formulate sensible standards and requirements so as to ensure that all Californians have access to the highest-quality, clean and safe cannabis products.
At FlavRx, we stand by our people, products, and practices. We are fully committed to meeting or exceeding the quality standards established by local and state governments; our track record in cannabis legal states to date proves this. Our experience and the knowledge we've gathered is what is driving our California-based operations.
The team at FlavRx has zero doubt that we will meet or exceed the quality standards established by legislators and the the various regulatory agencies overseeing the cannabis industry in the State of California once those standards have been developed.
In addressing your claim that an official FlavRx product "failed" one component of a quality assurance test, we’d like to reiterate that there aren’t any standards yet published for any segment of our supply chain, to include the diagnostic labs, to follow or adhere to. We've included lab results taken from official FlavRx input material use for FlavRx products located in California, Oregon and Washington. The lab results clearly indicate the FlavRx products tested are safe for consumption. We ask that you compare the results and reach out to both lab companies, as well as, any others you come across and ask them to comment on their testing, cleaning, and calibration processes utilized in pesticide tests. It’s an involved process that I’m sure the reputable labs are applying and is a process that is worth understanding.
Brands like FlavRx look forward to the day that diagnostics labs are licensed and certified so that consumers will be able to confidently identify products that are safe to consume and designed to satisfy their medical and/or adult use needs.
First and foremost, we are glad to see that our peers are being held to the same standards to which we hold ourselves. Until proper regulation is in place, it is publications such as this that lookout for the wellbeing of California's medical cannabis community. Nativ stands confidently by the fact that we do not use pesticides in any of our branded products, and have never packaged cannabis flower in Nativ branding. We have only packaged our Nativ Prerolls, Rosin, and Bubble hash since our company's formation.
A larger concern is the lack of standardization and consistency in the California testing market. As Steep Hills mentioned in this article "cannabis flower is heterogenous and subject to sampling error, even when done correctly by trained personnel, but also because human error is always a factor."
We stand strongly by our mission of providing clean cannabis with a continued focus on health and wellness. The reason we created Nativ was to offer an alternative source of wellness in a country that is so polluted with dangerous pharmaceutical drugs. We have recently taken steps to certify our Rosin line with the Clean Green Stamp of Approval.
We do thank NBC Los Angeles and Steep Hills for taking the time to illuminate us about potential problems in the industry, and we agree there are kinks in the California Cannabis framework that need immediate addressing.
Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group Statement
Thank you for the test results you forwarded this morning. Attached are the laboratory results provided to LAPCG by the vendors of the two products cited in the Steep Hill reports with the greatest parts per billion of pesticide residue; the one reported as having 1,800 parts per billion and the one reported as having 18,000 parts per billion. As you will see in the attached reports provided to LAPCG, the providers of these products have provided us with certificates of analysis from one of the most prominent cannabis laboratories in California reflecting no detection of the pesticides for which they test (see attached list). We do not have a report for the product that allegedly contained 300 parts per billion, and, despite that relatively low incidence rate, we will nonetheless no longer make that product available to patients. As I noted yesterday, the concept of safe access means nothing without safe medicine, and, out of concern for the safety and well-being of our patient members, we have taken the other two products off of our shelves until we investigate the discrepancy between the reports from Steep Hill versus the reports from SC Labs.