The legalities of marijuana are evolving and unraveling before our very eyes and it’s an exciting to watch the industry growing from an underground secret to full blown conventions like the HempCon I attended last weekend in San Jose.
I attended the show because several of my friends (with prescriptions) wanted to buy their medicine but also because I was curious about what types of medibles are out there and what types of food manufacturing/regulation laws are not being followed.
Turns out- very few laws are being followed and it’s just a matter of time before a foodborne illness wipes a whole generation of 1960’s hippies and their Gen X pot smoking children as well.
The issue is quite simple and potentially easy to solve. In California and in many other states Marijuana is still not legal at the federal level. Because MIF’s are not completely legal, food production operations are not monitored by the FDA, USDA, or even the local state health department. It’s pretty much a free for all when it comes to making and selling MIF’s in dispensaries and hemp festivals across the U.S. As a result – Dispensaries are making and selling potentially hazardous food products without even knowing it!
Here are a few food safety violations I witnessed at the trade show:
- Brownies without any ingredient statement, allergen listing or even a product description. Just a brown square wrapped in saran wrap.
- Rice Crispy treats in unmarked clear packages without any mention of what they are made from.
- THC dosed ice-cream made in a facility of unknown origin that was probably not inspected by the USDA, FDA or any dairy organizations.
- Juice bottles in sealed anaerobic containers being kept and sold unrefrigerated.
- Siracha hot sauce in a sealed airtight container. How do we know pH levels are low enough to prevent bacteria outgrowth? How do we know a proper thermal process has taken place?
- THC level recommendations are non-existent. I did get the vague idea that 12 mg is enough for a serving but how much of that bar or cake has 12 mgs in it?
What are the risks that can occur here? Patients with food allergies are at risk if they don’t know what is inside the brownie they are eating. Dairy products need to be regulated to ensure that it is kept cold. Listeria is an organism that can show up in dairy products. Any container that is sealed up supports anaerobic spore forming toxing producing bacteria like C.Botulinum and S. Aureus.
With food violations all over the place- I would not advise anyone to eat a medible unless they know where it was made, who made it and you have perhaps even personally inspected their facility. I am amazed at how critical consumers are about the current safely manufactured food market and protest against GMO’s, artificial flavors and sugar but yet there does not seem to be much concern at all about unlabeled pot brownies made in a dirty basement somewhere in the suburbs. All products should have at the minimum ingredient statements, allergen statements and clear packaging describing the contents and medicinal levels. Ideally marijuana food makers would only want to make safe shelf stable food that does not require refrigeration but medible consumers are tired of brownies and other same old varieties and are demanding new ideas on how to ingest.
If you plan to buy MIF’s—proceed with caution. Stick with shelf stable cakes and cookies, don’t buy beef jerky, ice cream or anything that requires refrigeration unless you know and trust the maker personally. For fellow industry professionals out there I am preaching to the choir however there is a large market of consumers that have no idea that these products are in violation of GMP ‘s (Good Manufacturing Practices) and could lead foodborne illness or over dosing on the medicinal THC component.