B.C.’s “community safety unit” and police raid an unlicensed cannabis store in Sooke, Oct. 27, 2019. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

B.C.’s “community safety unit” and police raid an unlicensed cannabis store in Sooke, Oct. 27, 2019. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Illegal cannabis often contaminated with pesticides, B.C. study finds

Bacteria, heavy metals also present in some seized samples

The B.C. government is warning cannabis buyers to avoid illegally grown products, after a pilot study found most samples from unlicensed sources were contaminated with fungicides and other hazardous substances.

The samples were taken from dried cannabis seized by B.C.’s dedicated cannabis community safety unit and tested in a lab to see if they met federal standards for legal sales. A total of 20 samples from six illicit storefronts around Metro Vancouver were collected in February and tested, and 18 of them contained pesticide residues. Only three samples were found to be consistent with the standards for legal sales.

“The lab found 24 distinct pesticides, with almost every sample containing at least one,” B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said June 9. “There were also unacceptable levels of bacteria, fungi or heavy metals in many of the samples.”

The pilot test results were released by the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health, showing detectable levels of contaminants in 18 of the 20 samples. The most commonly detected was a fungicide called myclobutanil in 16 of the 18 samples, followed by a plant growth regulator called paclobutrazol and an insecticide, spiromesifen. Traces of bacteria, heavy metals and other contaminants were also detected

B.C. started its community safety unit when cannabis was legalized across Canada two and a half years ago, and so far 160 illegal stores have been shut down or have closed voluntarily, Farnworth said. He highlighted another discovery by enforcement authorities, products in packages that imitate well-known brands of cookies, candies and snacks.

“With their familiar images, colours and names, these are obviously a attractive to children,” Farnworth said. “But their content isn’t candy, it’s illicit cannabis, often with a THC concentration that exceeds legal product limits by 10 times or more.”

RELATED: No surge in pandemic pot sales, B.C. sales figures show

RELATED: B.C. allows retailers windows, imposes staff training

B.C. had the most established illegal cannabis market in Canada when the federal government declared recreational sales legal in October of 2018. Farnworth said B.C.’s experience is similar to Colorado, which went from 100 per cent illegal sales to 70 per cent legal in four years.

Growth of legal sales is shown by recent sales figures from B.C.’s network of government and licensed private stores. In March 2020, legal sales totalled about $20 million, and in March of this year, sales were more than doubled to $43 million.

“When you buy from a licensed seller, you can trust the label on the product, you know that you’re supporting legitimate, local businesses and workers, and you be assured that tax revenue will go to public services that we all rely on, such as health care and education, not into the pockets of illegal retailers or organized crime,” Farnworth said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicscannabis

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Firefighters were called to a grass fire on a hillside slope behind the post office in Summerland on Friday shortly before 2 p.m. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Firefighters extinguish blaze behind Summerland Post Office

Fire on hillside slope occurred Friday, June 18 shortly before 2 p.m.

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Emergency crews responded to Highway 97 after a motorcycle incident. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Motorcyclist taken to hospital after collision on Highway 97

It is not known the extent of their injuries

The illegal open fire above Naramata continues to smoke on Friday, June 18. The fire was left to burn itself out by BC Wildfire. (Monique Tamminga - Western News)
Illegal open burn in Naramata will be left to smoke

BC Wildfire could not confirm whether the property owner had been fined

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Most Read