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

Some algae is visible at the swimming ponds at Millennium Park. Photo: Betsy Kline
City of Castlegar says Millennium Ponds safe, in spite of algae

Water samples are regularly sent to Interior Health

Black Press file photo
City of Castlegar plans to offer dumpster for small amounts of summer garbage

Bear Smart initiative looking to reduce wildlife conflict

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

A volunteer delivers food to families as part of a West Kootenay EcoSociety program. Photo: Submitted
Farms to Friends delivers 2,500th bag of food to families in need

The program services communities in the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas

Selkirk College has begun its search in earnest for a leader to replace president Angus Graeme who is set to retire from his position in May 2022. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College seeks community input for president search

Current president Angus Graeme retires next year

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read