Approximately 40 percent of illicit cannabis products purchased at unlicensed retailers in
The investigation tested 40 illicit marijuana products including cannabis flower, vapes and edibles purchased at unlicensed New York City retailers in August. The products were analyzed for THC potency and eight contaminants including pesticides, heavy metals including nickel and lead, and microbial contamination such as salmonella and E. coli. About 40 percent were found to be contaminated, while one product tested contained twice the amount of THC indicated on the product label, according to the report released last week. Nine of the products contained less THC than advertised on the package.
Recreational Cannabis Legalized in New York Last Year
New York lawmakers
“Just as the Empire State is poised to achieve that significant goal,” the industry association said in the report, “new illicit operators have sprung up, latching on to the coattails of the respected pre-existing legacy market and threatening both public health and safety and the long-term success of legal operators.”
The unlicensed operators have proliferated into a robust grey market for unregulated cannabis in New York. Many of the illicit retailers falsely advertise the sale of THC products as legal or licensed, according to the report, which accused the operators of misleading consumers by selling products that counterfeit popular consumer products including name-brand chocolates, candies, gummies and other well-known snacks.
Contaminated Cannabis Poses Serious Risks
Tyler Williams, the founder of safety certification firm
“There a various different types of E. coli. Some are more severe than others (i.e., Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC),” Williams wrote in an email to High There. “Symptoms vary but usually cause severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting. For some people, particularly children under five years of age, the infection can lead to the development of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is a serious disease that can cause kidney damage or failure and other serious health problems. Hospitalization is often required because transfusions of blood, plasma exchange or kidney dialysis may be necessary.”
“Just like E. coli, there are different species and subspecies of Salmonella that cause various effects on the body,” Williams continued. “Typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headaches. Typhoidal Salmonellosis can also cause Typhoid fever. Symptoms of typhoid fever include extremely high fever, lethargy, cramps, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and rash. Typhoid fever can last between two and four weeks.”
Earlier this year, the OCM sent cease-and-desist orders to unlicensed retailers, directing them to end unpermitted sales of cannabis.
“Allowing these unregulated, illicit operations to continue operating with impunity will only exacerbate an already alarming public health trend, especially among teens and young adults who either are unaware of or choose to ignore the health risks,” the industry report maintains.