The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) is issuing product recalls for several batches of cannabis flower that tested positive for aspergillus (mold) and heavy metals (cadmium and mercury). The issue was first identified by the OLCC during a routine audit of inventory in the state’s Cannabis Tracking System (CTS) on June 21, 2023. The various batches of cannabis flower and pre-rolls were sold by about 75 different Oregon recreational cannabis retailers to consumers from January 2023 to June 22, 2023. The OLCC is utilizing the state’s CTS (Metrc) to identify affected inventory and has instructed retailers and other licensees to halt further distribution and sale. The products pose a risk to public health and safety and should not be sold or consumed.
These batches of cannabis flower were harvested before March 1, 2023. In this instance, the licensees complied with existing testing requirements. Under Oregon Health Authority (OHA) rules, cannabis products produced after March 1, 2023 are required to be tested for microbiological contaminants and heavy metals.
While these licensees were in compliance with state testing requirements, OLCC issued the recall based on the quality control testing done by the producers which indicated the presence of microbiological contaminants and/or heavy metals at levels that pose a risk to public health and safety. A recall was necessary to prevent further sale of contaminated products and to provide notice to consumers.
Over the past year, the OLCC has worked with the OHA to implement rules that require the testing for harmful heavy metals (Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Lead) and microbiological contaminants (Aspergillus, E. Coli, and Salmonella). Aspergillus can create harmful mycotoxins, trigger allergic reactions, or in some cases cause aspergillosis. Recent research has found that fungal infections – nearly half of which were attributable to aspergillosis – are 3.5 times more likely in cannabis users. See OHA’s bulletin on aspergillus testing for more information about why such testing is now required in Oregon. Consumers should also be aware that heavy metals are carcinogenic and considered to cause a variety of diseases. Cannabis is efficient at absorbing and storing heavy metals and other pollutants found in soil and water, which increases the risk that cannabis users could ingest or inhale heavy metals. These metals can damage the kidneys and nervous system and increase the risk of some cancers.
Consumers who purchased the recalled products are encouraged to destroy them. The OLCC has not received any health-related complaints from the use of the recalled products. OLCC staff has worked directly with retailers to halt the sale of the contaminated products, and will continue to look into the matter.