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Utah isn’t testing medical marijuana for potential disease-causing contaminants. Robert Gehrke explains why.

Due to an equipment shortage, the state said it suspended testing for E.coli, salmonella and several kinds of molds that cause illness, especially among the immunocompromised.

For over a year, Utah has not been testing medical marijuana for several pathogens in the plants that could be harmful to patients, particularly those with compromised immune systems.

Last April, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food suspended the requirement for pathogen-specific testing — for things like salmonella, E.coli and certain molds, which are sometimes found in the plants — citing supply chain issues and a problem getting pipette tips that are used to draw samples and put them on the testing medium.

State officials said they are still testing cannabis samples for contamination more generally, conducting tests that measure what is called “total aerobic count” and “total yeast and mold.” But those tests have far more lenient standards and cannot distinguish between the presence of common, harmless microbes that are all around us and potentially dangerous pathogens.

For example, when the state was still running pathogen-specific tests on cannabis flower or processed products, samples were rejected if any trace of E.coli, salmonella or several types of mold were detected. Period.

A sample of flower would only fail the total aerobic count test if there are more than 100,000 “colony-forming units” per gram — each unit being a cluster of growth when the sample is put on a petri dish. Without additional analysis, there is no way for labs to know what is growing on the tray. Processed oils and liquids have lower thresholds for microbes and mold. [Read more at The Salt Lake Tribune]

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