Marijuana retailers are complaining that testing requirements for extracts imposed by the Oregon Health Authority are too strict, hurting sales and driving up prices. They may get some relief from lawmakers during this year's legislative session, but they should get used to the kind of government regulations other industries have faced for years.
Cannabis extracts use various solvents to pull out and concentrate the active ingredient of marijuana flowers. Some retailers say extracts make up half their sales, but new testing requirements adopted last fall have caused delays and limited supply. Besides testing for tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient, the rules require tests for 60 pesticides, even including DDT, which isn't used in this country.
One dispensary owner says his sales are off 30 to 50 percent as a result. Another says marijuana should be treated like other agricultural crops, such as blueberries, which are tested in the field before harvest.
There is some logic to that, except for one key difference: blueberries and other agricultural crops are eaten. Cannabis extracts are first highly concentrated and then smoked. Undetected pesticide residue is likely to pose a greater risk under those circumstances than if a consumer ingests a few blueberries sprinkled on breakfast cereal. It's not unreasonable for state health officials to err on the side of caution when trying to protect public health.
The medical marijuana industry operated under much looser rules before voters legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana. In an attempt to blend the two industries together, state agencies may have been overzealous, but that will sort itself out in time. Meanwhile, marijuana retailers should accept that government regulation is part of doing business.