Marijuana

Cannabis Testing Company Takes Blame for Recall, Defends Affected Brands

A state-certified cannabis testing company took "full responsibility" for a recall of cannabis products announced today.
OnPoint Laboratories, a cannabis testing company based in Snowflake, took "full responsibility" for a marijuana flower recall announced today by the state and defended the affected brands as "clean."

However, the lab also said in its statement that the recall "is not the result of any wrongdoing by the products, dispensaries, or brands, but rather an audit-based testing discrepancy between" it and the state Department of Health Services.

OnPoint Laboratories' statement follows the DHS announcement this afternoon about a voluntary recall of certain cannabis products following test results that showed traces of Salmonella and Aspergillus (mold).

All the affected products were flower cannabis (a.k.a. buds), with brands including Harvest, Sol Flower, Tru Infusion, and others. See below for the state's chart with a complete list of the products under recall.

No illnesses have been reported in relation to the recalled products.

The state DHS, which oversees Arizona's voter-approved medical and recreational marijuana programs, said in its announcement that several dispensaries are pulling the products based on the test results. People who have purchased the products should not vape, smoke, or otherwise consume them, but get rid of them immediately.

It's the first recall of cannabis products in Arizona since the state Legislature passed its marijuana-testing law in 2019. Before that, Arizona's 2010 medical marijuana law didn't subject dispensary products to any kind of testing. Proposition 207, the recreational marijuana law passed by voters in November, also requires dispensary products to be tested for contaminants and potency. But the testing system has reportedly been plagued by minimal interest by dispensaries and lack of enforcement by the state.

According to the DHS, the recall developed after "laboratory auditors determined during routine inspection of an independent third-party laboratory" that the lab had informed marijuana establishments that certain samples were free of contaminants when they actually tested positive for Salmonella. The same thing also happened with samples that were positive for Aspergillus, the state said.

Once ADHS discovered the positive test results, "the testing information was sent to the instrument manufacturer who confirmed that the testing results were indeed positive," according to a second DHS statement.

DHS says that businesses were then notified "and took immediate action to work with all distribution and retail partners to remove any potentially impacted products."

Steve Elliott, a DHS spokesperson, confirmed that the third-party lab was OnPoint, but wouldn't say if the lab faces any sanctions, or what else was being found at the lab.

"We continue to investigate and won’t discuss an open investigation," Elliott said.

OnPoint, led by CEO Jeff Cardot, said in a news release last month that it had just completed a multi-million-dollar investment in new technology and an expanded facility. In its statement today on the recall, OnPoint praised the DHS and its new testing requirements.

“Their bi-annual audits and reports are essential and the AZDHS system is working. While this recall was issued out of an abundance of caution, it exemplifies the excellent teamwork of the agency, the labs and the cannabis companies that serve Arizona consumers," the firm said.

The company provided a more detailed explanation for what happened, but had a slightly different take than the state's, making the incident sound more like a dispute over procedures than a confirmed problem:

"Earlier this year, OnPoint Laboratories issued clean certificate of analysis (COA) statements for a limited number of affected samples and believed the products to be safe and the results to be accurate. In a subsequent audit by AZDHS, the agency disputed these results and stated it found potential for contamination.

Although OnPoint Labs initially believed the test results to be negative, the company feels an abundance of caution is the right approach.

"The products, dispensary companies, brands, and OnPoint Laboratories were unaware of any discrepancies until they were notified by the state agency. OnPoint Laboratories takes full responsibility, and reiterated today that all of the products, dispensary companies and brands associated with this recall have always followed rigorous state testing requirements and continuously provide clean products for consumers."

A state notice to businesses about the recall goes over some of the new testing rules, relating how, if a test comes back positive for contaminants, the sample can be sent to a second laboratory. If the second test is positive, the products should be remediated or destroyed as state rules require. If the second test negative, the sample gets sent to a third lab, "which is the result that will stand."

"However, due to current circumstances, the original tested sample is not available," the state says. "Therefore, if the identified products, listed in the table below, are still in possession of the dispensary, marijuana establishment, or cultivation facility, the facility will be allowed to collect a new sample to be tested at 2 (two) additional laboratories and follow the applicable laws and rules."

Remaining products not sent for additional testing must be must be remediated or destroyed. Dispensaries are supposed to notify customers who purchased the affected products, and let them know if any more testing is conducted.

Salmonella often shows up as a food-borne illness with symptoms that can include bloody diarrhea and intense stomach cramps. You can get it just from handling contaminated things, so if you have these products and end up throwing them away, wash your hands afterwards.

Mold can be dangerous to people who are allergic to it, causing asthma-like symptoms.

OnPoint Laboratories, in its statement, insisted that it and its customers follow DHS rules "consistently."

"As policies and procedures evolve, the Company will maintain the highest level of compliance to these standards," it said. "OnPoint Laboratories will issue further statements as the situation develops."

Below — the affected brands and products:

Chart of recalled cannabis products, June 23, 2021. - ARIZONA DHS
Chart of recalled cannabis products, June 23, 2021.
Arizona DHS