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Marijuana Edibles: You May Not Be Getting What You Think

CBS4 (DENVER) – The State of Colorado will start phasing in mandatory lab testing of marijuana edible products on May 1. Currently, marijuana product testing of any kind has been performed strictly on a voluntary basis.

As Colorado ramps up its lab testing, CBS4 requested permission to perform independent lab tests of edible products but was forbidden by the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

In a letter banning independent lab testing, MED Director Lewis Koski states, "licensed labs are only allowed to accept samples from 'Retail Marijuana Establishments' only."

RELATED: Lab Testing Letter

Pot Edibles
(credit: CBS)

The MED said it was investigating to see if rule violations occurred after a licensed lab, Steep Hill Halent Laboratories, performed an independent test for the Denver Post.

In that test, Steep Hill Halent Labs tested 13 marijuana edible products for potency.

Lab director Joseph Evans said only three of the 13 products tested close to the potency promised on the packaging. One was significantly stronger than advertised. Nine were weaker and some had just traces of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

"To show that that product was so far off indicated that the industry has a long way to go," Evans said.

Under the current, voluntary testing system, Evans said only about 10 percent of the industry performs any lab testing of its products.

"Do you know if the marijuana is safe that you are buying? You really don't," said Evans.

(credit: CBS)

At CannLabs, CEO Genifer Murray said there is a misconception that marijuana products have been tested. She said overdoing it on edibles has had consequences. Consumers who ate pot products have been hospitalized with moderate health problems like vomiting and panic attacks.

"You cannot die from a marijuana overdose," said Murray. "But you may feel like you are going to die."

Murray said lab testing can't start soon enough.

"We are in territory where we could possibly make people sick and I don't think anybody wants that," she said.

RELATED: Dispensaries Advise Customers To Eat More Than State-Recommended Limits Of Pot Edibles

CBS4 asked Koski why mandatory testing has lagged behind legalizing sales of recreational marijuana.

"We were more interested in making sure we adopted thoughtful regulations that were going to work," Koski said.

As of May 1 the marijuana industry will begin mandatory potency testing of edible products. The government's primary concern is finding products with too much punch.

"We are going to be more concerned with test results that are higher than what the law allows," said Koski.

But according to the labs, potency is just one issue with marijuana products.

"We've found e.Coli, we've found salmonella, we've found other gram negative bacteria, molds and mildews, pesticides," said Genifer Murray.

Testing for other potential health hazards won't become mandatory until later in the year.

Right now, there is no reporting process in place, tests are confidential. A negative test result only goes back to whoever paid for the test.

Until all testing is mandatory, both Evans and Murray agree, what you get is a crapshoot.

"It ranges from people who do everything by the book, to people who do almost nothing by the book." Murray said.

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