What's in Hawaii's black market pot? Mold, E. coli, salmonella and pesticides

Oahu lab says most homegrown medical cannabis it tested was tainted
Published: Nov. 6, 2017 at 11:21 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2017 at 4:51 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of the testing labs certified by the state to check the quality of medical marijuana said they found contamination in more than half of the samples from the black market.

The lab, Steep Hill Hawaii, says over 50 percent of the black market product had contaminants that included mold, yeast, and pesticides.

The lab says that doesn't mean all homegrown products are bad, but patients should be aware of what's in their medicine.

"I personally was shocked to find out how much stuff was in black market cannabis that you would never expect. E. coli, which comes from fecal matter. Salmonella, which comes from raw egg and chicken. We found that on product we tested," said Michael Covington, of Steep Hill Hawaii.

In the lab's initial set up stages, Covington says they had to test a lot of homegrown cannabis in order to show the state Department of Health that their equipment was working properly.

"The dispensaries weren't open so we had to go to the black market to try to find cannabis that was clean. In doing that, a lot of times we ran across contamination in people's samples," Covington said.

Even if a homegrower does everything right, Covington says there are still many factors that can cause contamination, like Hawaii's humid weather.

Medical cannabis patient Teri Heede says she was recently forced to trash all of her plants.

"I had to rip them out. The weather has been really bad. There was mildew, mold, whatever is growing. I've lost all my plants. All my adult plants are gone, and now I have to look at a way to replenish them. And that's problematic," Heede said.

Heede says she doesn't use pesticides or herbicides on her plants to protect herself from contaminants.

She says when she's out of supply she doesn't go to dispensaries, where the prices are too steep.

Instead, she seeks out other patients who are just as careful as she is.

"I would go to somebody who either has some tested stuff or someone I know who grows identically to what I do. That's why a lot of patients hang together," said Heede.

Steep Hill says because Hawaii has the strictest medical cannabis guidelines and regulations in the nation, the products found in the state's dispensaries are extremely clean.

But health experts warn even clean marijuana can still be harmful if you smoke it.

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