A legislative committee gave final approval Tuesday to a regulatory change Allowed modification Quantity of mold and yeast in medical marijuana supply.
Connecticut has two labs that test medical marijuana. The change, proposed by the Consumer Protection Department and approved by the Legislative Regulations Review Committee, means an increase in the total allowable amount of mold and yeast for cannabis tested in one laboratory and a decrease in the other.
Regulations now allow for no traceable levels of a particular strain of mold called Aspergillus, known to cause lung infections, and a total of 100,000 colony-forming units (CFU) per gram. Patients advocated a limit of 10,000 units per gram.
The state officially proposed the change in end of last year, arguing that testing standards were evolving after new research was published, but patients objected due to concerns about the product’s safety. Case initially changed the total limit at the request of one of the state’s laboratories and modified it after a patient’s cry so that both laboratories would have the same levels.
State officials say the change is safe. Standards vary from state to state—some have lower yeast and mold thresholds, but not all require Aspergillus mold testing.
Representatives from both state labs said they support the change, but Mike Esposito, a scientist at MCR Laboratories in Massachusetts, told the CT Mirror last month. It can allow harmful substances to persist in the material It causes lung damage to patients and staff who handle cannabis.
“It was so frustrating to see this… the domino effect just for yes, yes, yes,” Duncan Markovic said of the vote. Markovic is the owner of Better Ways, a cannabis therapy store in Branford.
Aspergillus isn’t the only safety concern, said Lou Rinaldi, a Connecticut patient advocate, noting that patients — many of whom may be immunocompromised — can be allergic to mold.
Patient community members organize to raise awareness and educate other patients about changing regulations.
Patients are also concerned about transparency within the program due to government regulators quietly deciding in 2020 Approval of a request from AltaSci, one of two state laboratories testing cannabis, to increase its total limit to 1 million colony-forming units per gram with Aspergillus base. Under organizational change, this level will decrease.
State officials approved the change in email exchange with the lab and did not alert patients. The official proposal to change the limits came after patients spoke out in meetings and in social media posts about the 2020 decision.
Northeast Labs left their limits at 10,000 CFU per gram.
During Tuesday’s committee meeting, lawmakers said patients had contacted them about the change and said they hoped to address the regulations further at the upcoming legislative working group session.
“It’s a good starting point for us,” said Representative Nicole Clarides Detrea, co-chair of the Legislative Bylaws Review Committee. “We can go back and propose legislation and look at the working group a little bit to make changes.”
Klarides-Ditria, R-Seymour, added that there are no federal guidelines that states must follow because cannabis has not been legalized nationally.
Comments on the proposed change lasted only a few minutes during the meeting, and most lawmakers who spoke out expressed approval of the amendment.
“I think the DCA is definitely on the right track, and we definitely have to agree to that and move forward,” said Representative Tom Arnoni, D-Enfield.
The Department of Consumer Protection brought in Sherman Home, director of regulatory affairs for medical genomics, on May 10 to speak with committee members and answer their questions. DCP Commissioner Michelle Siegel was also present, said department spokeswoman Caitlin Krasselt.
Rinaldi said he wants to see more patient involvement in decisions about the program.
“I would like something a little more concrete than vague, open-ended promises to bring community leaders to the negotiating table,” Rinaldi said.
Case also changed the method of cannabis testing from the plating method to qPCR. The new method, which labs will have six months to implement, is based on DNA and is more specific, according to state documents.
The proposal went through a public comment period that ended in February, and was approved by the attorney general in March.