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Opinion: Synthetic Cannabinoids

We are standing at a crossroads in the evolution of our market that could lead to a future without marijuana farmers.

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The law is clear: The sale of synthetic cannabinoids is not allowed. 

Yet we have licensees being permitted to sell chemically synthesized cannabinoids to the public with no transparency or truth in labeling. We have looked at peer reviewed literature, definitions of synthetic, consulted with chemists and doctors. There is much agreement everywhere else that when THC is created via chemical conversion from CBD, the resulting THC is a synthetic cannabinoid. 

The law is clear: CBD may only be used as an additive to increase cannabidiol content of a marijuana product. Yet we have licensees who are using it to increase the tetrahydrocannabinol content of their products.

The law is clear: Any solvents, chemicals or compounds used to produce a product sold on our regulated market must be disclosed on packaging. Yet we have licensees who are hiding behind claims of a “proprietary process” who are not disclosing to consumers what chemicals are being used, including the use of acidified ethanol or ethanoic hydraulic acid. 

The law is clear: Processors are limited in the methods, solvents and mediums that can be used to manufacture concentrates. Yet we have licensees using unapproved chemicals and solvents.

We have not adopted any effective testing regulations for these synthetic cannabinoids, we are not testing for the most common byproducts created during conversions, nor the presence of residual solvents used to chemically synthesize these products. The current pesticide and heavy metal tests are insufficient to ensure consumer safety of these synthetic cannabinoids.

We are standing at an important crossroads in the evolution of our market. The good news is we have been here before, so we can let history guide us to best protect public health and safety. Initially, tobacco was sold in whole plant form to consumers. It was dried, cured and ground, and early cigarettes did not contain other additives. Much like Cannabis sold on our legacy market. 

During the evolution of the tobacco industry, large processors “innovated” and began adding chemical compounds and additives. These chemicals increased the addictiveness of their products, the long-term health effects from smoking, and their bottom line. Over time, nearly every major tobacco processor had to adopt the same strategy to remain viable. We saw how that played out for public health. We know that the public’s best interest is not served when we allow wealthy interests to skirt the law, influence policy, and avoid disclosure of chemical processes and ingredients to consumers.

A lack of enforcement of Washington’s current laws and rules is placing Washington on a trajectory where the only viable business model will be to sell synthetic cannabinoids. We are talking about a future without marijuana farmers. 

We want products that are safe and regulated. We want truth and transparency in labeling.

Our farmers, processors and consumers deserve better than the status quo. We need the state to take immediate action to stop the illegal importation, manufacturing and sale of synthetic cannabinoids to an unknowing public. Washington needs to enforce the law now. 

Crystal Oliver is Executive Director of Washington SunGrowers Industry Association, washingtonsungrowers.org

This article was originally published in the July 2021 issue of all Leaf Magazines.

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