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Mandatory testing of medical marijuana for toxins is needed

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Nearly 10 years after Arizona approved the use of medical marijuana, the medicine remains a controversial topic for many. In fact, universal agreement related to almost anything to do with marijuana would seem incredibly unlikely.

However, there is one area where nearly everyone agrees: Arizona should mandate testing of medical marijuana to ensure that patients are not inadvertently exposing themselves to toxic chemicals, E. Coli, Salmonella or mold. With 61 tons of the drug consumed last year, now is the time to be proactive to protect patients from unsafe contaminants.

While Arizona voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2010, the state hasn’t instituted any required process to make sure that harmful herbicides, fungicides and residual solvents are not contained in this medicine. While many expected mandatory testing to be a part of the initial program, over the years Arizona has yet to require any testing of the drug.

That’s not for any lack of consensus. Health officials, patients and politicians on both sides of the aisle all agree. It’s mind-boggling to try to understand why it has taken this long to implement required testing of a medicine that 200,000 Arizonans take each year.

But this year may be different if we don’t run out of time.

Senate Bill 1494 requires independent third-parties to analyze the medicine for harmful toxins and molds. The bill unanimously passed the Senate in March and we’re hopeful this common-sense legislation is passed by the House before the end of session.

But with the possibility of session ending at any moment, we’ve renewed our call on lawmakers to act. We must protect patients from unsafe contaminants that can be found within the medicine this year. We can’t afford to wait as many believe the number of people using the medicine will continue to grow.

With a ballot initiative related to the recreational use of marijuana potentially facing voters next year, Arizona must act now to make sure standards are in place to ensure patient safety.

Thirty-three of 34 states that have medical marijuana require testing. There isn’t any reason to wait for someone to get sick before the Legislature passes this bipartisan bill.

Let’s get it done!

George Griffeth and Ryan Treacy are with the Arizona Cannabis Laboratory Association.

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