CT proposes changes to state cannabis regulations for allowable levels of mold and yeast

Connecticut is proposing an official change to the total amount of mold and yeast allowed in cannabis products following patient outcry over a change that allowed one of Connecticut’s labs to increase its total limit last year.

The move would set the total limit at 100,000 colony forming units per gram, and wouldn’t allow any detectable levels of certain harmful breeds of mold in the Aspergillus family. It would mean an increase for limits at one Connecticut lab and a decrease for the other.

The state’s Department of Consumer Protection opened public comment on the change Wednesday.

The public comment period ends 5 p.m. Feb. 1.

“The purpose of this regulation is to update microbial testing standards for medical marijuana to better protect public health and safety,” a Department of Consumer Protection press release said. “This proposed regulatory change will create clarity and consistency for medical marijuana laboratories and medical marijuana patients.”

The state has about 54,000 medical marijuana patients and is in the process of launching its adult-use program.

The proposed standards were developed with input from several microbiologists, department spokeswoman Kaitlyn Krasselt said.

“These new standards, which were drafted in consultation with several microbiologists, will prohibit specific types of yeast and mold in cannabis flower that may cause injury when inhaled and allow 10^5 cfu/g of colony forming units that have no demonstrated injurious impact on human health,” Krasselt said.

The proposed change comes after patients complained at the most recent meeting of the state’s Social Equity Council and online about the state’s approval of a request from AltaSci labs last year to raise the limits at the lab to 1 million colony forming units per gram. Initially, the lab’s limit had been 10,000 units per gram.

The lab also requested the addition of the testing for the Aspergillus family of molds.

The request was approved via private emails and not announced publicly. Notification wasn’t sent to patients.

Patients have expressed concern over safety of the products as well as a lack of transparency in the decision-making process. State regulators have said that the looser restrictions paired with the addition of testing for the Aspergillus mold genus makes the product safer.

Connecticut has two labs that test the cannabis supply. The other lab, Northeast Laboratories, left its limit at 10,000 units per gram after the AltaSci change last year.

After the public comment period ends, the state will determine what changes are necessary based on the feedback. Then, the Attorney General’s office will have 30 days to review the regulations for “legal sufficiency,” Krasselt said.

If approved, it goes to the Legislative Regulations Review Committee, which has 45 days to put it on their agenda, Krasselt said.

AltaSci laboratory director Jose Zavaleta said the lab supports the change.

“We do support the changes because it will create clarity and consistency for laboratories and, most importantly, for medical marijuana patients,” Zavaleta said in an emailed statement Thursday.

Lou Rinaldi, a medical marijuana patient, said the proposal highlights the need for an ombudsman-led Patient Advocacy Council for the medical program. The issue didn’t come to light until there were public records requests under the Freedom of Information Act as well as a complaint.

And it took “public shaming to force the agency into corrective action,” Rinaldi said.

“Although DCP finally seeking public comment is a positive step, the fox still cannot be trusted to regulate the hen house,” he added.

Ginny Monk