Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) identifies health-threatening chemicals in black market cannabis

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has issued a warning to cannabis consumers who purchase their bud from illegal sources. Specifically, the warning suggests that black market-sold weed may contain dangerous levels of toxic chemicals.

In order to glean their findings, members of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) conducted in-depth testing on products that were confiscated by the OPP last year. The seizure was valued at approximately $500 million.

As per the results, illicit vape liquids contained hazardous levels of pesticides, especially myclobutanil. In fact, levels of myclobutanil in the tested samples varied from 0.3 ppm to more than 500 ppm. Since Health Canada’s limit is several thousand times lower, the results are completely unacceptable.

OPP’s illicit cannabis testing reveals toxic chemicals: What is myclobutanil?

The umbrella term “myclobutanil” encompasses a wide variety of fungicides that are accepted for use on different types of agricultural crops. However, in most cases, myclobutanil is used to protect crops like strawberries, almonds, grapes (and other agricultural commodities that are susceptible to canker and powdery mildew) from fungal diseases.

“For the most part, many of those who came down with EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury) were using cannabis purchased on the illicit market,” said OPP deputy director, Rachel Huggins, as she referred to last year’s vape-lung health crisis.

“The test results are clear evidence that consumers don’t know what they’re getting when they purchase illegal cannabis products and how important it is to know the facts,” sadded Huggins, who emphasized the health and safety risks faced by people who seek out illegal cannabis dealers.

OPP’s illicit cannabis testing: Numerous other pesticides discovered in plant samples

Aside from myclobutanil, the OPP also discovered a range of other pesticides in the illicitly-sourced dried cannabis plant samples. They included chlorpyrifos, metalaxyl and pyridaben. Although the specifics remain unclear, the report claims that the presence of such pesticides were sometimes 100 times more than what was listed on the product description.

“The report highlights a lot of issues around how we often don’t know what we are consuming,” said Huggins. “Frankly, licit (legal) or illicit, many people may not know what they’re getting in general.”

Moreover, the NRC noted that levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) were also much less than what was advertised on the packaging. 

“In addition to the greater risk of harmful fillers and contaminants with low THC content, this research shows your weed dealer may not be giving you the potency you expect,” reads an excerpt from the OPP’s news release.

In 2020, Health Canada published a national health study suggesting that 45 percent of cannabis consumers purchased their weed cannabis from unregulated/unlicensed or illegal avenues within the past year.