Prerolls are one of the fastest growing sectors of the cannabis space, but now the industry is dealing with a whole new issue as batches of dirty papers have begun showing up over the last year.
The latest scare was announced by SC Laboratories last week. In the process of testing some prerolls that were filled with cannabis that previously tested clean, SC Labs verified positive results for the pesticide compound chlorpyrifos at three to four times the action level set by the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
Josh Wurzer, SC Labs’ president and cofounder, explained the preroll industry’s newest scare.
“So I just started kind of troubleshooting with them. We started looking at their inputs and kind of focused in on the papers right away,” Wurzer told L.A. Weekly. “Sure enough they came back multiple times higher than California’s detection level limit to the point they are failing the prerolls.”
Wurzer believes there may have been more people impacted by this, but the varying amounts of cannabis different companies put in prerolls is a big factor. While the prerolls filled with a half gram failed, full gram prerolls may have beat the tests because the paper to weed ratio was a lot lower. Wurzer emphasized that even if they did pass testing, that is still a ton of chlorpyrifos since the weight of the paper is so small before noting two other labs verified the pesticide findings. Word started to get around preroll manufacturers there might be a new issue.
“And then we had a customer about a week later, kind of come to us proactively, or a few days later come to us practically, and give us some papers to test. Sure enough, those tested positive as well. And they were a completely different brand though,” Wurzer said.
This led to SC Labs going out over last weekend and getting their hands on every paper they could find. At the time of our chat they’d made it through 93 different samples in addition to the general lab services they’re busy providing the cannabis industry.
“And you know the funny thing is you see trace amounts of pesticide, a bunch of different pesticides, in a bunch of them. But we didn’t have a single other one hit for chlorpyrifos specifically,” Wurzer said of the results which found trace amounts of pesticides in almost half of the sample pool. “There seemed to be small amounts of permethrin in a lot of them. That would make sense, it’s one of those things used to fumigate big warehouses and things like that.”
Wurzer said these were all trace amounts apart from the testing the got the scare going with what was an insane amount of chlorpyrifos.
“But, you know, it doesn’t appear to be super widespread and in general we don’t fail a ton of prerolls, but it just kind of goes to show that these producers need to be cognizant of their inputs,” Wurzer said. “And definitely that that quality control for some of these paper manufacturers is lacking and you can’t just take it for granted that you don’t really have to pay attention to… your supplier. Because, you know, a bad batch or two of papers slips under your nose and you could fail a whole cannabis batch.”
Wurzer isn’t sure what the customer who prompted all this research is going to do with their contaminated prerolls, like unrolling them, but he’s sure it will be expensive.
Wurzer also had a customer two or three months back having issues with a paper they had manufactured in India and “it was the same thing it was, it was chlorpyrifos as well.” In that instance, SC Labs didn’t put out the APB because it was just not a common rolling paper being used.
Wurzer believed it seemed safe to conclude from the data so far that the problems are batch specific. Even within the various brands, some lines will test clean and others won’t.
Wurzer also believes the heavy metals testing they plan on subjecting the papers to may be more telling than the pesticide tests. “So the metals issue is potentially an issue as well and maybe even a bigger issue, because that’s something you’re more likely to find naturally in a lot these sources for the paper,” he said.
We told Wurzer that one preroll company told L.A. Weekly last year they had a preroll fail for lead because the ink used to write the paper companies logo on the paper base, or crutch, of the joint.
“It’s very possible,” Wurzer replied. “It’s really hard to get paper products that don’t have some amounts of metals in it because trees just sit there for so long and they take up metals.”
Wurzer said this proved to be the undoing of a company working on medicated CBD toothpicks, they simply weren’t able to source toothpicks that would pass testing consistently. Even when they were buying ones made from the same quality of wood as the tongue depressors at your doctor’s office, they failed for lead every time.
Chlorpyrifos, the main culprit that got all this going, is some pretty nasty stuff. According to the National Pesticide Information Center run by Oregon State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, chlorpyrifos can be very dangerous once it enters the bloodstream, according to its chlorpyrifos fact page.
“Chlorpyrifos moves to all parts of the body after exposure. Chlorpyrifos itself is not toxic, but when the body tries to break it down, it creates a toxic form. This toxic form, called chlorpyrifos oxon, binds permanently to enzymes which control the messages that travel between nerve cells. When chlorpyrifos binds to too many of the enzymes, nerves and muscles do not function correctly. The body then must make more enzymes so that normal nerve function can resume. The body can break down and excrete most of the unbound chlorpyrifos in feces and urine within a few days. Chlorpyrifos that finds its way into the nervous system may stay there much longer.”
In addition to what happens when actually enters the bloodstream, a 2007 study found a possible association between chlorpyrifos use and external causes of death were based on small numbers. While the group wasn’t large, the relative risks for mortality from suicide and non-motor-vehicle accidents were increased two-fold in the highest category of chlorpyrifos exposure days. So the subjects who used chlorpyrifos the most were twice as likely to die by suicide or in a farming accident.
We reached out to one of the larger paper companies that offer batch testing results to manufacturers for their products to see what prompted that move in the first place. We’ll update if we hear back, but it’s important to remember this isn’t an any one company issue, but batch-specific problems impacting people across the industry every now and then. And in the end the system worked by picking up the problem.