If product recalls can happen in all other industries, then they can happen in the cannabis industry as well. This recently occurred in Missouri, where a controversial cannabis product recall, has incited debate within the industry. What was recalled, why, and what’s the tension over? Read on for more info.
Missouri initiates cannabis product recall
On Monday August 14th, The Missouri Division of Cannabis Regulation issued a notice of recall for 62,800 cannabis products, entitled Division of Cannabis Regulation Notice of Recall. According to the agency, the recall applies to one company, and is for “manufactured products sold to dispensaries and manufacturers by infused product manufacturer, Delta Extraction, LLC, MAN000022.”
Why did Missouri regulators feel the need to make this recall of cannabis products? The agency explains, “recalled products were not compliantly tracked in the statewide track and trace system (METRC) in order for [Division of Cannabis Regulation] to verify the products came from marijuana grown in Missouri or that the product passed required testing prior to being sold at dispensaries.”
In terms of whether someone was hurt, spurring this into action, the answer is no. The Division of Cannabis Regulation notes that “no adverse reactions for this product have been reported to the [Division of Cannabis Regulation] at this time.” However, a lack of any real issue, hasn’t stopped regulators from instructing those who bought the products to stop using them.
It goes on to give this instruction: “All unused product(s) should be discarded or returned to the dispensary where purchased. Returned products will not count toward a patient’s purchase limit.” It implores those with questions to hit up the dispensary they bought their products from; and for users who do believe they’re having a negative reaction, to get emergency attention, as well as report a complaint to the government.
How did this come to light?
The company in Missouri that’s at the center of the cannabis recall, is the Robertsville-based Delta Extraction. This company is legally licensed to manufacture products; and focuses mainly on THC distillate. The distillate is usually sold to other companies in the state of Missouri, for use in their products. The company was the topic of an anonymous tip to regulators about a problem, immediately following new regulation concerning not using ingredients in products sourced from other states. The Missouri Independent report this comes from, does not mention anything further about the tip.
Shortly following the tip, the company was temporarily barred from doing business in the state. It was accused of sourcing material for products from out-of-state facilities, and that the sourced material was untested. Basically, the government was unhappy that Delta Extraction didn’t source from a company licensed in Missouri, and that’s about it. This idea was the basis for regulators to recall over 60,000 products; with no mention of whether these products met regulation in a different state.
This issue of licensed companies sourcing material from other states, is already a known issue. What should be made clear, though, is that no one is necessarily saying that Delta Extraction bought from an illicit market; the complaint is simply that it used materials from outside of Missouri. The legal products of other states, are considered illegal in this scenario. So though this might be a tactic of cutting costs for some companies; it doesn’t mean the companies are necessarily buying anything on the black market.
I point that out because if this recall was made based only on Delta Extraction using the legal products of other states; it means Missouri state regulators had no problem performing an action to ruin a legal business, using the lie of a public health issue. It seems this whole conundrum was started by Missouri Cannabis Trade Association President Andrew Mullins.
Mullins contacted Amy Moore, the director of Missouri’s Division of Cannabis Regulation on June 30th to inform the department of the issue a month ahead of a legal change. His email read “We understand that production is still catching up with demand and wholesale commodities are in short supply. This is an environment that tends to breed shortcuts and bad actors. We are hopeful it’s not the case but fear it could be.”
The guy even sent a follow-up a month later, right as the law was going into effect. And not long after, the anonymous tip on Delta Extraction, was made. Is it me, or does this all sound a little funny for a guy who is supposed to promote the industry? Right as Missouri banned compounds like THCA coming from other states, he made sure regulators knew to look for companies doing it. And since no government likes products sold that aren’t paid for in, or taxed by, their own system, it brings us to where we are now.
Does Missouri cannabis recall make sense?
Andrew Mullins sounds like he might not harbor the best intentions for his own industry. While his association stated that it didn’t think the recall was necessary, and that regulators didn’t need to do that; it was also this association that made sure regulators knew about the issue; including a follow-up when nothing sufficient happened in a month. After the state pulled the recall, Mullins went back to defending the industry.
In another letter, Mullins brings up the issue of further safety testing, essentially invalidating the state’s claim for the recall. He explains why the recall isn’t necessary since the manufacturers who used the Delta Extraction products, also went through testing. Though this is not 100% verified, and the state indicates otherwise with the recall; the state was not clear on the subject. And if the safety issue really was true, it means the state did not follow its own procedures for getting products to shelves. Delta Extraction accounts for ingredients, a final product must undergo its own testing. In the letter, Mullins writes:
“It is our understanding that all the finished, packaged products currently on hold, have successfully passed the state’s lab testing requirements that determine if cannabis products in Missouri are safe for consumption.”
Yet regardless of this, the product recall happened the same day that Delta Extraction went before Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commission to appeal the suspension of operations by the government. The state used the emails Mullins sent to Moore as exhibits on behalf of the state.
More likely reasons behind product recall
If all finished products on shelves met state safety standards, there is no actual reason for a product recall. Perhaps an investigation into company practices and compliance; but not more, since subsequent safety testing should allay any further concern. It’s one thing to suspend the operations if the state feels a company is doing something wrong or out of line with regulation, but to actually perform a recall of products that *do meet safety standards? This implies something different, something even criminal.
In Delta Extraction’s motion appeal, the company sounds unclear what its being accused of. The company stipulates it added nothing beyond THCA, which isn’t psychoactive, unless heated. THCA is the precursor to delta-9 THC; which without heat, is just a compound of hemp. The US Farm Bill legalized the transport of hemp and hemp products across state lines.
However, Missouri recently instituted regulations as a part of its new adult-use market. The regulations, went into effect at the end of July (right before the anonymous tip), and have a specific provision to ban any cannabis compounds from addition to Missouri products, if they come from other states. This does not imply illicit or black market products, but simply that the ingredients passed another state’s regulation, and not Missouri’s. Neighboring states often offer lower prices, which is helpful to producer overhead costs. The difference was enough to propel this legal change.
Though the state says it can’t ensure that the products are safe, others like Andrew Mullins remind us that the final products are still tested, which makes this a strange claim by the state. It seems more likely that Missouri wants to ensure that it doesn’t lose money to either black markets, or other states, by the use of imported products. The recall affects way more than Delta Extraction, since other companies use Delta’s products, in their own products. Right before the products were officially recalled, Mullins wrote this to Moore:
“What releasing these holds absolutely will do is head off financial ruin for dozens of Missouri small businesses, who through no fault of their own have found themselves with no good path forward. We absolutely believe that a failure to do so will greatly increase the likelihood hundreds of Missouri jobs will be lost and some businesses will be irreparably damaged or forced out of business.” Of course, this comes from the same guy, who helped set the whole thing in motion.
Missouri just legalized recreational cannabis in the 2022 elections. Already since then, the state has instituted a market; passed a statewide banking law that mandates things like fingerprints for everyone in the field down to contractors and volunteers; and now forced this large-scale product recall.
Perhaps if Missouri really doesn’t want to worry about producers getting cheaper ingredients from other states, it will set up a competitive system. Considering it’s a new addition to the legalized states, its had plenty of opportunity to see the pitfalls of the industry. Yet it opted to go in this direction, rather than instituting a better-working system. This behavior, though common to the industry, will never make sense to progress.
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