Chromium, how much is too much? Striking a balance between consumer safety & regulation.
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One of the most difficult parts about working in the cannabis industry is that it’s new. The growing pains of any new industry will be challenging; however, they are compounded in cannabis because it is a highly regulated industry without a standard set of regulations for each market. Every new state that legalizes must come up with its own set of rules for producers to follow.
What’s also interesting is that a lot of the time, the rules that govern a new market are made by people with zero experience working with cannabis. This lack of industry knowledge makes it difficult to create laws that make sense for both the consumers and the producers and often leads to the new cannabis market getting a bumpy start.
Businesses are expected to adapt to these laws to keep their doors open, and many laws make perfect sense. For example, it’s reasonable to have laws that will guarantee a product’s safety and dictate at what age a person can consume a product; however, cannabis markets have also been known to produce laws that place unrealistic expectations on cannabis producers. This is where Maryland, Missouri, and New York found themselves at the beginning of the year.
HEAVY METALS IN PRE-ROLLS
Like most markets, Maryland, Missouri, and New York wanted to make sure all cannabis products were adequately tested for harmful contaminants before they could be sold to the public. They were looking for all the usual suspects: heavy metals, pesticides, and mold; however, unlike the majority of markets, they made it so the entire product, as it would be presented to the public, be tested. In other words, it’s not just the cannabis in pre-rolls that need to be tested; it is the whole pre-roll—filter and paper included.
Cannabis producers in these states quickly found that all their pre-rolls were failing for heavy metals. After some investigation, it was found that they were all failing for the same heavy metal (Chromium) and that it had to do with the paper products being used to make the pre-roll.
Most legal cannabis markets focus on the “Big Four” of heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury) and only have testing requirements on the plant material. Paper manufacturers do not have the same compliance guidelines as cannabis producers, so there is a chance of contamination if producers aren’t careful. Quality paper manufacturers typically do not have an issue meeting the demands of the cannabis market, but the Chromium problem gave them real issues.
WHERE DOES CHROMIUM COME FROM
Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements. They concentrate to unsafe levels with the help of humans—mostly because of industrial processes. It is not uncommon to find elevated levels of Chromium in the water around industrial areas, and when you consider that paper manufacturing requires a lot of water to make paper and that 90% of rolling paper is water, it is easy to see how it could show up in a lab test.
The issue with the Maryland, Missouri, and New York laws isn’t that they were testing for Chromium; it was that the threshold they set for a pass/fail was impossibly small. The quality paper manufacturers that typically had no issues in the cannabis market found themselves without an option to offer cannabis producers. The result was that no cannabis producer had a legal way to make pre-rolls.
Pre-rolls make up a large portion of overall cannabis sales, so being unable to produce them is a massive problem for producers, especially for those already invested in their pre-roll production equipment. Thankfully, New York acted quickly and adopted new guidelines closer to Michigan’s laws around Chromium content in cannabis products—allowing 110ppm instead of 2ppm. Maryland and Missouri, on the other hand, took a path that is more typical in the cannabis industry. In other words, they have yet to make any changes to the laws, and no one knows if they ever will.
Custom Cones USA is dedicated to ensuring you have everything you need to get your pre-roll off the ground and/or bring your pre-roll production to the next level. We know how important it is for producers to stay in compliance, and we also know how difficult it can be, as laws seem to change every day.