The State of Missouri Re-thinks its Cannabis Product Recall

The state of Missouri rolled back a recall of nearly 15,000 cannabis products last week. However, the fate of the other 45,000 products recalled is still pending before the Administrative Hearing Commission.

The fate of 45,000 recalled products is still pending before Administrative Hearing Commission.

The state of Missouri rolled back a recall of nearly 15,000 cannabis products last week, allowing them to return to dispensary shelves. This apparent reversal happened after Missouri required companies to keep them in storage since early August, 2023

In a statement released by the Missouri Division of Cannabis Regulation, an Oct. 20 notice was referenced allowing regulators to verify that “some of the marijuana products on recall contain THC solely sourced from marijuana grown in the Missouri regulated market”, after a review of product-tracking records.

As for the future of the other 45,000 products recalled on August 14, dozens of marijuana businesses will be facing a steep financial loss if the products must be destroyed. 

A decision on those products is still pending.

Robertsonville-based marijuana manufacturer Delta Extraction has petitioned the state’s Administrative Hearing Commission in an effort to rescind the company’s license suspension, and fully rollback the recall. 

A trial is scheduled for the beginning of December, if the licensing division and the company can’t work out an agreement before then.

The key question facing both the licencing division and the hearing commission is how the recalled products were manufactured — and whether that process poses a risk to public health.

If Delta Extraction can produce evidence showing the products were created safely, then it is possible that the state won’t order 45,000 products to be destroyed; the company is still likely to face a hefty fine and possibly even license revocation, for importing a hemp product into the state and then adding it to documents promising that it is a Missouri-grown marijuana product. 

An order of protection was issued on October 25 by the commissioner overseeing Delta’s appeal of the recall and license suspension. Moving forward, some records in the case will be marked closed and confidential. The order states that those records could include “trade secrets or financial and proprietary information”, as well as records of the division’s investigations of other licensees. 

The Imported Product

The reason for the recall is the use of a THC concentrate, or distillate, made partially from hemp. In August, the state accused the company of adding “hemp-derived chemically modified ‘converted’ cannabinoids” to marijuana products.

Unlike marijuana, natural hemp has virtually no psychoactive properties — which is why it was taken off the federal controlled substance list in the Farm Bill of 2018. 

Since then however, businesses have been in a race to create ways to artificially introduce the most predominant psychoactive active element in marijuana, delta-9 THC, into hemp plants. The most common way to get delta-9 THC from hemp is usually a chemical conversion process from CBD, which is a more common cannabinoid compound found in hemp. 

Laboratory experts say the chemical conversion process could involve a variety of chemicals that Missouri marijuana labs don’t test for – making the labs unable to verify the product’s safety.

And because hemp is no longer classified a controlled substance, no agency in Missouri or in the federal government is monitoring the production of chemically converted THC from hemp. 

However, the lab in Florida where Delta bought a good amount of product revealed in September that its distillate wasn’t created using harsh chemicals, as Missouri state official suspected, but rather through the same extraction process employed in the regulated marijuana market.

J.J. Coombs, owner and CEO of Arvida Labs in Fort Lauderdale, walked The Independent through the process to make the concentrated THC-A, which isn’t intoxicating unless you heat it up, at which point it turns into delta-9 THC. 

For example, eating raw marijuana flower won’t produce a high because there’s only a small amount of delta-9 THC but a lot of THC-A. 

It’s a fairly new process, Coombs said, that involves breeding hemp plants to have higher concentrations of the potentially intoxicating property THC-A. 

Hemp has very little THC-A, so it takes about 90 pounds of hemp to make 1 kilo of THC-A isolate, or powder, Coombs said. 

The confusion about Arvida Labs’ product being made using a chemical conversion process is understandable, Coombs said, because most people don’t know labs can extract large amounts of THC-A from the hemp plant.

It’s a process neither the state nor Delta leaders could explain during the company’s appeal proceedings, regarding how it’s different from the CBD conversion process.

Delta’s leadership testified the conversion process was being used, at one point, with its products — a revelation that shocked businesses who purchased Delta’s distillate and thought it was made with 100% marijuana. 

Chemicals from this process is one concern, lab experts said, but another is the possibility that the hemp came from outside the United States — meaning they could contain foreign pesticides that cannabis labs don’t test for. 

Coombs said Arvida purchased the hemp from farmers in Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky who’ve learned to breed the plants to have higher concentrations of THC-A, using federally-approved strains. Any of the pesticides used in those states would have shown up on a lab test as being safe, Coombs said.

Green Precision Analytics is one of the labs that Delta Extraction used to test the distillate at the heart of the recall. Anthony David, the lab’s owner and chief operating officer, told The Independent previously that he had no idea Delta was incorporating imported hemp in the products.

David also said there was no trace of the THC coming from a chemical conversion process. Usually he can see a difference in curves of the chromatography, David said, but he didn’t in this case. 

Coombs said that’s because it was done through a normal extraction process. 

Coombs stated that marijuana companies who purchased Delta’s distillate should not feel “duped”, because the same extraction process used to get delta-9 THC from marijuana was used to get THC-A from hemp. 

“It’s the same exact thing,” he said. “There’s no difference. Hemp is cannabis, just without the delta-9 THC.


Rebecca Rivas wrote the original version of this article


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