New York loosened weed testing rules for mold and yeast—Here’s why

By Calvin Stovall and David Downs

Sounds gross, but it’s probably going to be OK. Leafly spoke to experts from across the industry to weigh the pros and cons.

New York wants to get its adult-use market going so badly, it’s cutting a few safety corners to get there.

On Wednesday, news broke that New York smokers could be exposed to cannabis that has potentially harmful levels of mold, mildew, and yeast. State regulators dropped the so-called pass/fail limits on total microbiological contamination after some marijuana growers claimed last week that most of their supply would not pass testing.

With pressure mounting to launch New York’s legal market by the end of the year, regulators dropped testing standards not because mold is safe to smoke and inhale, but because growers kept failing the stringent tests.

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, the New York Office of Cannabis Management emailed licensed growers to state: “the Office has updated its Laboratory Testing Limits document to remove the pass/fall limits associated with the Total Viable Aerobic Bacteria Count and Total Yeast and Mold Count for unextracted cannabis products (e.g. cannabis flower, pre-roll, etc).”

Previously, regulators had set yeast and mold limits at “less than 10,000 colony-forming units (CFU) per gram of flower, or 1,000 CFU per gram of extract.” Now, growers will have to test their products and share the CFU levels, but are ultimately at their own discretion to choose if their products are safe enough for market.

Basically, weed in New York can have more than 10,000 colony-forming units of yeast or mold on it, and growers can sell it to stores, which can sell it to customers. Regulators essentially told growers to do their best, just don’t hurt anybody. Leaving retailers and consumers to make their own calls as to whether the weed they’re buying has unsafe CFU levels.

“It’s the responsibility of the licensee to consider these tests and any impact to the stability and expiration dating of the product, as well as any risk to the health of consumers,” New York regulators told Leafly.

Read on to hear what cannabis operators, regulators, and experts had to say about New York’s decision to allow moldy weed.

New York will still test weed for the bad stuff

New York will still test for specific pathogens like aspergillus, e. Coli, and salmonella, which is important. But growers can now sell weed that fails the “Total Viable Aerobic Bacteria Count and Total Yeast and Mold Count” limits.

According to lab COO Josh Wurzer at SC Labs in California, these “total” mold counts are less sensitive, but failing the tests indicates a wide variety of contaminants is present on the bud.

“Again [New York labs] are looking for the No. 1 culprit for specific pathogens, but there’s also a ton of yeast, mold, or bacteria out there that can also make you sick that aren’t part of any of these tests. Total plate count tests give you an indication of how much mold is there. If there’s a lot, there’s probably something there that will make you sick.” Josh Wurzer, COO, SC Labs

Multiple states mandate so-called total plate count tests. Total plate count testing is also common in the American health food industry. The US Pharmacopeia advisory organization also recommends mold counts in cannabis products not exceed 10,000 CFU/g.


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