E. coli, Salmonella, or Lead Found in 40% of Illegal New York Weed


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New York officials deployed researchers to sample products from illegal bodegas and pop-up dispensaries selling cannabis on the street, and tested them for harmful contaminants. If it’s safe, clean flower that you want—the findings were dismal at best.

According to a report led by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association published on November 30, around 40% of illegal cannabis products sampled in New York City were found to contain harmful contaminants like E. coli, salmonella, and lead. The cannabis products were purchased from only about 20 illegal sites, but spanning across all five boroughs.

Salmonella, E. coli, and other contaminants in weed pose serious threats to your health, and are controlled under typical state regulations. Smoking weed with bacteria like E. coli provides a direct path for the infectant into the lungs, where it can potentially do a lot of damage.

“E. Coli, Heavy Metals, Copyright Infringement, and 100 Percent Failure Rate – A Look at New York City’s Illicit Cannabis Market,” was released by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA) in partnership with the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA) and the Connecticut Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC). 

Key Findings

The report reveals the results of third-party lab testing of cannabis products purchased from over 20 unlicensed dispensaries spanning across the five boroughs. Among key findings, researchers detected the presence of E. coli, salmonella, and pesticides in various products. About 40% of the products failed at least one of the standard tests administered to legal cannabis products only available at legal medical cannabis dispensaries. 

The report “illuminates the danger posed by pop-up illicit operators that have circumvented New York’s regulations” which creates hazards for public health. 

In some instances, THC levels as much as twice the advertised amount. Finally, over 50% of locations where the product was purchased did not ask for identification.

“The report’s findings are deeply troubling and highlight the tremendous risks posed by unscrupulous firms operating above the law,” said NYMCIA President Ngiste Abebe. “New York has a responsibility to not only protect the health and safety of its residents but also to fulfill the promise of a socially equitable adult-use market. Neither goal can be realized without stricter enforcement against bad actors.”

Bloomberg reports that over 30 licenses for legal businesses were granted on November 21, but in most cases, it’s open season for illegal cannabis businesses.

Impact on New York Communities

The implications of the impact upon disadvantaged communities was also brought forth. “I want everyone to understand that these smoke shops and delis are not legacy operators—they’re opportunists that are retraumatizing our community and stopping our ability to build wealth. They are poisoning our Black and Brown communities. You cannot build wealth without health and these smoke shop owners are destroying the reputation of New York’s cannabis with their chemicals. They need to be stopped,” said Juancarlos Huntt, CAURD license applicant and legacy operator and co-founder New York for Social and Economic Equity.

Others placed the blame on a failing medical cannabis program, which “pushed” New Yorkers into the unknowns of the illicit market.

”Faced with an eroding medical cannabis program, New York patients have been pushed into this newly rampant illicit market, exposing them to E. coli, salmonella, and other dangerous toxins from untested products,” said Don Williams, Vice President of Government Relations at Curaleaf. “They deserve better, and New York must prioritize creating a safe and thriving cannabis program for them and adult-use consumers.”

A link to the full report can be found here.

  • Benjamin M. Adams

    Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.



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