The Alaska Marijuana Control Board meets in Juneau on Wednesday, Jan. 24. Sitting from far left are members Loren Jones, Brandon Emmett, Nicholas Miller, Travis Welch and Mark Springer. Springer was elected board chairman on Wednesday and Emmett was elected vice chair. (Becky Bohrer | Associated Press)

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board meets in Juneau on Wednesday, Jan. 24. Sitting from far left are members Loren Jones, Brandon Emmett, Nicholas Miller, Travis Welch and Mark Springer. Springer was elected board chairman on Wednesday and Emmett was elected vice chair. (Becky Bohrer | Associated Press)

State regulator warns of possible danger in marijuana concentrates

The director of Alaska’s state marijuana regulator is warning that Alaska’s ongoing problems with marijuana testing may pose a health hazard to users of marijuana concentrates.

As the Alaska Marijuana Control Board met Wednesday in the first day of a three-day meeting in Juneau, Erika McConnell of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office asked the marijuana board to consider an emergency regulation requiring all concentrates to be tested for microbial contamination.

“I personally feel that public health is at risk because of concentrates not being tested for microbials,” she told the board.

Board member Brandon Emmett, replying to McConnell’s comments, said the danger to the public is likely low, even for people with weakened immune systems.

“The potential is there, but I don’t know how common it would be from concentrates,” he said.

The board did not take immediate action Wednesday morning.

Alaska’s marijuana board is continuing to struggle with the variability of marijuana testing in the state. Regulations require marijuana and marijuana products to be tested for potency and contaminants, but the state’s two operating laboratories, CannTest and Steep Hill, have been returning varied results for samples taken from the same batch of harvested marijuana.

It isn’t clear whether the variation is the result of natural differences between plants, whether testing procedures need to be standardized, whether human error is involved, or if some other factor is in play.

McConnell said Wednesday that AMCO has asked laboratory auditors from the Department of Environmental Conservation to audit the two testing labs, something the labs have agreed to.

The testing results matter because inaccurate testing could mean consumers are buying marijuana that may be much stronger or much weaker than they expect. A testing failure could also mean moldy or bacteria-contaminated marijuana may make Alaskans sick.

The issue is serious enough that it was one of the reasons behind the resignation of marijuana board chairman Peter Mlynarik earlier this month.

McConnell has issued a public-service announcement warning Alaskans about the testing inaccuracy, but an email from an attorney representing Steep Hill urged McConnell to revise that announcement and said it would “consider legal options” as a result of the announcement.

The marijuana board meeting is scheduled to continue through Friday in Centennial Hall. The remaining agenda includes licenses for new businesses across the state.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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