Canada health officials received information on contaminated retail marijuana sold at unlicensed dispensaries, but did not take action, the Globe and Mail reported this week. Pictured: A woman waves a cannabis-centric Canadian flag at a gathering on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 20, 2016. (Chris Roussakis, AFP/Getty Images)

Report: Canada health officials did not take action on contaminated pot

An investigation by The Globe and Mail in Canada revealed that government officials in Ottawa did not take any action after receiving tests showing tainted retail pot being sold at unlicensed dispensaries.

The Globe and Mail, through public-records requests, obtained paperwork sent last fall to Canada Health Minister Jane Philpott’s office by a national health department-accredited laboratory. The test results sent to the health minister detailed “high levels” of banned chemicals — “such as the pesticide carbamate, which is not permitted for use on cannabis, and dodemorph, a fungicide used on roses that is not approved for human consumption” — were found in 13 of 22 samples tested, according to The Globe and Mail:

The new documents indicate Health Canada knew about problems with unregulated cannabis sales long before the government agreed to alter the rules on testing. The lab report obtained by The Globe was sent in October, 2015, to Eric Costen, who headed Health Canada’s office of medical cannabis. The same results were sent in January to Geneviève Hinse, chief of staff to Dr. Philpott.

There is no evidence to suggest the government took any meaningful action on the information. Health Canada continued to block patients from getting the same access to laboratories that pharmaceutical companies have to test products to ensure that they are safe. Health Canada has said it considers dispensaries illegal, but has done nothing to halt their operations. Some patients say they can get certain products such as specialized extracts only from those stores.

The federal government in August changed laws to expand testing access for Canadians to have cannabis screened for contaminants and potency at Health Canada-accredited labs. In a follow-up article this week, The Globe and Mail reported that Philpott reiterated that the government views the dispensaries as illegal:

“We have made it very clear that Canadians should not purchase products from any illegal sales people no matter where they are found, whether in dispensaries or on the street corners,” Dr. Philpott said. “These dispensaries that you are referring to are illegal. There are regimes in place for access to medical marijuana, those products are safe.”

Until Thursday, the Health Minister’s office had refused to comment on the test results. Though Dr. Philpott acknowledged the lab results when asked by reporters about the problem outside the House of Commons, during a later conversation with The Globe and Mail, she said she wasn’t sure if she had seen any test results, and couldn’t remember whether they had crossed her desk.

The Globe and Mail has conducted several past investigations on the cannabis industry, including tests on unregulated marijuana and the potency of edibles.

Read the Globe and Mail’s recent coverage of the toxin lab tests.

Read the full Globe and Mail report on Vancouver’s and the health minister’s responses.