The OPP is warning cannabis users who illegally purchase marijuana from a dealer about recent test results that revealed high levels of dangerous chemicals in street drugs.
The test was conducted by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) on cannabis products seized by the OPP in 2020, according to a Thursday. Press release.
The results showed dangerous levels of pesticides, particularly myclobutanil, in illegal vaping liquids. Mylobutanil levels in the tested samples ranged from 0.3 ppm to more than 500 ppm, which is several thousand times higher than the acceptable limit set by Health Canada.
When heated, as in a vaporizer, myclobutanil can produce hydrogen cyanide, a harmful toxic chemical linked to various neurological, cardiovascular, and respiratory diseases.
“There were a couple thousand people in the United States and a handful of people in Canada who died as a result of vaping cannabis,” said Robert Schwartz, a professor at the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
“For the most part, many of those who contracted EVALI (lung injury associated with the use of electronic cigarettes or vaping) were using cannabis bought in the illicit market.”
Pesticides such as metalaxyl, chlorpyrifos, and pyridaben were also found in dried cannabis samples, in some cases more than 100 times more than the amounts listed.
The NRC’s findings also highlighted that THC levels in illegal products are often lower than advertised.
“In addition to the increased risk of harmful fillers and low-THC contaminants, this research shows that your marijuana dealer may not be giving you the potency you expect,” the press release reads.
Dominique Morisano, a psychologist at the University of Toronto who focuses on addiction and mental health, says more research is needed on both legal and illicit cannabis.
“The report highlights many issues around how often we don’t know what we are consuming,” he said. “Frankly, lawful (legal) or illegal, many people may not know what they are getting overall.”
OPP Deputy Director Rachel Huggins emphasized the health and safety risks associated with the illegal purchase of cannabis through a distributor.
“The test results are clear evidence that consumers do not know what they are getting when they buy illegal cannabis products and how important it is to know the facts,” he said in a statement.
TO national study conducted by Health Canada in 2020 revealed that 45 percent of cannabis users obtained cannabis from an illegal or unlicensed source in the past 12 months.
Daniel Safayeni, vice president for policy at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the Ontario Cannabis Policy Council, says Ontario regulations make it difficult for the legal sector to compete with the illegal sector, particularly on convenience and price.
“There are entire jurisdictions and municipalities that are small regions. For example, Mississauga, Oakville, Niagara, Vaughan, all of these municipalities have chosen not to have a legal cannabis presence there, which makes it much easier for these illegal products to get into the hands of consumers, ”he said.
“We need to ensure that there is a competitive regulatory structure in place to foster a strong and prosperous legal sector.”