Comparison of State-Level Regulations for Cannabis Contaminants and Implications for Public Health

Laura E. Jameson, Kendra D. Conrow, Dorina V. Pinkhasova, Haleigh L. Boulanger, Hyunji Ha, Negar Jourabchian, Steven A. Johnson, Michael P. Simeone, Iniobong A. Afia, Thomas M. Cahill, Cindy S. Orser, Maxwell C.K. Leung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The presence of contaminants in cannabis presents a potential health hazard to recreational users and susceptible patients with medical conditions. Because of the federally illegal status of cannabis, there are no unified regulatory guidelines mitigating the public health risk of cannabis contaminants. OBJECTIVE: To inform further research and provide solutions to the public health risk of cannabis contaminants at a national level, we examined the current landscape of state-level contaminant regulations, and cannabis contaminants of concern, as well as patient populations susceptible to contaminants. METHODS: We examined the regulatory documents for medical and recreational cannabis in all legalized U.S. jurisdictions and compiled a complete list of regulated contaminants, namely, pesticides, inorganics, solvents, microbes, and mycotoxins. We data mined the compliance testing records of 5,654 cured flower and 3,760 extract samples that accounted for ∼ 6% of California’s legal cannabis production in 2020–2021. We also reviewed the publicly available medical cannabis use reports to tabulate the susceptible patient populations. RESULTS: As of 18 May 2022, 36 states and the District of Columbia listed a total of 679 cannabis contaminants as regulated in medical or recreational cannabis, including 551 pesticides, 74 solvents, 12 inorganics, 21 microbes, 5 mycotoxins, and 16 other contaminants. Different jurisdictions showed significant variations in regulated contaminants and action levels ranging up to four orders of magnitude. A failure rate of 2.3% was identified for flowers and 9.2% for extracts in the California samples. Insecticides and fungicides were the most prevalent categories of detected contaminants, with boscalid and chlorpyrifos being the most common. The contaminant concentrations fell below the regulatory action levels in many legalized jurisdictions, indicating a higher risk of contaminant exposure. Cannabis use reports indicated usage in several patient populations susceptible to contamination toxicity, including cancer (44,318) and seizure (21,195) patients. DISCUSSION: Although individual jurisdictions can implement their policies and regulations for legalized cannabis, this study demonstrates the urgent need to mitigate the public health risk of cannabis contamination by introducing national-level guidelines based on conventional risk assessment methodologies and knowledge of patients’ susceptibility in medical use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number097001
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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