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With Marijuana Legalization Comes Marijuana Recalls

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By Dan Nosowitz

Marijuana regulation is well behind its legalization; there isn't really any alternative, given that research and consumer desires will shape what we know and want from the crop.


But we've got a couple of new recalls, so it's worth looking into the recall history of cannabis products in North America. In Michigan, cannabis has only been legal since Dec. 6, 2018, and yet there's already been a recall, the state's first. Our neighbors to the north have one too, from a Toronto-based company called Up Cannabis.

Since 2012, when Washington became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis use, nine more states (plus Washington, DC) have joined in. There have been several recalls already in those states, and those have typically been due to high pesticide use—for example, this Colorado recall of 100,000 cannabis-infused lollipops and candies, or this Oregon recall of a specific strain of marijuana called Blue Magoo.

Each individual state is responsible for instituting its own regulatory system; as the plant is not federally legal, national programs like the National Organic Program are usually not available. (There is no federally regulated organic cannabis whatsoever; any claim to a cannabis product being "organic" does not have the same regulation that organic fruits or vegetables do.) As with much of the cannabis industry, sometimes the regulation has been slow to be put into place.

Michigan has only two approved laboratories for testing products at the moment, a potential bottleneck that most newly-legalizing states have had to deal with. And when one of those labs is found to have a major issue, as with Sequoia Analytical Labs in California, that bottleneck grows even worse. Sequoia was forced to surrender its testing license only a month ago after reports surfaced alleging mass falsification of test results.

There's the additional problem that historically, cannabis has not been a carefully operated agricultural sector, largely due to its prohibition. When simply existing is highly illegal, excess use of, say, literal rat poison is hardly a grower's biggest concern. Much of the new crop of growers, operating legally and within the boundaries of fresh legislation, are breaking from that history—but growing pains remain. It's also worth noting that while cannabis is a far smaller crop than, say, romaine lettuce or chicken, there are many, many industries with worse safety records, at least so far. But given that this whole industry is so new, it's worth keeping an eye on how it's taking shape.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.