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HIGHLIGHTS
  1. Newstrike subsidiary voluntarily recalls pot packaged in November
  2. Customer response “minimal,” said Up Cannabis
  3. Scientists say clarity on batch size, storage regulations needed

Up Cannabis, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Newstrike Brands Ltd., voluntarily recalled nearly 10 kilograms of dried cannabis sold in Alberta in late-2018 due to the discovery of mould, causing some to question whether stiffer regulations on batch sizes and storage facilities are needed.

This recall, which Up Cannabis described as “precautionary” and followed a retest of dried marijuana packaged on Nov. 28, marks the second batch of legal cannabis that has been recalled due to mould or microbial contaminants since recreational pot was legalized in October, 2018. In November, Ontario-based RedeCan recalled thousands of grams of its product from the Ontario Cannabis Store after customers complained about mould and bugs.

The Up Cannabis recall is on 1,428 units of 7 gram dried cannabis jars totalling 9.996 kg sold to Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC), the province’s only wholesaler to retail stores. This comes at a time that national supplies are already tight.

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“Customer response has been minimal to date, to our knowledge. However, the refund process is managed by AGLC,” said PM Rendon, director of communications and public relations for Up Cannabis.

An AGLC spokeswoman said it is too soon to know how much has been returned so far.

“We keep a sample of every single lot for testing and our quality control identified a single portion of a lot was inadequately sterilized. The issue was identified in post-packaging testing,” Mr. Rendon said, adding that the grower irradiates its product.

Kaveh Kahen, president and chief executive of Toronto-based Sigma Analytical Services Inc., which began testing hemp and cannabis in 2018, said Health Canada’s definition of batch size as well as guidelines for storage units are not as clear as they should be. Large batches, he said, bring the risk of expensive recalls and relatively small sample sizes that are tested before distribution, he said.

“It’s a bit of a square-footage game that the big producers are playing. It’s extremely difficult to create a completely controlled environment across a large facility,” Dr. Kahen said.

“It’s kind of left to (producers) to follow good manufacturing practices. You don’t have clear guidelines about the storage after the products are cultivated. All these things together create a situation that it is possible for mould and these kind of contaminants to grow on cannabis.”

On the other hand, there are very clear guidelines in industries like food and pharmaceuticals that the cannabis industry could use, he said.

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Jan Slaski, senior researcher for InnoTech Alberta, said he sees large LPs ensuring their growing systems create proper air movements to avoid conditions that could create mould as well as preventing any contaminants from entering plant rooms, but that this is expensive and likely more challenging for small producers to achieve.

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