What research says about your illicit cannabis

Researchers at the New Brunswick Research and Productivity Council have published a study showing that cannabinoid potency labels on illicit cannabis flower and edibles can be much less reliable than that of regulated products, and contains a higher concentration of chemical and microbial contaminants.

So much for safety first

“Surprisingly, a significant proportion of cannabis users in Canada have yet to be influenced by safety and quality when purchasing products,” reads the paper, which says six per cent of respondents said they had bought illicit cannabis within the last 12 months. 

“According to Canadian Cannabis Survey results released in 2020, price was the predominant consideration when purchasing cannabis.”

E.coli, yeast and bacteria

Both illicit and regulated flower samples were tested for bacteria, E.coli, salmonella, mould and more. After finding high concentrations of bacteria, yeast and mould on some of the illicit samples, researchers deemed them unacceptable under the current cannabis safety regulations.


The edibles tested fared slightly better, but showed a disturbing number of bacterial contaminants in illicit edibles.

“Although speculative,” concludes the section, “a rationale for this may be that licensed producers operate in sterile, controlled environments deemed compliant with regulatory standards.”

Dr. Diane Botelho, the Chief Science Officer at the Research and Productivity Council, joins BofC Live talk about this research today at 10 am Eastern.

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