Massachusetts marijuana has to be ultra-sterile. Just one problem: It’s a plant

At Holistic Health Group’s farm in Middleborough, dozens of vacuum-sealed bags full of marijuana flower — worth hundreds of thousands of dollars at retail — have been sitting in a secure vault for months, stuck in limbo.

The problem? The marijuana, which was grown outdoors last season, flunked the strict laboratory tests for microbes that all legal cannabis in Massachusetts must pass before sale.

The standards are intended to protect consumers from moldy or bacteria-contaminated flower. But farmers across Massachusetts have complained the state’s unusually tight rules are based on flimsy science, discourage outdoor growing and other sustainable practices, add to the high cost of pot here, and defy the simple fact that cannabis is a plant — one adapted to grow in soil rich with microorganisms.

“We put a lot of love and nurturing into those plants for two-and-a-half months, only to hit a wall,” Holistic Health Group cofounder Colonel Boothe said. “It could be as simple as maybe our employees weren’t wearing gloves one day. Or it could be we did nothing wrong. The lines are arbitrarily drawn.”

Colorado, California, Oregon, and many other states with legal marijuana require testing only for a handful of specific pathogens, such as salmonella and aspergillus. Massachusetts, on the other hand, places a low limit on the total amount of bacteria and fungus in each batch of regulated cannabis, regardless of whether they are harmful or benign species. [Read more at The Boston Globe]

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