By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver
LAKEWOOD, Colo.—Colorado marijuana regulators have issued more health and safety advisories in the first half of this year than they did in all of 2022, an added headwind for an industry already struggling amid a sales slump.
Through June 22, the Lakewood-based Marijuana Enforcement Division has issued 15 health and safety advisories, compared with 11 for all of 2022.
The increased regulatory action comes as Colorado marijuana sales decline. Sales are off 14 percent in the first four months of the year, totaling $525 million, compared with $612 million over the same period in 2022.
Last year saw the first-ever decline in legal marijuana sales since they began in 2014 as legislation limited medical purchases, inflation ate into personal spending, and the illegal market offered competition. Also, as more states legalize pot, Colorado’s allure as a marijuana tourism destination declines.
Meanwhile, state enforcement officials say there isn’t a single reason to explain the health and safety advisories increase this year.
Various factors lead to the issuance of advisories, including noncompliance with required testing and test batch collection and submission regulations and lack of controls for safe product storage leading to contamination concerns.
“The Marijuana Enforcement Division continues to prioritize investigations related to preventing youth access to marijuana and addressing product and consumer safety concerns,” said Daniel Carr, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Revenue, in which the Marijuana Enforcement Division is housed. “When the division identifies evidence that marijuana sold to consumers poses a potential risk it takes action including the issuance of a health and safety advisory.”
Most of the advisories issued this year were because of potentially unsafe levels of yeast and mold, with some specifying contamination from Aspergillus, a genus of mold species that can cause infections, fatal diseases and allergic reactions.
Molds are common in marijuana cultivation and storage, and the state only issues health and safety advisories when contamination reaches certain levels.