Dr. Reggie Gaudino had a lot of cannabis at his disposal, but none of it fit the bill. His father, who had suffered a stroke a few years prior, had been unable to eat, talk or walk until he tried a high-CBD oil, which was made from a particular, top-shelf strain of bud. When the Oregon company that made the oil buckled under new state regulations, Gaudino was desperate to make the oil himself. He dug into his network and found a cultivator in Washington who sold the strain to him at a premium. But when it finally arrived, he was in for an unpleasant surprise.
“I rolled up a joint and the first hit made me cough so much I almost threw up,” Gaudino recalled. “I put it through our lab and it came up as so dirty that there was no possible way I could turn it into a medicine for my father.”
The “premium” cannabis Gaudino purchased was so contaminated that his laboratory, Steep Hill Labs, now uses the batch to help it develop methods for identifying harmful bacteria on bud sent to them by cultivators. Right now, though, this is an optional move in California, and the state’s cannabis cultivation process remains entirely unregulated. Gaudino’s story, he says, serves as a lesson: Anyone can be duped by savvy cannabis branding and, unfortunately, not everyone will have the resources he has to verify the packaging on what they purchase.
In theory, on Jan. 1, that will all change. The state of California is currently drafting regulations for seed-to-sale tracking (meaning from the time the seed hits the soil to the moment it’s sold to the consumer). In actuality, there’s a lot of debate among industry professionals about striking a balance between regulations that are strict enough to ensure safe cannabis but not so laborious that they bankrupt growers who don’t have the capital to revamp their cultivation process.