Pull PEAK-tested Product Now: A letter to the LCB

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Pull PEAK-tested Product Now: A letter to the LCB

I just sent the following e-mail off to the LCB Board members and some key Staff. If any of you know Governor Inslee’s e-mail, would you mind either forwarding it to me or forwarding the following on to him (his website does not list an e-mail contact).

The below, I believe, speaks for itself.
In the meanwhile, PLEASE, if you value your health, DO NOT BUY ANY PRODUCT THAT HAS BEEN TESTED BY PEAK (until such time as RJ-Lee says they are good to go, that is).

If I had any such product, I’d take it back for a return and refund. Of course, I do not have any such product. I guess that is the nice thing about knowing who tests with whom and where specific suppliers can be found. I’ll be posting a list of PEAK-heavy stores on HI-Blog this weekend.

e-mail to LCB follows:

Dearest Members of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board:

Good morning.

According to recent media reports, your Agency received a report from RJ-Lee in the past two or three weeks which recommended that the Laboratory Certification for PEAK Analytics be temporarily suspended.

I would like to commend you on acting on their recommendation to stop PEAK’s dangerous output from continuing to compromise product being tested before finding it’s way into the retail marketplace..

I would also like to point out that your apparent failure to institute a state-wide recall of all PEAK-tested product currently on the shelves of Retail access points stands grossly in opposition to the Vision, Mission and Goals of the organization you lead.

While I am hopeful that you are simply waiting to gather more evidence of PEAK’s lack of proficiency before doing the right thing, I realize that your organization is not staffed with Scientists and it is possible that you do not realize that your willingness to allow Washington consumers (and Patients) to be exposed to nasty microbial organisms is highly likely to have already harmed and quite possibly will have already killed consumers of Washington’s State-legal Cannabis.

This note serves as an attempt to, respectfully, educate you about the safety ramifications of your apparent willingness to allow consumers of State-legal Washington Cannabis to continue to be exposed (in very large numbers) to known pathogens in the Cannabinoid-containing products you regulate. I would like to emphasize that these pathogens are not allowed above defined threshold levels in those very products.

To put it in a way that not being a Scientist should not compromise your ability to understand:

There are 5.2 million adults in Washington.

Approximately 1 million of them are shopping in Retail Access Points to get at least some of their Cannabis.

Over the past two weeks, approximately 750,000 of those consumers have likely purchased product from a Retail Access Point.

Given that PEAK Analytics accounts for approximately 30% of testing volume done in the market (expected current range is between 27% and 33%), that would suggest that at least 225,000 Washingtonians have likely purchase product tested by PEAK since you became aware of the deficiencies in their operations brought forward by RJ-Lee.

Now … in the audit report (and consistent with information I published in late March on HI-Blog at www.highintelligence.org) , it is clear that normal QA fail rates are around 12%.

PEAK was found to be failing less than 2% of the product they tested.

That leads to the fairly easy conclusion that somewhere around 10% of the product that PEAK has tested is quite likely (I would argue highly likely) to be contaminated with at least one of the many nasty microbes that RJ-Lee concluded PEAK’s slopping, non-compliant processes were unlikely to detect.

That results in a best-guess estimate (and, by the way, a pretty good estimate) that about 22,500 consumers of Washington State-legal Cannabis have been exposed to unacceptable and out-of-compliance levels of either “total Coliform” or EB (Enterobacteriaceae – which includes (but is not limited to) the disease-causing organisms known as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Yersinia pestis, Klebsiella, Shigella, Proteus, Enterobacter, Serratia, and Citrobacter.

Although you are not Scientists (and you have none on Staff, as Staff are frequent to point out), you should know that these things are dangerous. They can harm people. They can kill people. If consumed by immuno-compromised or respiratorily-compromised Patients, they are even more likely to harm and/or kill.

By making the conscious decision to allow PEAK-tested product to remain on Washington’s Retail shelves, it follows that you have exposed approximately 22,500 Washingtonians to dangerous stuff that should not be in this otherwise relatively safe product. That is just in the past two weeks.

Some proportion of those people are highly likely to have been harmed by these products. Some may very well have died. Please note this is not hyperbole. Feel free to check out my credentials. Hyperbole is not a tool I frequently employ. Rest assured, I am not employing it here.

The harm and the ever-growing potential for death enabled by your failure to force a recall of PEAK-tested product currently on Retail shelves will continue and expand until such time as you yank that PEAK-tested stuff (ALL of it) from the shelves.

This is an opportunity for you to do the right thing, even though it is a difficult thing and an inconvenient thing.

It will not be easy on Retailers that stock PEAK-tested product (which is, basically, all of them). It will not be easy on Wholesalers that have been using PEAK for their testing. It most certainly will not be easy for those many stores that fail to follow your rules regarding having product COAs on site and available for customer inspection.

Know that failing to pull that product WILL harm and will very likely kill some of the consumers that rely on you and the good women and men of the WSLCB to ensure that the cannabinoids they ingest are, as defined by WAC and RCW, safe.

Every day that PEAK-tested product is available for sale represents thousands of instances in which further inaction on your part will result in harm to those you are charged with protecting.

Late in my career, I had the pleasure of working in a facility that had once housed Union Carbide’s Main Corporate Campus in Connecticut. Every time I sat in the executive conference rooms of that beautiful facility, I thought back to the decisions made by the Executives (and the Board) of that organization as they dealt with the unfolding tragedy in Bhopal, India and wondered what in heaven’s name was going through the minds of those people..

Union Carbide, of course, no longer exists as an independent world-leading organization.

The decisions you make regarding the issue I have attempted to articulate to you in this email will, I suspect, largely determine the legacy that you each carry forward after leaving your current Board positions. They may also determine the future of the WSLCB. I hope you choose wisely, and with the safety of Washington’s Cannabis consumers at the forefront.

This is an opportunity for you to do the right thing and to promote safety and health in this State.

It is also an opportunity for you to show your true colors.
Personally, I am hoping that those colors look more like a Seahawk than they do a vulture.

Respectfully,
Dr. James MacRae (Scientist).

ps –
I’m the guy that was in the audience holding up his hand(s) for 15 minutes without being recognized during this week’s CAC meeting … At the time, I was going to correct one of Board Member Hauge’s false suppositions underlying the concerns he expressed regarding the existing plant canopy. Please know that I mentioned my concern to your chief examiner following the meeting. No doubt he has corrected you himself.)
Should you wish to discuss this, you have my number and e-mail address.
You may be interested in some of the things I plan to post over the next few days up on HI-Blog.
I do not know if the WSLCB monitors relevant traffic on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram regarding things relevant to your mandate. If not, you may want to task someone with that.
I suspect that discussions relevant to this issue it will be heating up on the internets significantly and soon.
Finally … if anyone knows a good e-mail for Gov. Inslee, please forward this on to him. His website does not include a contact e-mail.

15 Comments

  1. Jim MacRae says:

    Author’s note …. my thanks to Muraco for the relevant e-mail address.
    I just forwarded a copy of the e-mail off to the Governor’s Communications Director.

  2. Kevin says:

    Forget about a lab inflating results for profit. This issue could be an opportunity for the DOJ and Sessions to step in and say that the supply chain has been corrupted with “tainted” or failing product. I hope DC catches wind of what’s going on here in WA and scares the shit out of the industry by threatening to come down on it. It would be an easy way to put the brakes on the industry. The rules are there as a quality control mechanism and when the system gets gamed, the entire industry is at stake. No time to be stupid in the Age of Trump. Cannabis acceptance has never been HIGHer but there are very, very dangerous individuals that are just chomping at the bit to seize assets, lock people up, and steal some of your hard earned money.

    And what better way to do it, then make the claim that false results from labs yield an unsafe product, thereby, violating WA state laws and creating a toxic, harmful product to consumers.

    • Jim MacRae says:

      G’day, Captain.
      No-one knows for sure why some of the labs are producing relatively high potency numbers or relatively low QA fails.
      It would seem that RJ-Lee things SOPs and checklists and procedures may have something to do with it.
      For all we know, it is a Federally-funded campaign to fuck with nascent State-legal Cannabis markets (I have my hat on … do you?)

      Interesting thought on the DOJ. I’m not quite sure how consumer-harming product runs afoul of the Cole memo (unless it kills a child, perhaps, or kills someone that has taken it out of State, or kills a firearm-toting LCB enforcement officer who skimmed some from a farm or bust or kills someone on Federal Land or kills the Don of Walla Walla’s notorious organized crime syndicate).

      Upon reflection, any lab actually inflating potency has a very real risk of increasing the incidence of drugged driving (and the resultant general public safety risk that represents) …. and that IS one of the COLE admonishments to the States. But PEAK was dinged for not being “proficient” at detecting nasty bugs …. NOT for inflating potency.

      I also don’t think the FEDs (at least the Republican ones) are all that much into stomping into the way of State jurisdiction over State laws.
      WA has a combination of laws and, more importantly, regulations that are very specific about what is allowed to be sold in this state (with respect to QA sufficiency) and what is not.

      From the data I’ve seen (thusfar) and the inferences I’ve made from the RJ-Lee report on PEAK, product that had been tested by PEAK prior to the suspension should be pulled from the market. Either that, or people will likely be harmed. Possibly terminally.

      The logistic details of a Recall would be complex.

      I am beginning to align with a suggested fix that would be of less of an administrative hassle, but no one from the LCB (or Governor’s office) have yet acknowledged receipt of my e-mail ….. let alone responded to it. They are the regulators. THEY are supposed to know how to do a product recall.

      Starting tomorrow (because I’ll have the data done by then to fine-tune my estimates), I’m going to begin counting how many Washingtonians (and tourists) have likely been exposed each day …. kind of like a counter incrementing the McCleary fines every day. I’ll publish that somewhere prominent.

      If I can find some disease incidence/prevalence data related to the choliforms and EB that is relevant to how one ingests Cannabis, I’ll likely start trying to estimate LCB-enhanced morbidity and mortality going forward. If I’m able to do that, I’ll likely start a mass-mailing (like the doomsday clock) all of our Legislators that indicates how long it will now be until the LCB’s inaction kills or harms all 1.2 million-odd Cannabis users in the State. I suspect that would take a long time. Little children today will have filled in for many of the deceased by that point in time.

      I wonder how long it will take them to peg to the reality that this will decrease their tax revenue from Cannabis?

      Finally. Cannabis and it’s derived products, as available today (except PEAK-tested, of course) is the safest thing that the LCB currently regulates. They regulate alcohol and nicotine and occasionally-exploding e-cigs ….. and Cannabis. One is a good solvent and decent anti-bacterial agent, one is a deadly neurotoxin and a great insecticide whose primary delivery mechanism seems to cause cancer, and one is one of the best things I’ve seen when it comes to affordable, widely applicable medicinal agents available in the U.S. of A. today.

      It is a shame that some of the key medicinal formulations that people depended on in the Green Cross era are neither widely available nor affordable now that the LCB has decided (through the Legislature) to regulate medicine. Kinda funny that they have no Scientists on staff. Does anyone know if they have any MDs?

  3. Heather McConnell says:

    I would like to see a list of P/Ps that use Peak as well as a list of retailers. The p/ps are 1 half of the problem here. They know damn well when they have unsafe product and they know damn well who will help facilitate that and help them get their poison to market.
    “What would you do if you were gonna lose thousands of dollars of crops?” Is not a valid argument. If you don’t know what you’re doing and can’t stand the heat then get out of the fuckin kitchen and stop ruining the industry for those of us who do.

    • Jim MacRae says:

      Understood, Heather.
      I am focusing on Retailers this weekend (almost thru my data prep …. and my lab jobs are first in the queue to run).

      I intend to comment on where PEAK’s customers moved following the suspension in about 3 months, once those data are available.
      When I do that, I’ll likely name some wholesalers.

      I do not view this as a game of ‘gotcha’ …. and we should all remember that PEAK is up near the far northwest corner of the State (Olympic Peninsula excepted). If I were a farmer near Bellingham (and did not know what I know about the relevant data), I’d very likely have used PEAK 100% of the time. Many Farmers don’t have much excess time to drive half way across the State to have their product tested.

      Other than that, I largely agree with your sentiments, Heather.

    • Danielle says:

      Trail Blazin’ has never used Peak. We have also never shopped other labs since I took over in November 2015. You can find our pesticide free, award winning products at the retailers listed on our website: http://www.trailblazin.net

      • Jim MacRae says:

        True that, Danielle (and good on you, IMO …. particularly given how convenient PEAK would be given your and their location).

        Of the 774 wholesalers that tested flower in the 6 months ending May 2017, 563 farms (Trail Blazin’ included) did not use PEAK at all for any of those tests. During that same period, 112 wholesalers used PEAK for 95% or more of their flower tests.

        When one limits it to the 10 farms doing the most flower testing during this time, 5 did not use PEAK at all and only 1 used PEAK more than 95% of the time.

  4. Concerned citizen says:

    You’re an asshole

    • Jim MacRae says:

      I normally block comments such as yours, but I’m in a mood today and I expect that most readers of this site are over 21.

      Besides, your name makes you seem patriotic and I very much appreciate true Patriots.

      While you are correct that I possess an asshole*, I prefer to think of myself as the being that surrounds and nourishes that precious portal.
      I may be wrong. Self-image is rarely objective. Regardless, I appreciate your opinion.

      Thank-you for your efficiently-delivered observation. It reflects a meticulousness, compulsiveness, and rigidity that almost reminds me of something that Freud once described.

      *Please note that I BELIEVE I still have an asshole. I am no longer flexible enough to either look it in the eye or to kiss it goodnight.

  5. Joshua C WEINEL says:

    Thank you Jim, You have inspired me. -I would love to pick your brain about some things. (I don’t want to shed much light on the guy who takes one to know one) but as a concerned citizen myself, I would like to pursue a movement for other products on the market to be tested. I’m sure we will meet one day and discuss this further. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    • Jim MacRae says:

      I will try, Joshua.

      Thank-you

      I will be at Hempfest all three days this year, in case you want to meet.
      I am speaking twice on Friday, once on Saturday, and am on two panels on Sunday.

  6. Shawn D. Wagenseller says:

    Jim – based upon the fact that cannabis was not commonly tested until regulations came into force and the WA growers were supplying patients untested product for decades with no report of negative health issues, it seems a gross overstatement to say “WILL harm and will very likely kill some of the consumers” if the Peak tested product is not pulled from shelves. This appears to me to be fear mongering.
    Keep in mind the product we have shared in the past from our garden were grown and cured by the same methods that we still use and now have tested by Peak. To insinuate that our products are unsafe and should be pulled from shelves just because we use Peak to test is not right, IMO.

    • Jim MacRae says:

      Thank-you, Shawn.
      I am not implying that any individual farm’s products are unsafe (or have higher-than-expected potency, for that matter).

      What I am suggesting (and something I’m pretty darn sure of) is that PEAK, in testing product, failed to adequately assess the levels of two of the microbiological nasties that are not allowed to pass defined thresholds if they are to be put on the market.

      Actually, I’m not suggesting it —- that was the conclusion of the auditors (3rd bullet from the bottom, on page 2).

      I have spent most of the past 48 hours (while not engaged in a somewhat juvenile FB chat with Eastern Europe) working on updating the approximate estimates I used in my communication to the LCB on Friday with ones based on the updated traceability data.

      The parameters needed for the updated estimates are almost complete … and I’ll be posting them in a follow-up note to the LCB that will let them know how many people have likely been exposed to “tainted” product tested by PEAK.

      The core assumption of this analysis (for those who wish to offer critical assessments of my methodology) is that PEAK’s failure rates for the two classes of microbiologicals should have been equal to those displayed, on average, by the other 17 labs that were operating during the 3 months ending in May. Statistically (on average) that is a strong assumption. For any given farm, it may apply or it may not.

      Across ALL farms that test with PEAK, it likely does apply (on average). That is one of the reasons that I will be identifying outlier Retail Access Points initially, and not farms or processors.

      I will re-define my terms and will re-articulate my method for estimating exposure (in as few words as possible) when I write that post.

      It will be posted today or tomorrow.

      I also plan to write a note to all retailers in the State (I may miss some of the newly opened or recently-changed-ownership stores, so I’d sure appreciate it if anyone that shares my concern lets the stores they deal with that there is a product quality/safety issue with PEAK-tested product.

      In my experience, Shawn …. there ain’t nothing wrong with Washington Bud Company product.
      Except that the lab that has tested some of it (and, as you know, it is only some of it) has been found unable to accurately assess 2 of the 5 panels required on the microbiological screens.

  7. Eddie says:

    People, take a good hard look at what “Dr.” MacRae is presenting here (rumor has it he’s a self-appointed PhD). He is a former Big Pharma shill riding on the coat tails of 502 paranoia from the loss of medical dispensaries – which in all fairness was a bad move on the State.

    Now he has a new pet project – making labs like Peak and the LCB itself out to be scandalous, inhuman greedmongers. Again, this coming from a Big Pharma guy.

    The TRUTH, which you can read publicly and in plain english, is that the LCB determined Peak’s potency ratings to be within average tolerance. Unsatisfied with being able to take the lab down, MacRae and some of his Cannabis Alliance cronies have gone out of their way to place the lab in the crosshairs of the LCB, thus getting them shut down, forcing their accounts to switch to less desirable labs and damaging the livelihood of 20+ employees.

    For those who actually know anything about micro testing – the non-acceptable levels caught on the sample were of EB and coliform (that data is right in front of you). These test results are INDICATIVE OF A POSSIBILITY of sickness-inducing lifeforms, they are NOT TEST POSITIVES REVEALING THAT SOMETHING IN THESE PRODUCTS IS GOING TO KILL YOU!

    Coliform, in fact is NOT DANGEROUS TO HUMAN BEINGS, and can only really be contracted through water – http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/DrinkingWater/Contaminants/Coliform
    It’s presence, again, is simply an INDICATOR.

    PLEASE do some of your own research before buying into this hysteria perpetuated by MacRae. This reads like a smear-campaign of the highest order, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was doing this out of misplaced loyalty for one of Peak’s competitors. I mean, think about it – they get to be the #1 lab in the state, and now all of a sudden they’re shut down?

    MacRae, what exactly are your credentials? What are you a “doctor” of? AND it seems like you have nothing but time to generate all this superfluous data, which leads one to wonder WHO IS PAYING AND FINANCING YOUR RESEARCH?! I’ll bet the buck stops at the door of a particular competing lab, and a handful of producers who’s sales aren’t so great because they’re too busy playing politics.

    People, if this industry is to survive, we need to HELP each other and have open dialogs about what affects us all. We need to NOT immediately buy into fear-mongering and hysteria being spewed out by self-interested, attention seeking individuals. It’s bad enough that the federal government is run by fake news and unsolicited attacks. Let’s not pollute the cannabis industry with the same mentality.

    The biggest mistake Peak made was putting it’s customers first over the LCB. I just don’t think that they should be punished if they are in compliance and MacRae should probably be sued for slander or defamation or whatever. I’m not a lawyer any more than he’s a doctor though.

    I assume this comment will be stricken from this website by it’s owner, so if you read this and it resonates with you, please spread the word.

    • Jim MacRae says:

      Eddie — I’ll respond to your thoughts in more detail later, but thank-you for sharing them.

      I appreciate your perspective and, given it’s direction, I even more appreciate the tone you took with your criticism (it is so much better than those that tend to revert to, simply, calling me a “self-serving asshole” or some similar label). The ad hominin aspects of your comment and the discriminatory bias underlying at least one of them are more subtle.

      One factual correction: I am no longer a member of the Cannabis Alliance.

      I am planning to attend their meeting today (virtually), as I believe they may be presenting results from their “round-robin” or “ring” test exercise across a subset of the labs. I did not know they were working on this until a recent e-mail they sent out.

      I am curious to see what they have to say. I know what my re-assessment of recent potency values suggests about PEAK (and, by the way, one or two other labs) with respect to higher-than-expected reported potency levels. My conclusion is different than the one put forward by RJ-Lee. I’m just holding off on publishing until the LCB responds to my public records request relating to the decision to suspend PEAK’s certification.

      Again … I’ll get back to a number of the points you raise. However, I have a new post on this issue intended to help customers identify where they may be differentially at risk of exposure (as indexed by the proportion of a store’s recent purchases that had been tested by PEAK). That will include a new assessment (one much better than the one I included in my letter to the LCB last Friday) of how many people are likely being exposed, on average, each day to PEAK-tested product that contains one or both of the classes of pathogens that the auditor felt they were incapable of accurately detecting.

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