When I thought about ‘what would be the perfect chart to discuss recall information’ for this article, I found that the problem was even more basic. In some states, even having the information available requires public records requests. I realized that if I couldn’t find information about cannabis recalls – how were other consumers getting their information? What about canna-tourists?
Recalls are an important mechanism that protect consumers from a variety of issues that may arise (and not all of them nefarious!). Just like everything else in cannabis, how they happen varies from state to state.
I’ve decided to make this visual guide to help.
I’ll be collecting and adding recall information to my recall database and will be updating these Tableau visualizations with all the latest recall information. If you think I’ve missed some – send me a tip and I’ll get right on it!
The Current State of Cannabis Recall Information
Just like everything in cannabis, recalls vary from state to state. This includes everything from how recalls happen to how cannabis recall information is (or is not) given to consumers. For instance, most of the data captured in Colorado indicates that recalls are mandatory and initiated by state investigations, while in Washington most of the recalls are voluntary. Unfortunately, this puts consumers in a bind, as it can be difficult to even find where recall information could be.
State-by-State Analysis of Cannabis Recall Information Availability
The first thing I needed to understand was which states had an easy mechanism to alert consumers of recalls and which didn’t. I call a mechanism ‘easy’ if it’s relatively easy to discern where to go on the website, and I consider one to be ‘complete’ if it has information on all of the recalls in the state. The map of this particular regulation is extremely straightforward.
There are only 11 states where there is a clearly delineated web page for cannabis recalls. By having a centralized place where people can look to find more information, these states are more dedicated to consumer protection than the others.
Almost more importantly, though, is the completeness of the information available. Here are the links to each of the states that have recall information available on their webpage (to be updated as more states realize the importance of this practice).
Here are all the states with information available online, ranked from the states with the most cannabis recall information available to those who haven’t had a recall to record yet.
Colorado’s cannabis recalls, or ‘Health and Safety Advisories’ list is a data girl’s dream. I’ll still go through a reconciliation process to make sure that all the recalls that have been written about are represented, but Colorado has an extensive ‘data lake’ of information regarding their recalls that includes a document with information about each recall.
It also seems that they use their Department of Agriculture’s lab as a reference lab, which has helped them catch a lot of issues through their processes. So even though they have high numbers, it’s because they’re catching a lot of issues. Colorado’s approach is exemplary!
Michigan is also pleasing to my data brain! All of the data is available for each recall under ‘Public Health and Safety Advisory Bulletins.’ Each leads to a document about the recall. Another well done website!
Arizona’s cannabis recalls are mixed in with their news releases, and they are sorted by year. It’s not entirely streamlined, but the information is valuable!
Nevada has cannabis recalls under ‘Public Health and Safety Advisories’ on the Cannabis Compliance Board’s Website. They have bulletins with necessary information for consumers, and have a history of that information available.
Oklahoma’s website includes cannabis recall information under ‘Current Embargoes and Recalls.’ Each recall links to a list of all the recalled products that includes why.
Oregon’s cannabis recall information is displayed in a table with a link to documents with information and often images of products recalled. It includes the information available at the time of recall, and includes information on recalls back to 2017.
Washington’s ‘Notice of Recalls’ page includes a history of recalls. Each recall has a brief about it including the date, reason and type. I would love to see more information included for each recall, but it’s great to see information on the historical recalls!
California’s cannabis recall list is not extensive – and a big way that the state could improve on it is to include information on every recall that happened (there’s no information, for instance, on the first ever recall in 2018). It would be great if they could include information on all the historical recalls!
Montana has a great looking website that is ready to go, but there are no recalls listed yet. I hope they aren’t missing anything, and have a way to test cannabis off the shelf so they can make sure that Montanans are safe!
New Jersey has a section on their website dedicated for recalls, but there are no recalls listed. There are also no historical recalls listed, as one involving Curaleaf, GTI, and mold didn’t make the list. It’s great they have a place for all of this important information – I’d love to see them go the extra mile to include the historical information as well.
New Mexico has a recall page under ‘Public Health and Safety Advisory,’ but once again, nothing is on it. That’s troubling, as this recall from March of 2022 seems recent enough for inclusion. It would be a great recall page if it included all of the history!
It’s a shame that every state doesn’t have a centralized repository of recall information. But what shocked me is the lengths some states will go to keep a recall secret.
In one terrible instance, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation was made aware by dispensaries and consumers that a strain of cannabis had mold in it. Instead of announcing a recall, the department quietly emailed dispensaries to ask that the product be quarantined.
It’s also troubling that the large, nascent New York market insists on public records requests to disclose recalls at all.
Keeping recalls publicly quiet while admonishing consumers ‘Caveat Emptor’ is bad faith at best and negligent at worst.
Why is Recall Data Important?
One of the most important reasons for pushing for publicly available recall data is to protect consumers, and to be able to examine it for overall trends and other important information.
Understanding which states track issues more effectively, and what sorts of issues their policies are able to uncover is an important part of policy analysis.
More importantly, it supports consumers in understanding the issues in their local market so that they can proceed with caution. It’s hard to win public trust when information that is vital to public health decisions isn’t made available.
What Did I Learn From Reading All of These Recalls?
Pesticides were the most frequent issue cited in recalls.
By far, pesticides were the most frequent issue cited in recalls. It made me wonder how many pesticides weren’t being caught because they aren’t part of regulation.
Recall Regulations Can Take a While to Set Up
For instance, Florida adopted rules on 3/10/2022 requiring the Department of Health to adopt potency variation rules and allow MM treatment centers to recall cannabis products that don’t meet potency and safety requirements. Cannabis had already been on sale for several years by then.
Some States Require Public Records Requests to Learn About Cannabis Recalls
To even learn about product recalls in New York state, the state has to have public records requests made! That’s how two recalls (one, two) involving Curaleaf were discovered – NY Cannabis Insider had to request the records. You know the old story about a tree falling in a forest? Is a recall really a recall if none of the consumers are aware?
Some Recalls Make for Interesting Reads
For instance, here’s one about saliva contamination. So, here’s a tip pre-roll manufacturers: don’t lick your product! No matter how authentic you think it’ll make it! It’s especially disturbing because it happened in August of 2020, when the pandemic was in full swing. Yikes.
It’s obvious from looking at the data that recalls help protect consumers from a wide array of issues with cannabis, most particularly pesticides. While some states are embracing the digital tools at their disposal to alert consumers to particular recalls (and hopefully, eventually, overall trends), most states haven’t rolled out recall websites and many may lack the appropriate rules and regulations to create a sensible recall plan for their state’s needs. Recalls are a vital piece of the cannabis consumer safety puzzle, and offer protection as well as insight.