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A physician and a Department of Health whistleblower are accusing Hawaii officials and some licensed cannabis businesses of putting patients’ health in danger due to a lack of proper industry controls, Hawaii News Now reports.

An HNN investigation found that many of the vape cartridges being sold in Oahu dispensaries would be banned in other states for not meeting safety standards and some patients are reporting symptoms that some doctors believe are directly linked to chemicals the Health Department doesn’t require testing for.

According to the HNN analysis, four of nine vape cartridges purchased from three Oahu dispensaries had ethanol levels exceeding 5,000 parts per million – levels that would ban the products in California, Colorado, and Washington. State regulators do not require testing for ethanol in cannabis concentrates. The products were blind-tested by a state-certified laboratory.

One cartridge was also found to contain levels of lead.

Dr. Clifton Otto, one of two board-certified cannabis physicians in the state, told HNN that “at least a third” of his patients have expressed concern over the cartridges, including burning and a “strange taste.” Otto said he brought the issue to the attention of the Health Department but never received a response.

“I see patients every day when I’m doing certifications. Patients who have stopped using these cartridges. They’re not safe for patient use. They’re not safe to be used as medicine.” – Otto in an interview with HNN

Heather Krug, a scientist in charge of Colorado’s State Marijuana Laboratory and Sciences Program, told HNN that ethanol in the 5,000 to 10,000 ppm range “can cause irritation to the eyes, lungs, nose and throat,” which are symptoms described to Otto.

In Colorado, ethanol limits for vape cartridges are set at 1,000 ppm.

One company, Aloha Green, disputed the HNN findings, providing test results that showed lower ethanol content; however, those results still showed levels in excess of 3,000 ppm. The company said they are “concerned” about the lead in the cartridge but provided a certificate from the manufacturer showing it passed heavy metal testing, and said the cartridges are the “best cartridges China makes.”

Aloha said they are working with another manufacturer on a state-of-the-art cartridge that would launch next month.

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