420 buzzkill: Denver mag pulls article listing weed shops in pesticide ‘public health’ scandal
A storm is brewing in Denver over the growing scandal from the local cannabis industry’s improper use of pesticides which can be harmful to the health of those consuming cannabis products. Names of companies in violation were made public after documents were obtained by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition using the Colorado Open Records Act.
Pesticide violations were issued to the following recreational marijuana grow facilities: Mindful, Green Solutions, Evolutionary Holdings, Green Cross Colorado, MMJ America, Organic Greens, Altitude East Treatments, RINO, and Sweet Leaf. All violators were using Eagle 20EW, and petroleum based fungicide that is harmful to humans and animals. Altitude East Treatments was also using Mallet and Avid, both also harmful to humans and animals. Green Cross Denver was also using Mallet. Many of these violators are well known. Mindful, formerly Gaia Plant Based Medicines, is owned by Meg Sanders who was the only industry appointee to Governor John Hickenlooper’s Amendment 64 Task Force.
The Denver Fire Department discovered the violations during routine inspections in early March and concerns were relayed to the city’s Department of Environmental Health, according to city spokesman Dan Rowland.
Denver’s cannabis friendly Westword Magazine wrote a Friday April 17 article listing specific offenders uncovered in the City of Denver’s investigation.
Westword updated their story that evening to include news that 2 dispensaries contacted the magazine to relay that the violations would be resolved after testing.
By Saturday, the magazine caved to pressure and removed the link.
The question remains as to why the story was removed, however the timeline and the participants of the situation may be more revealing than the report itself, which can be viewed still by using Google cache.
Westword via Google Cache
When numerous Denver-based marijuana growing operations had portions of crops quarantined and put under investigation for using harmful pesticides on plants, many marijuana consumers became a little more paranoid about which dispensaries to visit.
In documents obtained by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition via the Colorado Open Records Act and sent to Westword (they’re on view below), the Colorado Department of Environmental Health names nine different marijuana cultivation facilities currently or recently under investigation for using banned chemical pesticides such as Eagle 20 — a petroleum-based fungicide that can be harmful to animals or humans.
Here are the names of the growing facilities.
1. Altitude East Treatments
2. Evolutionary Holdings
3. Green Cross Colorado
4. The Green Solution – (9 locations, 2 opening soon)
(Update): Green Solution owner Kyle Speidell says his company’s products were cleared after investigation. Though Speidell said Eagle-20 was found at the growing operation, all of the quarantined cannabis on the premise was found safe and fit for consumption after a two-week hold by the Marijuana Enforcement Division.
5. Mindful – (5 locations)
(Update): Representatives from Mindful have reached out and said its growing operations are not under investigation by the city and the matter has been resolved. Denver City and County Spokesman Dan Rowland confirmed, saying “some of the plants have been put on hold, but that is all.”
[WTF News note from Mindful website:
Mindful offers the very best hand-crafted cannabis in Colorado. We develop and grow our own strains, and take great pride in their cultivation and lineage.]
6. MMJ America (3 locations)
7. Organic Greens
[WTF News note from RINO website:
Our local horticulturists work diligently to ensure that your preferred method of THC delivery is free from any molds, pesticides or contaminants, and working only with these local growers helps keep our prices low.
We grow only in real soil rather than raising plants hydroponically, and that means a superior flavor experience for our Denver marijuana customers whether you’re looking for a light, citrusy taste, a skunky and strong diesel or high-end hybrid haze like award-winning Ghost Train Haze. Soil-grown marijuana plants have better access to the nutrients in the soil and grow naturally with complete root systems, making them superior to their alternatively grown counterparts.
We use only the highest-quality soil and nutrients for all our organic plants, and ensure proper drainage and plenty of oxygen to keep the leaves and buds strong and healthy. Even though some plants take longer to grow this way, we believe the taste difference makes it worth putting in the time.]
9. Sweet Leaf (4 locations)
Larisa Bolivar, director of the Cannabis Consumers Coalition, said some of the growers under investigation have reached out in hopes of creating a constructive dialogue, but declined to name who until those meetings actually happen.
“This is dangerous to public safety, and we need better testing policies that put consumer safety first,” she said in a press release. “Retail cannabis is supposed to be tested for harmful pesticides, and there already exists a list of acceptable pesticides. This is at best gross negligence on behalf of the offending businesses that shows more concern for money than for safety.”
Of the nine locations listed, at least four involve dispensaries with multiple locations throughout the Denver area.
A growing scandal getting increased local attention would not be good for the 4/20 weekend celebrations headlined by the High Times Cannabis Cup.
After the report, rumors began spreading that some larger cannabis outlets with multiple locations consistently engaged in the improper use of pesticides.
Many of the pesticides are harsh chemical solutions that have labels warning users not to inhale the toxic vapors by standing “up wind” and unsing proper ventilation or breathing safety equipment. Heavy metals and chemical residues left over likely have unknown negative effects when burned and inhaled during cannabis consumption and is not a new concept as reported by Huff Post in 2013.
Some suggest the totality of this situation may have similar toxic effects to the collection of chemicals used in commercial cigarettes.
City spokesman Dan Rowland said the holds only represent “a small percentage of the city’s 371 grow facilities, but added that it’s possible others could be impacted”, possibly attempting to minimize the perceived scale of the problem.
“There’s clear language on the labels to guide their usage, saying it’s not for indoor use, or that the product isn’t intended to be used on items grown for human consumption, like marijuana,” Rowland said.
Investigations were conducted starting in early March, and in the process, City of Denver authorities released an official bulletin on March 13 warning of consequences for businesses caught, including the revocation of licenses.
As details emerged, a Denver Post report on March 24 revealed that cannabis plants at 6 large grow operations were in violation of laws associated with pesticide usage on plants for human consumption. The city of Denver ordered a hold and the plants were quarantined. The plants were tested for contamination but negative results may mean the plants can be prepared for sale.
City of Denver Inspection report
The DEH may issue a written order to lift the hold after the pesticide analysis done by the Colorado Department of Agriculture yields a “no detect” result, so that DEH is
satisfied that the pesticide residue levels are insignificant and the marijuana plants are safe for human consumption.
2 days after the Denver Post report on the investigation, the story was picked up by Westword on March 26. They also covered the new reports on pesticide usage mandated by the City of Denver as a result, which were due by April 1.
The catch is that the federal agency in charge of regulating pesticide use, the Environmental Protection Agency, doesn’t have acceptable levels for use on cannabis— since cannabis is illegal on a federal level. The Colorado Department of Agriculture lacks official guidelines, too, beyond suggesting that growers not use any pesticides that haven’t been specifically “tested, labeled and assigned a set tolerance” for pot growing.
The CDA does have an unofficial list of pesticides that can be used on “unspecified crops” that are intended for human consumption, however. And the state Marijuana Enforcement Division has a strict list of allowed pesticides, as well as instructions for how grow owners have to store and dispose of them. State law also requires that shops write up standard operating procedures for all pesticide applications.
In Denver, dispensaries will now be required to submit a list of every pesticide used and how much of it is used; copies of those records must be kept at the facility where the marijuana is grown. Additionally, grows must send lists of pesticides and information on their safety to the Denver Fire Department, and a sign must be placed on the door of every grow room listing any and all pesticides used. Those businesses that don’t comply could face fines and closures. The city also says that the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment will be inspecting cultivation sites, as well as infused-product manufacturing sites.
The fact is large industry participants often set the rules and are seen as above retribution from regulators due to conflicts of interest along money lines.
It should be noted that Westword is a free publication mainly supported by advertising revenue, more than half of which likely comes from cannabis related business. At least 5 of the 9 companies listed are consistent advertisers with sizable monthly ad budgets, most notably MMJ America and the Green Solution, known by their ever present (TGS) logo.
Quickly reviewing the known links, TGS began a stretch of increased social media activity to get ready for 4/20 weekend with a post on April 2nd thanking Westword for an award in its annual review of Denver business. The social media effort continued with posts advertising the April 4th Grand Opening event of a store in the “upscale” suburb of Aurora where weed legalization’s perceived influence has been unwelcome.
The Green Solution page trended more towards Westword advertising partnership with Westword on April 11 for a Cannabis Cup prize pack and thanking Westword on April 15 for a positive strain review. The visual representations tell the story as TGS currently has a featured ad on Westword.
The hardest part about scandals is the unpredictable changes that will result from the disruption. Some industry participants are warning changes must be made before a “Big Tobacco” moment happens and public health is put at extreme risk. Many of that minority feel the impact has already happened and negative effects discovered could harm the cannabis industry.
Sources not authorized to comment at Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, the state regulatory agency, note that it has been known among interested agencies that many producers have been using questionable tactics but there has been disagreement on how to resolve the problems.
Colorado MED officials have done a satisfactory job so far of navigating a complicated political landscape to guide the cannabis industry through the legal gray areas created by the patchwork federal laws while allowing the will of Colorado voters to be enabled for legalization. With that said, Colorado’s MED could be helped the most by the industry itself.
It would benefit the cannabis industry to be proactive about this situation for multiple reasons all leading back to better profit. The consumer needs to feel comfortable about their health when making purchases and more importantly, there are many entities with different agendas interested in molding increased regulation of cvannabis to meet their goals.
Consider the following scenario. A new wave of sentiment leads to draconian, counterproductive measures for the overall revenue generation for the state because of reckless behvaior during production of cannabis products. The new regulatory regime would call for increased testing (which we are not opposed to) but could lead to the idea that “GMO” weed is ‘necessary’ technology needed to satisfy both problems by designing strains to resist insect infestation. Efforts like this would cause immediate increase in prices as well as putting the state’s new cash crop firmly in the hands of the biotechnology sector, locking out independent growers who could not afford or are unwilling to use the modified seeds.
The impact of this would immediately force many principled growers and consumers back into the black market because of the demand for organic, non-modified strains due to distrust of biotech corporations.
That endgame is a scenario no one wants to happen and would dismantle the progress made in other unpredictable ways. The solution to this is more transparent and ethical cultivation paired with educated vigilance from the average customer.
WTF News is currently working on many developments associated with this scandal and updates will be posted here.