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Alaska Marijuana News

State halts sales of Houston-grown marijuana over potential pesticide contamination

Lacey and Ron Bass, owners of Calm N Collective cannabis cultivation facility in Houston, photographed on April 5, 2017 with some of the first legally grown cannabis in Mat-Su. (Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News)

HOUSTON — The state has halted the sale of marijuana grown by a Houston cultivator as officials investigate claims the plants were treated with a potentially toxic pesticide.

The state on Friday ordered an administrative hold on all packages of cannabis originating from Calm N Collective, according to an advisory notice from the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office. The advisory was issued to all marijuana licensees: “If you have any affected product in your inventory, it must be immediately removed from your shelves and placed into quarantine.”

The office is investigating “credible information” that Calm N Collective used Eagle 20, a pesticide that’s stable at room temperature but releases the toxic gas hydrogen cyanide when combusted, according to the notice. The Department of Environmental Conservation Pesticide Control Program is also involved.

Roughly 750 packages in a total of 44 retail stores and seven product manufacturers were put on hold, according to Erika McConnell, director of the state alcohol and marijuana control office. Several dispensaries on Monday said they didn’t sell flower from Calm N Collective, but pulled edibles or concentrates made from their plants.

If Eagle 20 was in fact applied to the plants — the state is still investigating the allegations — then the literature indicates there is a public health risk, McConnell said in an email.

Alaska does not require marijuana growers to test for pesticides. Applicants for cultivation licenses, however, are required to indicate in state applications what chemicals they intend to apply and any pesticides are checked against a state list of substances that meet criteria to be used on cannabis.

Calm N Collective owner Ron Bass blames a disgruntled former employee who wanted to damage the company just before he was fired.

“Honestly, I don’t know if he sabotaged it and sprayed the plants or not with it,” Bass said Monday. “If it’s contaminated, I’m ready to take the steps to keep it safe for the public.”

He expected to lose almost $600,000. State officials told him test results would be back in one to two months.

Bass earned a measure of local fame with his quest to reproduce the famed Matanuska Thunder F--- (or MTF) marijuana strain known since the 1970s for its potent effects. Afroman, the rap singer best known for “Because I Got High,” filmed a video for a song named for the “legendary strain” that was partly filmed in Calm N Collective’s 4,000-square-foot cultivation facility.

The state action highlights the lack of pesticide testing for marijuana sold here. Growers are required to get plants tested for potency and some molds, but not pesticides.

At Wasilla’s Green Degree retail store, owner and cultivator Kerby Coman said his employees had to pull two concentrates he didn’t even realize contained Calm N Collective product until he ran them through an inventory tracking database.

Coman, who sits on the board of the Matanuska Valley Cannabis Business Association, said state regulations don’t call for pesticide testing and Alaska testing facilities lack the investment to upgrade to that kind of equipment anyway.

“I think we should be testing for pesticides, a hundred percent it should be required,” he said. “There are a number of pesticides out there that are harmful.”

No pesticide product labels currently list marijuana crops as an allowable application, and only very few are currently approved for hemp fiber, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The agency provides a list of pesticides that probably can be used without “significant risk or violating the label,” such as those recommended for garden-grown vegetables and with active ingredients allowed for use on tobacco for any products that might be inhaled.

A DEC spokeswoman said the agency has the authority to regulate commercial pesticides in commercial agricultural operations including marijuana growing but declined to comment given the ongoing investigation.


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